Saturday, February 27, 2010

Violet - Violet Ray Gas and the Playback Singers (SRA)

Violet is Jeff Surak. Differently sourced, but some of the material here reminds me of Scanner from the mid-90s: tense, vaguely threatening electronics with a hint of pulse melded with a garbled voice recording on the first track (among many other sounds elsewhere), creating a strongly dystopic aura. The music veers between troubled calm and aggressive harshness, sometimes suddenly. The title piece shifts gears, combining lowed bowed string tones (sampled?) over a dire rumble, very cinematic and really quite effective--the highlight of the disc, which closes with a cut that's oddly beatific, though possessing enough warpage for one not to be gulled into passivity. Not quite in my normal comfort zone these days, but a good recording.

sra sounds

Christian Pruvost - Ipteravox (Helix)

Solo trumpet from a name new to me. It's odd--the accompanying material namechecks Dorner, Kelly, Hautzinger and such but Pruvost's approach, at least here, can only be heard as overtly virtuosic in a manner generally eschewed by those fellows and similar musicians. So, for example, the opening track uses breath tones, strangulated cries and extreme tongue-flutters but the overall sense is as if one's listening to, say, Toshinori Kondo taking a solo turn during an FMP gig. The second has a more interesting, very low rumbling attack, something that sounded fairly new to my ears (similarly, the didgeridoo-like tones on the final cut) but, as on all five tracks, there's nothing much in evidence apart from exploration of technique and, more often than not, that technique is thrust upon the listener in a "look what I can do manner". Not satisfying.


Ludl - Ludl (CDR)

Ludl is Lisa Ullén (prepared piano) and David Linnros (alto saxophone). Three pieces on this brief, 23-minute disc, recorded in August of 2009. The sounds elicited by Ullén sre familiar in a Cage-sense, many dulled, buzzing thuds while Linnros pretty much sticks with gritty, wavering long tones. The music won't knock your socks off but it's very well played and conceived, the structures (improvised, I assume) have a nice irregularity to them, stopping and starting unexpectedly as though cut from some rough material with unwieldy shears. Worth a listen.

linnros myspace page

Vertex - Shapes & Phases (Sofa)

Yet more musicians I've never encountered previously (that the case for all four today). Another duo, Petter Vågan (lapsteel guitar, acoustic guitar, electronics) and Tor Haugerud (percussion, signal generator, field recordings). They get off to a shaky start, somewhere in kind of avant-Frisell territory but recover their balance quickly enough as the music attains some degree of depth and grit, helped significantly by the electronics and recordings. The third and longest track, "Attractor" (true, some of the titles scream out, "90s!"), works very well, a thick stew of hums, whirs, sirens, clanks and more, hurtling forward. They fluctuate a bit between that more melodic tendency and a richer, darker one, my preferences running to the latter ("Morphometrics", "Ellipse"--in which you'd swear there was a raging bass sax back there somewhere); I'll be interested to hear more.


Morton Feldman - Music for Piano and Strings (Matchless)

Yet another brief note:

I can't possibly do this release justice simply because, as a Region 0 DVD, I can only play it through my PC speakers which, while ok enough, only give me a decent taste of the music. Two works: For John Cage (1982) with Darragh Morgan on violin and John Tilbury on piano, and "Piano and String Quartet" (1985) with Tilbury and the Smith Quartet, recorded live in 2006. Each piece is an hour and a half long. Each is stunningly beautful--that much I can discern. I can pick up the vaguest glimmers of the overtones I know are there. Tilbury appears to be in (typically) excellent form, weaving wondrously through the strings on the second piece--you get a strong physical sense of that, of the strings as a kind of flexing matrix, the piano wending its way through, the lines like bright threads.

One of these days, I have to invest in a multi-region player and hook the whole up to my speakers...there are two more Feldman DVDs planned by Matchless. The first will include "Patterns in a Chromatic Field", "Cello and Piano" and "Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello". The next several works for piano and strings from 1950-1980, including "The Viola in My Life".

Well worth hearing even if only in less than optimal conditions.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Just wanted to make a few brief comments about the dual work by Michael Pisaro (with Barry Chabala), "black, white, red, green, blue"/"voyelles". This was released as a cassette on winds measure which I believe has sold out though a cd issue of "voyelles" is, I think, in the works.

"black, white, red, green, blue" is performed solo by Chabala. It's an hour's worth of suspended, individual notes, of varied tone, length and texture, generally separated by five to ten seconds. It's quite lovely and thoughtful, like all of Pisaro's work I've experienced, requiring fairly intense concentration and immersion to fully appreciate. His conception is amazing at suspending time and Chabala offers a very fine, sensitive reading.

