Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cremaster/Angharad Davies - Pluie fine (Potlatch)

A welcome drizzle indeed. Davies' violin is a fine choice to augment the gents of Cremaster (Ferran Fages, feedback mixing board, electro-acoustic devices and Alfredo Costa-Monteiro, similar devices, speakers, electric guitar). When listening to her music or that of Cremaster, words like "sandy" and "sere" often come to mind, but not so much dryness; there are always layers, some containing tinges of moisture, maybe a little clay...That clayey feel is front and center here in a recording suffused with fine timbres and just enough implicit structure to cohere over the long run.

How to describe? there's a kind of inexorable grind to it; retaining the desert imagery, I think of the giant sandworms of Arrakis, that they might have produced the sounds heard on "embrun", the first track here. The resonant whine, amplified down cavernous, miles-long, grit-filled tunnels. The moans could be death throes or orgasmic sighs...wonderful piece, would love to experience its like in a live situation.

"bruine" is shriller and maintains a wavering but fairly consistent tone throughout. It's strong, though, and "little" things like the short washes of brushed cymbal-like sounds (I assume electronically produced) carry great weight, swathe the piercing tone in just enough chamois until it expands outwards, accumulating mass and detritus as it does so. Again, a fine work. Things grow somewhat more jagged with "crachin", hard crystals jutting out from the side of those tunnels, gouging one's thighs, dust stinging one's eyes. As with much of this work, there's a vastness at hand, a massive volume of space created, odd given the seeming thinness of much of the sound material. I pick up a bit of the divine rawness of Xenakis' electronic work in this one.

"pluie fine"--excellent recording, perhaps my favorite from those involved, which is saying something.


available from erst dis

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sarah Hughes/Kostis Kilymis - The Good Life Consumer Waste)

Not enough mosquito alarm in the music nowadays...

Hughes remedies that (I think I know which sound it is, but could easily be wrong, having nil experience with regard the devices) and, along with her zither and Kilymis' electronics, creates a very satisfying, serene couple of pieces. The offsetting timbres of the soft zither and bubbly crackle of the electronics, right from the start of "Fossils and things", is ingratiating, intelligent, luscious, a kind of prelude. It seeps outward from there, the zither bowed or otherwise excited, the electronics becoming more troubled, but the pair always maintaining a steady flow, careful but forward-moving. maybe it's the mosquito alarm--at any rate, there's a fairly consistent, high whine--but one gets the image of slowly poling through a hot marsh, limited sight distance, but fairly calm, with just the slightest tinge of fear.

The tone on "Pussy Riot" is cooler but no less engaging, perhaps laden with a tinge of dread at the then current travails of the Russian trio. The zither plucks a spare lament over a slightly agitated stream of electronics. There's a bleakness about it, along with the implicit melancholy of the strings, that's very impressive, very immersive.

A really strong recording overall, perhaps my favorite that I've heard from either musician.
Matt Earle/Jason Kahn/Adam Sussman - Draught (Consumer Waste)

Trio electronics from a 2009 session. It's a somewhat disjointed set. The first of the two tracks contains small sheets of sound overlaying and skidding past one another (I think "mica") while the second is denser and shifts focus more often, kind of slippery and disjunctive. It's ok but there's a routine feeling to me about this set, hard to differentiate from many others over the last few years. It reaches an intriguing, complex little pool of sound toward the end of track two, but too little too late.

Consumer Waste [Please forgive the brevity--a ton of things here, not so much time]

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tomasz Krakowiak - Moulins (Bocian)r>

Jeepers. Listing only "percussion", I take it we're into a thicket of motorized beaters, thwackers, scrapers and, I guess, a human arm or two. Whatever the means, Krakowiak generates a pretty intense layering of clatter that's at once rhythmic and arhythmic depending where one concentrates. It almost begs for three-d immersion, of walking through several rooms populated, or infested, by these devices. On disc though, it's impressive enough. The tracks split apart from each other mercilessly and abruptly, as if, while walking, one is suddenly hurled through the wall into an adjacent, different but equally visceral sound-room. Even when the textures are relatively mild, as in "monterrey", the beats just don't let up. It's exhausting but energizing music, mono-dimensional on the one hand but dense enough, with multitudes of gray shadings, to hold one rapt. A clear highlight [SPOILER ALERT!] is a swirling, skittering maelstrom from which emerges, fragmented at first then delicately coalescing, the voice of Diana Ross singing, "Come See About Me". Worth hearing.

