Sunday, July 03, 2011

Pascal Battus - Simbol/l'Unique Trait d'Pinceau (Herbal International)

Pity the poor, abused cymbal! The immense range of sounds capable of being elicited from this amazing piece of metal via stroking, tapping and otherwise attacking it clearly continue to absorb the attention of many musicians. Sometimes this can result in deep, fascinating plies of noise, though often at the expense of other structural elements need to hold a give work together as a unit. It's a delicate balance.

Battus here offers two cds worth of cymbalic material, one suite of three parts ("Simbol") and one of five ("l'Unique Trait d'Pinceau"). The sounds on the former seem to be largely derived from the instrument being stroked in one manner or another but the salient point to these ears is the separation into striae of relatively pure pitches, very high to very low, the middle ground often occupied by coarser sounds. When everything gels, the results are rapturous as on the third section of "Simbol", titled, "Soil". I think having a strong low pitch is the key, anchoring the work deep in the ground, so to speak, enabling the higher, rougher pitches to be read as chaotic escaping gases (!), organic excreta unfurling out into the air. Really a wonderful track, one that manages to entirely avoid the sameness that many adventures in cymbaling encounter.

"l'Unique Trait d'Pinceau" dispenses with any vestige of drones, hurtling into a series of attacks wherein the overt nature of the cymbal is camouflaged within a mass of hisses, screeches, groans and flutters. [I'm informed by my esteemed colleague Dan Warburton that this second disc is likely not sourced from cymbal-sounds at all, a mistaken inference I drew from the liner notes, so disregard any cymbalic references herein] It's still a cymbal, of course, and one can, if so inclined, trace hesitant pathways back to that folded and flattened piece of metal but similar to how how might approach a post-Tetreault/Yoshihide recordless turntablist, better to just sit back and immerse oneself to the extent possible. Battus doesn't make this an easy venture either, the music both assaultive and irregular, an incessant stream of "difficult" noise, perhaps a bit non-reflective for me (he mentions in the notes that this section is more improvisational than the former, "often made at home in the heat of discovery") but generally holding interest. On the final cut, "Bouteille magnetique" (magnetic bottle), he produces a sound that seems for all the world to derive from guitar strings; how a bottle, magnetic or otherwise, in interaction with a cymbal created such tones is beyond me but the result is transfixing enough. Here's a kind of post-Bailey music that really works, perhaps in part due to its non-guitar nature? Lovely track, in any case and an album well worth your time.

herbal international

Sean Baxter - Metal/Flesh (Bocian)

Another solo percussion effort, out of Australia, here on Bocian's somewhat odd format of 7" vinyl, meaning we have about eight minutes of music. Sometimes this approach works, as with the recent Krakowiak release, sometimes it strikes me as excessively restrictive, which is the case here. Not that I'm sure I would have been entirely enamored of 20+ minutes of Baxter's drumming, but I do think it would have provided a fairer indication of his music. "Metal" has low-pitched drums probably covered with metallic objects, beaten irregularly but consistently, creating a fine melange of sound but feeling much like an excerpt, as though it should have been embedded in some larger conception. For fun, I also played it at 33rpm; the resultant pitch change was enticing. Wish I had a 16rpm option..."Flesh" is drums and cymbolics; again, it's perfectly fine if perhaps retro in a way, sounding like a portion of a good Andrew Cyrille solo. Can't complain about that as such, of course, but again would have liked to have heard this in a wider context. In sum, an enjoyable if frustrating release.


Craig Hilton/Tomas Phillips - le goût de néant (Absinth)

In which Hilton creates an improvisation on guzheng and, with Phillips, subjects it to manipulation via laptops. Beginning with the guzheng allows for a lush richness, a very attractive bed in which to mess around and, indeed, the pair don't stray very far from its essential tonality even as the nature of the sonics varies quite a bit. Sometimes other sounds seem to intrude--the beginning of track three seems to includes pachinko parlors and piano samples, but who knows? It teeters on the edge of excessive spaciness to these ears but pretty much manages to fall on the right side of things. The final track of four, for instance, has an airy, cavernous quality that could veer more toward the Eno-esque, but it retains a certain bitterness, later infused with taps and scrapes, that keeps it in a grainier, more complex area. That said, I wouldn't have minded things being pushed much further in that direction but, as is, the disc is solid enough and could be an enticing listen for a relative newcomer to this end of the spectrum.

absinth (though I don't see this release listed there yet)

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