Saturday, August 07, 2010

Thomas Ankersmit - Live in Utrecht (Ash International)

It's been a while since I've heard from Ankersmit. I recall, maybe 9 - 10 years ago, when I was writing for All Music, that he sent me a 3-inch of solo alto that I reviewed for the site (still there!). I think he may have printed only 100 or so copies and I like very much the notion that I could place it on such a site, on equal footing with the latest major pop release. According to the accompanying insert, this is his first full-length CD and it's a damned good one. Recorded in November 2007--I'm not sure if he was actively engaged in collaborating with Phill Niblock but it seems to me one can clearly hear an influence. Working with electronics and tapes as well as his alto (some of the tapes including pre-recorded saxophone by Valerio Tricoli), he constructs a dense swarming drone in some ways not unlike various aspects of Niblock's work. But with the drone, there's a ton of dirtiness, of sand in the mix, of harshness. Indeed, the electronic sputters that weave alongside the electronic hums and saxophone squeals have such a physical, visceral presence that I several times looked anxiously at my speakers fearing some loose connection or other damage. But those sounds play a crucial role in the first half of the 39 minute performance, removing the music from a simple, if dense, drone, causing a real discomfort in the listener, like sharp jabs to the chin. Riveting stuff.

Almost halfway through, it subsides into somewhat less grainy territory, full of keening and flutter, with some strong subsonics. It's less aggressive, but perhaps more alien-sounding; one can imagine a live situation with the various sounds engulfing the listener from multiple speakers. Within ten minutes, it's surging mightily, only to be lopped off once again. But back it comes, this time the drone is richer, more strident, retaining some grain but really concentrating on the "loud hum", sounding like bass vuvuzelas processed to remove some of the burr.

It's a powerful performance--glad to have Ankersmit back.

Ash International

Available from Forced Exposure

Axel Dörner/Diego Chamy - Super Axel Dörner (absinth)

I can say nothing more about the awesome cover and album title.

I've only heard Chamy here and there, notably on a DVD sent to me by Lucio Capece in which his performance, rather humorous, involved a video projection that wouldn't function properly, producing only a text screen on which Chamy typed his apologies and sought help for the "problem". There's performance here as well, Chamy credited with dancing as well as percussion and spoken word and taking pains to point out "that the sound that you'll hear on [sic] 8'51" of this performance is me ripping off my T-shirt." Duly noted.

Two tracks, a 10-minute one recorded in Dörner's house and close to a half hour live in Berlin. The first has a nice concision to it, Chamy's bass drum prodding, his words, in Spanish (I think), remote, somewhat muffled, Dörner sputtering, injecting pure, quiet tones. It's very airy, flows very well, with a gorgeous bells/muted trumpet.voice passage toward the middle. The second is, not surprisingly, more expansive but equally effective in its own way, beginning with what sounds almost like an announcement (one imagines, perhaps, a dancing accompaniment--elsewhere, one can discern footpads) before Dörner wends his way in with insistent, same-note interjections. It's bumpy in parts, at one point Chamy loudly sounding the bass drum, reminding me a bit of Milford Graves on "The Soul is the Music" ("Dialogue of the Drums", with Andrew Cyrille), eliciting broad, bent tones from Dörner. It meanders, but in an amiable, unforced manner, like a quiet amble with occasional conversation, attaining several points of quiet beauty. A fine set, would have loved to have seen it in all its quirkiness.


Hal McGee/Chefkirk - Nimbus (HalTapes, CDR)

It's interesting to me, in a way, that there are "areas" of free improv, outside of efi and such, that just don't connect with me. Often music (like that of College Radio below) that I hear as deriving from rock sources, no matter how abstracted, falls into this category. Harder to quantify is the sort of noise-making occasioned by Hal McGee (in my limited exposure to his work), here with "Chefkirk" (Roger H. Smith). They're each wielding no-input mixers but that's neither here nor there. The issue, for me, revolves around both the unrelenting assault of the sound (not in harshness, necessarily, but in constant "in your face-ness") and the elements the choose to utilize. The first is easier to get a handle on: my preference is for a more considered approach, generally. I have nothing against going all out, balls to the walls but if you're going to do so, you'd better be pretty damn confident about it. I don't get that sense of confidence here (or, because things are never this simple, any sense of self-doubt either, which could similarly work in an assaultive piece, I imagine). Then there are the sounds themselves. It's probably my failing, but there are simply certain "types" of electronically generated sound that set my teeth on edge, my physical as well as mental teeth. Loopy, "ray gun" effects are one of these. There's a lot of that here. I also pick up a kind of flatness;m as active as the disc is--and it's nothing if not active--not much in the way of aural depth registers to me.

Curious if others hear this differently. Perhaps unfairly, I often found myself thinking of the loud track from Rowe/Nakamura's "between", which might be said to bear superficial similarity to much of the work contained herein, but thinking how different, fundamentally, that music is. Opposing opinions welcomed.

Hal McGee

College Radio - Six Degrees of Mini Wreck (CDR)

Two local Jersey City lads, Chris Landry (electronics) and Sean Kiely (square wave punch) doing thick, improvised walls of sound. Not entirely up my alley--the music, though without overt references, strikes me as a bit too rock-influenced generally, the pieces sometimes sounding like the more interesting portions of a noise or death metal piece, though within that sphere, it's solid and well crafted. The actual sounds chosen tend to be obvious ones (fuzz tones and other electronica we've heard often before) and they're thickly layered, constantly in play, so one has a desire to hear both a wider palette and one more thoughtfully deployed. But perhaps that's not what this pair is about and, listened to without eai-ish preconceptions, the work is enjoyable enough. You can hear for yourselves as free downloads are available from the link below.

college radio

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