For "voyelles", Pisaro took the same recording and infiltrated it with sounds sourced from sine tones and field recordings (possible others). As good as the original piece is, "voyelles" really brings it into its own and makes it extraordinary. As with other works (like the great Transparent Cities set), Pisaro has an unerring ear with regard to precisely what sound will most strangely but somehow appropriately compliment a given instrumental tone. By adding a single layer, Pisaro multiplies the piece's depth many fold. A great, great work, one that unfurls differently on each hearing.

Keep an ear out for the "official" release.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nick Hennies - Lineal (SRA)

Listening to Hennies' meditation on his grandfather, one is inevitably reminded of Jason Lescalleet's profound release, "The Pilgrim", from a few years back. I thought at the time it would be tough, unfortunately, for someone to venture into similar territory and, at the same time, I thought, "Well, why not?" Hennies follows his own tack here, beginning with an absolutely gorgeous sequence of thin, bell-like tones, a coruscating layer that glistens in one's ear. Its nine minutes are a kind of invocation to the body of the piece which commences with a tape of his grandfather, Charlie Nichols, reciting a Longfellow poem in a rich, Texas accent. It sits unadorned through completion, followed by a harsh, windswept vista that slowly gains richness and depth before cutting off abruptly at the sound of struck metal, giving way to....birds? insects? maybe fire? Soon dulcet tones enter, as though from some ethereal steel drum, Another recitation, religious in nature, then echoing sounds over what sounds like a distant choir, those more prominent sounds whirling within one's ears, leading to "Home", by Edgar Guest. The in and out of the voice and fairly ambiguous, harsh/smooth ambiance connotes a spirit, a memory, receding and advancing from focus. The piece ends with a tape of a lively Mexican (?) band and another single note from that plain, dully resonating bell.

A fine recording, quite stirring and movingly conceived. Very different from standard fare. Get it.


sra sounds

The Wingdale Community Singers - Spirit Duplicator (Scarlet Shame)

Speaking of departures...Friend and Record Club confrere (consoeur?) Nina Katchadourian joined David Grubbs, Rick Moody and Hannah Marcus in the Wingdales a while back and this album is the first fruit. I caught them at Issue Project Room last year and was treated to a wonderful set, somewhere between The Roches (at their best) and Laurie Brooklyn. Dunno, but it was loads of fun, very sharp, caustic lyrics (not without tenderness) spun in bittersweet harmony with folky guitars, violin and accordion accompaniment. Songs about everyday observations, lost loves, departed cities. If I have a quibble, it's that this recording might be a bit over-produced, a tad too smooth compared to the engaging raggedness of their live show. That plus they failed to include my favorite piece heard that night, the one about happily disengaged lovers who can't get far enough apart. Some fine songs here, though, including "Naked Goth Girls", "AWOL" ("I'm going AWOL from the army of the Lord") and "My Les Paul". Art-nerd country/folk? Enjoyable work but catch them live.

the wingdale's myspace page

Carol Robinson - Billows (Plush)

Robinson was the featured player on the very fine Morton Feldman release, "Late Works with Clarinet" (Mode 119). This disc contains twelve of her own works, soft, slow clouds, often overdubbed, sounding at least semi-improvised. Robinson has an extremely delicate and light touch; if you're not paying attention, you might think you're hearing a flute. She's quite deft in manipulating overtones, controlling them beautifully, using subtle electronic enhancement, layering contrasting tissues of sound atop one another. The piece are all between about three and five minutes and do have something of the character of clouds--what structure there is, shifts slowly and without much more direction than a random puff of air might supply. At times I found this a bit trying, especially over the course of the entire discs. But I found if I was able to mentally place myself in situ, as it were, to imagine myself in a larger space wherein these tones were circulating, it was a very satisfying experience. Robinson provides just enough grit to keep the pieces from slipping into overly new age stylings. It's not Feldman, no, but there's some nice work here.


If you've not already heard, excellent news on the blog-roll front: Jesse Goin has begun one with a far cooler title than mine, crow with no mouth. Please go check it out.

Good luck, Jesse!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Apologies for the light post load here recently...busy at work, busy at home and this weekend, busy attempting to solve crosswords. As has often been the case, managed to make one mistake which cost me a bit, depositing my in 50th place (out of about 640), costing me 37th or so. Getting to be somewhat of a strain on these old eyes, that small print in not-so-great lighting situations, slowing me down a hair.