Blip - Dead Space (Bocian)

Blip being Jim Denley on alto sax, flutes and balloons and Mike Majkowski on double bass, pitch pipes and objects. Just realized that I've been hearing Denley off and on for quite some time now, maybe 15 years, though hardly with any consistency. That said, I don't thin I've ever encountered a session featuring his work that I've enjoyed as much as this one. Something very solid about the work here, with a strong, irregular flow to it. Not groundbreaking but managing to be fairly active while avoiding standard efi pitfalls, allowing the sax substantial leeway without dragging in all its baggage and Majkowski doing the same with the bass--much "bass-like" sound here without ever coming off as pallid or overly idiomatic. No mean feat, any of it. There's also a density in play that belies only two performers, a thickness of sound that's quite appealing. Apologies if this is overly vague but it's tough for me to give a decent description; in one sense, it's (largely) a bass/sax & flute duo, with a good bit of peripheral, generally percussive noise. There are quasi-rhythmic elements throughout, providing a strong sense of forward movement, the wind and strings rippling alongside, smooth and stinging. Check it out, you may be surprised.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

(Various) - Wandelweiser und so weiter (Another Timbre)

and so on; and so forth; etc. Just wanted to say that I love the title.

Well. The music presented here certainly merits being commented upon individually and I'll do so but the whole is worth lingering on as well. The group of composers and musicians operating under the Wandelweiser umbrella has been of just about manageable conceptual size for one to have a nice working mental category, even as one allowed that "enclosure" to bulge and subdivide. Still, it's satisfying to have, however necessarily incomplete, a graspable set like this, showing good range, encompassing better and lesser represented artists. As in any undertaking of this size (almost eight hours worth of material, some 18 composers, over 60 participants), there will be fluctuations in strength but there's more than enough here to achieve a true, deep level of satisfaction. And yeah, a few really, really great works.

So, in order of representation, by composer, taking all of his/her pieces as represented in the box set:

--Sam Sfirri has four pieces, all based on Beckett texts, with nine realizations scattered throughout the set. "natural at last" (2010) is performed three times, twice by a quintet comprised of Neil Davidson (guitar, objects), Rhodri Davies (harp), Jane Dickson (piano), Patrick Farmer (amplified objects, open CD player) and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither). Here, initially, it's a serene though rustling quiet, a string-like feeling predominant, with gentle crackling colors and the almost humorous tinge from the repeating disc player. The second version edges slightly into a more drone-filled scale, also very satisfying. I wouldn't mind hearing works like Sfirri's interpreted by the same ensemble multiple times, especially when the variations aren't necessarily drastic; very intriguing. The other version of the piece is realized by a septet of Angharad Davies (violin), Phil Durrant (electronics), Jürg Frey (clarinet), Anton Lukoszevieze (cello), Radu Malfatti (trombone), Lee Patterson (amplified objects) and Philip Thomas (piano). It's smoother, emitting something of the character of a single, resonant object with variegated surfaces. Five minutes of subtle, shimmering beauty.

"the undulating land" (2010--with the NMC Chamber ensemble: Jason Brogan, electric guitar); Bill Carson, acoustic guitar; Jared Sinclair, flute; Kim Larson, clarinet; Ron Wiltrout, percussion; Sam Sfirri, melodica) has a Japanese feel, soft stops with flute and clarinet and starts punctuated by gentle, muted metal taps and quiet guitar. Lovely piece, not so "wandelweiser-ish", which is fine. The first of two accountings given "for the choice of directions" (2010) is by the composer (melodica) and Brogan (short wave), isn't too far from what you might expect from a similarly instrumentalized improvisation from Wolff and Rowe: quiet and edgy, content to investigate a limited sound pool, in the process generating mystery and demarcating time in a probing fashion; another really strong piece. When the same quintet as performed on the first natural at last" cut sets to work on it, they offset thin, tamboura-like drones against string plucks and skittering percussive sounds, creating quite a different sound world, again vaguely Asiatic but also eerie and sinuous; I get an image of walking through a narrow, high-walled garden maze, steamy hot, with creatures flitting about. Excellent!

Finally, his "little by little" (2010) is limned three times, first by an electronics sextet comprised of Stephen Cornford, Robert Curgenven, Ferran Fages, Farmer, Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Lee Patterson, then by a septet of Angharad Davis, Bruno Guastalla (cello), Sarah HUghes (zither), Daniel Jones (electronics), Dominic Lash (bass), Tim Parkinson (piano) and David Stent (guitar) and once by the septet listed above for "natural at last". They're all very hushed, spare and crystalline, in the sense of crystals expanding into space in unexpected, discreet sequences but consistent within themselves. Beautifully realized work all around and, right off the bet, this set is well worth it if only for giving me a decent appreciation of Sfirri's music, of which I'd only heard bits before.

But wait, there's more.

