An even dozen new releases from Creative Sources
Kim Johannesen/Svein Magnus Furu - The Ecologic
Guitar and reeds. Johannesen seems to fluctuate between Rowe-ian (bowing, objects on guitar) and Bailey modes, while Furu ranges widely from drones to sputters to quiet abstraction. Mostly improv, though once in a while you get the sense of pre-composition. When Johannesen gets locked in, as on "Ants marching" (yes, the titles are unfortunate), it's pretty enjoyable, though Furu is a bit too up front and gabby for my taste. Good work at its best but inconsistent.
Martin Küchen/Ernesto Rodrigues/Guilherme ROdrigues/Carlos Santos - Vinter
I won't say much about this one since I wrote the liners; suffice it to say that it's a very good one.
Ernesto Rodrigues/Neal Davidson/Guilherme Rodrigues/Hernâni Faustino - Fower
Viola, acoustic guitar, cello and bass, not leagues apart from the prior release but, perhaps due to the absence of someone like Küchen, lacking some of the intensity. They do get there, on tracks like "haugh", but it's an intensity arrived at more through hyperactivity than fundamental being. "Fower" is perfectly fine, a decent improv recording, but not essential.
Mark O'Leary - 4 Urban Landscapes
Four aural images of Cork, Ireland. I tend to like field recordings. In fact, I find myself wondering sometimes: Could there be a field recording I wouldn't like, at least a bit? Well, yes. One way to get there is to introduce echoes, especially on captured voices, as though it's making them somehow more evocative. No. There's a dull sheen in play as well, almost as though the mics aren't paying close attention. Strange. The third piece, "Panarmaic" [sic], dispenses with the echoes and fares better but the fourth, "The Stone Cutter" inches too close to the travelogue for comfort and the inserted poem recitation is far too precious.
Jonas Kocher - Materials
Accordion, object, electronics. Accordion in the Costa Monteiro tradition, that is. The titles indicate the mode of attack, listing the primary weapons, whether bow, buttons, cymbal, electronics or steel wool. Kocher succeeds when his approach is violent as well as when it's soft and considered. The array of colors is large and well-chosen, each of the seven pieces displaying a different angle, a thoughtful appreciation. Good recording-the best extreme accordion I've heard in a while.
Jason Kahn - Timelines Los Angeles
Performed by Olivia Block (prepared piano), Jason Kahn (percussion, analog synth), Ulrich Krieger (alto and sopranino saxophones, electronics) and Mark Trayle (laptop, guitar) in April, 2008. Kahn's been working on his Timelines series for a while (you can see the graphic score for this one here). The score assigns each player three blocks of time, each between ten and twenty minutes, spread over an hour. Not sure what, if any, further instruction is given, but listeners expecting any sort of steady-state rhythmic piece, might be surprised at the slow, contemplative pace, not overtly rhythmic, of this recording. It thickens about midway through, taking on something of the character of Tibetan low horn ceremonies before abruptly cutting off due to the timed nature of the score, leaving a quiet swirl. Soon, Kahn does in fact return to his signature cymbal taps in this final section, capping off a very satisfying experience. Excellent recording.
Ember - Aurona Arona
Urs Leimgruber (soprano, tenor sax), Alexander Schubert (electronics, violin), Oliver Schwerdt (piano, percussion organ), Christian Lillinger (drums, percussion). Rambunctious, gabby and scratchy free jazz, just the kind I have really short patience with! I really don't think I'd have enjoyed this 20-30 years ago had it been issued on Emanem, less so today. Drummer Lillinger has some nice moments and the last track points toward one way out of this thicket, too late. I'm sure it will satisfy some tastes, but not mine.
Isa Wiss/Marc Unternährer - Sopstück
OK, I admit it. The prospect of a voice/tuba duo presenting eighteen tracks didn't exactly set my salivary glands flowing. If it was a single 40-minute track, I may have been intrigued. Even the near-alphabetization of the track titles didn't really sway me (though it helped). I've never, to the best of my knowledge, heard either, but I sensed a reduced volume, free improv collection where the vocals tended toward the expressionistically guttural/wheezing/spittlicious and the brass edging toward the flatulent/rapidly breathy. I was pretty close. There's some variation but not nearly enough, and the brevity of the pieces disrupts any potential continuity. Oh, yes, there's some Donald Duck. Yes there is. Not my cuppa.
TonArt Ensemble & Ernesto Rodrigues - Murmurios
TonArt is a nine-piece ensemble (strings, winds, electronics) that's worked with Braxton, Rowe, Parker, etc. though I think I've only heard them rarely. They're rather busy, in a skittering, sliding kind of way (not so very loud), far more so than some other freely improvising nonet, say, Phosphor. But the phrasing is gestural in the manner classically influenced efi, which cloys things a bit for me. The second of the two cuts develops a decent head of steam as the group begins chugging a bit, creating some friction. Overall, not bad but not as good as I imagine they're capable of being.
Mike Majkowski - Ink on Paper
Solo double bass. Majkowski is a youngish (27), Australian musician, new to me. On a couple of pieces, including the lengthy title cut, he finds a fairly unique area of high, quick bowed sounds, several tonalities rapidly interspersed (via overdubs), connoting activity not unlike the dozens of ants prowling the disc's interior sleeve. Personally, I didn't find this ground so interesting, however. On others, he quite ably plies a kind of approach I might think of as pre-Guy, free playing, somewhere between Malachi Favors at his driest and, say, Peter Kowald. On the last track, he takes his time, investigates the properties of the instrument more concentratedly, and fares better.
Ulrich Mitzlaff/Miguel Mira - Cellos
Two of them. Again, I have some of the same problems I had with the solo bass recording above. All very well played but much too much in very well-trodden territory, largely close to what one would imagine any give double-cello recording (not that there were scads of them!) that, say, Emanem might issue would sound like. Very active, very gestural in a 60s/Pendereckian kind of way. But, as before, when they settle in, calm down and listen more, (this is the sense I get) it's fairly rewarding. As with a disturbing number of free improvisers, they sound to me better the "straighter" they play; I often wish people didn't feel obliged to play free....
SKIF++ - .next
Jeff Carey, Robert van Heumen and Bas van Koolwijk, laptops, the latter on visuals, presumably when seen/heard live.
I've carped a bit above about excess activity on the part of some of the musicians. Well, this trio of electronicists can be as active, scurrying and scrabbling as anyone...but it works. Freewheeling while managing to maintain some kind of control, they're perhaps comparable to Lehn/Schmickler in approach when they have pedal to the floor. But also quite capable of reining things in as on the lengthy "[thinner]", a fine, low, rumbling series of quivers and rustles. Good, solid recording.
So the picks of this particular litter for me:
Vinter, Jonas Kocher, Kahn's Timeline Los Angeles and SKIF++.