As ever, a fantastic time, though, seeing some great people, who I see all too rarely, meeting others, finding unexpected connections, including the amazing George Rosenfeld's story of giving Charles Mingus a ride home from a party in the 60s and Dan's plans for the Old Jews Telling Jokes franchise.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elodie Lauten - Piano Works (Unseen Worlds)

Lauten was born in 1950, some 12 to 15 years after the first wave of minimalists and her work didn't surface by and large until the early to mid 80s, so she's always stuck in my head as "second generation minimalist" along with people like Daniel Lentz and John Adams. Like Lentz, she's much more overtly melodic and playful than her predecessors which is sometimes good, sometimes not so.

This 2-disc set contains four works from 1983 to 1991. Disc One has two suites, Piano Works (1983) and Concerto for Piano and Orchestral Memory (1984), plus a brief Tango. The former is pretty rollicking, somewhere between Young's The Well-Tuned Piano (it's not justly tuned, however) and Charlemagne Palestine's lush elaborations. There's synth involved. both for textural accompaniment and some bass. It also has an improvisational feel; in his better moments, Jarrett in the 70s came close to this music.I wrote a while back about Ron Geeson's solo piano album, "Patruns"; there's a good bit of that flavor here as well. The second suite is in similar territory, at first maybe even more propulsively burbling, with Arthur Russell (cello), Peter Zummo (trombone), Voirabh (violin) and Ron Lawrence (viola) accompanying (and electronically enhanced). Sometimes, the keyboard almost bows out and the strings and brass edge into a Bryars-y morass (an attractive one). But overall, it meanders overmuch from section to section, not establishing any solid feel or theme, more like a string of unfinished ideas. The tango, though, with a vocal in French, is quite lovely.

Variations on the Orange Cycle is the most recent work (1991) and is even less in the minimalist vein than earlier ones (which are reasonably far afield themselves) though again one thinks of Young and even Riley in his more expansive, less rigorous moments. I've been listing many references because I find it tough to hear much I can specifically think of as Lauten in much of this music. I don't know that that's necessarily an awful thing as much of it is attractive and even beguiling, but I do often find myself hearing strong echoes of others (perhaps in some instances it's actually the reverse). Indeed on "Sonate Modale", a live performance for piano and tape from 1985, I could add Muhal Richard Abrams and "Blue" Gene Tyranny to the list. Here, the electronics, softly screeching and whistling are an intriguing offset to the ruminative piano. Once the listener settles in and accepts the dichotomy, it's a sensual and evocative journey.

All in all, an interesting set. Probably too "gentle" for both the eai crowd and the stricter minimalist fans but a damn sight better than Adams. IF work like Lentz' "On the Leopard Altar" appeals to you, this should be right up your alley.

unseen worlds

Saturday, February 06, 2010

(Various) - Improvised Music from Japan 2009 (IMJ)

The magazine is comprised largely of interviews with persons involved with maintaining and booking performance spaces in Japan; their thoughts and opinions are likely of more interest to residents there or perhaps others in the field. The one exception is a very interesting self-interview by Taku Sugimoto that's well worth a read by admirers. This issue comes with three discs worth of music as well, 31 tracks, almost entirely from people with which this writer is unfamiliar. Needless to say, it's an uneven uneven collection, but piece's that stood out for me included: Katsura Mouri's brutal opening track of repeated tapes and noise; Takahiro Hirama's delicate, incessant series of six rising piano notes (realized via computer)--obsessive and precise; Hiroyuki Ura's very delicate two minutes of almost nothing; Koji Saito's (similar to Hirama) four-note, repeated guitar phrase, perhaps sublimating early Sugimoto--lovely; Makoto Oshiro's mysterious and evocative combination of piezo mike, feedback and wind, a wonderful piece, my favorite from this collection; and the concluding piano song by Saya is disarmingly simple and moving.




I received two cassettes from entr'acte. But I have no means of playing them, my last cassette player having long since bit the dust (never too keen on the things anyway). So Allon was kind enough to send mp3 files my way.

Steven Hess' "System Failure" comprises two brief pieces using iterative layers of static and other clickery. There's always a pulse in play, virtually a rhythm, though quite a mechanical one (though the second piece eerily--and I presume unintentionally--recall the loping meter of that classic one-time wonder Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky"!). They morph somewhat, the outer layers shredding a bit, but at core they're similar throughout and, for myself, they cast a pall, lessen the interest in the fuzzier, more amorphous sounds.

The second cassette is a compilation of five persons/groups, none of whom I'd encountered previously, I believe compiled by DJ Ordeal. Deepkiss 720 seems to be squawling sax in the Zorn tradition with motor-like electronics--noisy, that is to say. Think Brotzmann pere et fils on meth. DJ Ordeal conjures up an avian scene with a distant wooden knocking and closer, though muffled, conversation; pleasantly immersive. I always thought it was Van Vliet who came up with the not so deep line, "The stars are matter; we're matter; but it doesn't matter." In any case, that's what The Spartacus Stargazer begins its track, with the female (?) vocalist muttering those words before the band launches into a beat-noirish piece; not quite sure of the point.

