Sunday, February 20, 2011

Manabu Suzuki - Kantoku Collection (slub)

So odd...and often quite good. Yet another name new to me, Suzuki presents seven tracks, each involving small electronics generally used in a manner their designers didn't intend. The pieces, totaling 70 minutes, seem to have had their lengths arbitrarily cut off at multiple of five minutes (10, 10, 10, 15, 10, 5) save for the last which sneaks in a 9:30.

Before reading about the first track, "ELS26", I'd been enjoying its liquid, almost squelchy aspect, vibrant sputters of noise out of one speaker, lower, more muted bubblings from the other. So I was amused to see that one of the channels was a "voltage signal generated by the electrolysis of water". It's quite wonderful and absorbing, the duel sources fluttering and burbling away with abandon. But the second track, using the same source though routed differently, results in the kind of gloopy tones redolent of early synths, one of those sound-worlds that grates on this listener. The elements shift--a clock-like ticking intrudes, some sandy swatches--but the focus of the prior piece isn't quite attained. An oscillator connected to a photosensor picking up TV images, an automatic MIDI output (four short piano notes, each on an individual course, arrayed in an irregular pattern in relation to each other, resulting in an ever-changing series of relationships--nice) amplified beat signals ab Doppler effects thereon. The beat signal pieces are reminiscent of Lucier's work with nearly identical waveforms, resulting in quasi-similar patterns, here low, abuzz and effective.

Most oddly, an perhaps most enjoyably, for the last cut, "CHS72", Suzuki placed 64 magnetometers beneath the 64 squares on a chess board, each connected to a different MIDI sound. He then played a game of chess, possibly with one of the Takus (the session was recorded by Unami and produced by Sugimoto). Several of the sources are vocal (Japanese) so one hears a disconnected series of words and sounds, some repeated, others touched on but once. It's silly, charming and much fun.

available from erstdist

(I don't think Slub yet has a site...)

Ferran Fages/Robin Hayward/Nikos Veliotis - Tables and Stairs (Organized Music from Thessaloniki)

Fages chose sine waves for this live date so, unsurprisingly, the results lie clearly in drone territory. Richard happened to just write on drones, touching a bit on what attracts (or not) the listener. The sensibilities of the musicians involved, of course, would seem to be the key thing. In a recent back and forth on facebook, Gil Sansón mentioned a qualm to the effect that it was a bit too easy to fall back on the drone in improv as opposed to dealing with constructing other kinds of improvisatory modules. I take his point yet I confess, I often find something inherently attractive about the area as long as--my criteria--the strands comprising the dronage are detail-filled enough on their own, allowing me to "zoom in" and have (at least) the same level of pleasure derived from appreciating the work on the whole. I need some granularity.

In that respect, "Tables and Stairs" delivers handsomely. The mix of the three voices is instantly winning, the bristle of Veliotis' cello serving as a fine counterweight to the, generally, smooth character of the others (though Hayward, naturally, can veer from the pristine to the porcine in a trice). While it begins softly, the music edges upward in volume and internal perturbation enough that halfway through, one's speakers are a-quiver. At 31 minutes, it also avoids a cardinal sin of drones--it lasts precisely the right length of time, sustaining attention and fascination throughout. Good job.

Organized Music from Thessaloniki

also available from erstdist

Jason Kahn - Beautiful Ghost Wave (Herbal International)

I've doubtless simply been missing one or more plies of Kahnian activity in the past couple of years, but recent examples of his work that I've heard show a decided step away from what I'd come to think of as his sound-world: insistent (one might say, obsessive) percussion-centered rhythms augmented by pitch-shifting devices. Along with the recent disc on balloon & needle, this one finds him more positioned in the broken electronics school, albeit with a fairly steady substratum that may indeed refer back to his earlier concerns.

Kahn, in his notes, mentions the piece having "a sense of forward movement" and indeed it does, pretty much hurtling through its length in a welter of acid-drenched electronics, scouring one's ears as it does so. It's very rapid. When it relaxes, it's with a sense of re-coiling, amassing energy for a further assault. But as with the drones above, there's always a level of detail that keeps me absorbed; I always have the sense that there's parts I'm not hearing, that remain to be discovered. That's a good thing.

Given my druthers, I'd opt for something with a tad more space, more concern with sound placement, but as an example of this sub-genre, you could do far worse than these lovely phantom undulations... :-)

Herbal International

this too, procurable from erstdist

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