Side two commences with The Tarbox Tentacle. I feel I should stop there. The Tarbox it (its sole google hit refers to this cassette). Well, the song, "Honey Boy", has casually tossed off lyrics, ambient sound, goofy percussion and beats and more. It's rather fun. Finally, The Vitamin B12 offers a bit of the "Raw Deal", sort of circling back to the beginning, spitfire sax offset with electronics, out of a free jazz bag for all its noise surface. Scattered...


Mural - Nectars of Emergence (Sofa)

Jim Denley (alto sax, flutes), Kim Myhr (guitars, preparations), Ingar Zach (gran cassa, percussion) [yes, I had to look it up--a bass drum]. This is a fairly delicate, mellifluous set, the trio tending toward soft, tonal whistles (Denley), gently plucked guitar and a wide range of colors from Zach, leaning toward the bowed or quietly struck. In fact, with Denley's flute often evoking shakuhachi, there's a decided East Asian cast to the session. The result is a kind of pleasant stasis, with modicums of drama now and then, but overall a sense of brooding serenity. I wanted to hear a bit more grit, more of the world outside this isolated garden, but Mural does achieve an involving, kind of floating equilibrium that has its attractions.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Terry Jennings/John Cage - Lost Daylight (Another Timbre)

Any new release with John Tilbury is the cause of great anticipation on my part (not to slight the fine Master Lexer!) but I was especially antsy when I learned he'd be performing several pieces by Terry Jennings. Like many, perhaps most, I'd heard a thing or two of his over the years but had certainly read far more about him than heard his work. Tilbury plays five pieces, written between 1958 and 1966. They took a while to worm their way into me. Jennings is often cited, with Riley and Young, as one of the true precursors of minimalism and you can hear that in this music, though to a far lesser extent than I'd imagined. You perceive more of an antecedent to work like Young's "The Well-Tuned Piano" than subsequent Riley, much less the more routine minimalist pantheon. There's little in the way of repetition, though kernels appear and iterate now and then; I said less of Riley, but in some ways it's like Riley with a strong enough dose of Feldman to all but obliterate his standard tropes. They have the appearance of disarming simplicity; it takes a while to hear all the superfine subtlety with which Jennings (and, one presumes, Tilbury) imbue the pieces. (another referent that just popped in my head: a hyper-sensitive, ultra-contemplative Paul Bley). It's very thoughtful, beautiful music, wonderfully realized. Very glad to have finally heard Tilbury's take.

The Cage work, "Electronic Music for Piano" (1964), exists in another universe, though an equally beguiling one. Tilbury and Lexer (handling the electronics) weave a 40-minute gossamer tapestry that's entirely unpredictable and totally immersive. I don't own another version and am not sure if I've heard it before. I know Stefan Schleiermacher has recorded it on vol. 2 of his MDG series, which I should hear. Apparently the instructions are rather vague, Cage having jotted them down on hotel letterhead, Tudor having first performed it. Whatever the possibilities, here Tilbury and Lexer have opted for a very wide open reading, with great amounts of space, the sounds almost like leaves (or dust motes) irregularly swirling in an eddy from a hidden draft. Every so often there's an upsurge in volume, a clang or loud ringing as though that breeze has succeeded in knocking over some delicately balanced object. But it all occurs at such a "natural" sounding, unhurried pace that one accepts every event as proper. It disappears for a minute or two and you don't quite notice. Clusters form, sometimes mellifluous when clear piano tones contribute, often comprised of rumbling static, each with equal weight, each simply an event in time.

In both cases, this is music I can see returning to many times over the years. Very beautiful, invigorating and deep work.

Stephen Cornford/Samuel Rodgers - Turned Moment, weighting (Another Timbre)

A recent entry in Another Timbre's "byways" series, intended less as finished releases and more as snapshot documents of a scene. Cornford (piano feedback) and Rodgers (piano & objects) are both new names to me and based on this, I hope to hear more soon. Very calm, soft underlying drones, presumably generated via feedback, accompanied by plectral sounds from within the piano, vibrating devices against strings, etc. (you can get more of an idea of Cornford's approach and obsessions--including the delightful one on trespassing, here and those of Rodgers here). I could see some listeners finding the first two pieces overly drone-y/chime-y, though I enjoyed them throughout. The last track, however ("turning"), edges into darker environs, the drones arcing toward scrapes, the chimes hardening into more foreboding thuds. It's a very strong and complete piece, well worth hearing. Looking forward to more.

Another Timbre

also available via erstdist