--Antoine Beuger. Returning to the first disc, we encounter one of two pieces by Beuger, "Lieux de Passage" (2008), a work featuring Frey's clarinet (with the other six members of the septet above) and, in my estimation, the high point of the collection. If there's been a tendency, among some Wandelweiser composers, toward a more expansive, lush sound (occasionally, to my ears, too far along those lines), Beuger here balances things perfectly. Not to compare at all, but I found myself thinking, "This is the music Gavin Bryars should be writing now", taking his one-time beautiful melodic sensibility and paring it down, whittling away the flab, to its essence. A kind of concerto, I suppose, Frey playing with exquisite refinement, the piece (which runs a bit over 26 minutes) having the subtlest kind of arc, nothing you can place your finger on but, to my ears, possessing an implied narrative, sustained by the occasional deep piano chord or drone, kind of a continuo that imparts just a tinge of drama, a tiny but perfect amount of spice. A double-step rising pattern toward the end is particularly moving, causing me to think of another work of unearthly beauty, Messiaen's Louange a l'eternite de Jesus". The Beuger is one of my favorite things heard over the last few years.

His "t'aus 'etwas (lied)" (1995) is performed by two vocalists (Parkinson and James Saunders) though "mouthists" might be a more appropriate term. They make small percussive sounds (the sound of the letter 't'), attempting to be in unison though not looking at one another so always ending up a bit off, reminding me of water drips. The slight variance in actual sounds and even slighter one in placement are enough to carry the work, to make it just as fascinating as listening to water drops, which is to say, very.

--Manfred Werder, represented thrice, two actualizations by Annett Németh ("2011(4)" and "2008(6)") one by the Parkinson/Sanders duo ("2 ausführende (seiden 357-360)" (1999-)), this time on organ pipes. I've had my share of qualms about Werder's work, not the ideas but the recorded documentations of them, questioning their necessity (as opposed to doing it oneself), but I have to say that Németh's are wonderful combining field recordings with other sounds (I take it realized in-studio) and fashioning solid evocations of place, layered in intrigue. The duo is an odd bird, not sure I'm totally sold on it. The single pipes, possible breath-activated (?), play two pitches, presumably one per person, with substantial and varying lengths of spaces between, during which one can just pick up some ambient sounds, including (I think) birds. The tones are sounded virtually identically--I take it that was the intention, allowing the silences to account for much of the variation. All well and good but, aside form achieving a peaceful stasis, it lacks the tensile aspect that I want to hear. Perhaps a shade too accepting of things for my taste.

--James Saunders. Two pieces, the first a very brief number, "various distinct spatial or temporal locations" (2011) which finds producer Simon Reynell investigating certain properties inherent in a coffee carton, entirely pleasant if more an entr'acte than anything else. "with the same material or still, to vary the material (2011) uses the Davdison/Davies/Dickosn/Farmer/Lazaridou-Chatziigoga quintet on bowed objects. No ringing tones here, mostly dry, scratchy ones, the objects seemingly chosen for their limited resonant capacity. A nice enough track, though not so distinguishable form any number of improvisatory ventures in similar areas over the last 10-15 years.

--Radu Malfatti "Heikou" (2011), performed by the same septet as heard earlier, the one with Angharad, augmented by bassist Joseph Kudirka. The piece calls for tutti sections followed by isolated sounds, all notes chosen by the instrumentalists, resulting in a respiring quality, like some large creature, sitting, contemplating, breathing. There's something, perhaps by coincidence, of Feldman's ensemble works in the air; very "of a piece", not susceptible to minute-by-minute analysis or appreciation. Lovely sound, fine feel, good work.

Two composiitions by John Cage, in large part the inspiration for Wandelweiser, are included, the 1991 work, "Three2" and "Piece for Meditation" from 1944. The former, here played by three percussionists (Simon Allen, Chris Burn and Lee Patterson) is relatively vociferous by Wandelweiser standards, a slurry of metallically sliding sounds of various depths and timbres, very rich and unpredictable. The latter is a prepared piano work, played by Philip Thomas, soft, gentle and, as almost anything by Cage from that period, ridiculously gorgeous, all 73 seconds of it.

"Etchings", a 20-minute track by Pierre Borel (alto saxophone), Johnny Chang (viola) and Derek Shirley (bass), though structured in a manner not uncommon to the Wandelweiser collective, sounds more like a fairly typical quite improvisation one might have heard any time in recent years. It's fairly steady state, the viola staying high, the bass low, the saxophone, often (nicely) difficult to pick out, occupying the mid-range. Solid enough work.

Phil Durrant's "Sowari" (1997) seeks to replicate computer and glitch sounds with, largely, acoustic instruments (here, Durrant on electronics, Patterson on amplified objects and processes and Thomas on piano). It's quite effective, darkly droning, with rough, skittering sounds and looming groans, imparting an underground feel, or perhaps a large craft interior with stressed, torqued metal. Strong piece.

Michael Pisaro makes the first of two appearances with "fields have ears (3b)" (2010), rendered by Angharad Davies, Farmer, Hughes, Jones and Lash. As with much of Pisaro's music, I have the sense that it's far more complicated than I'm able to hear and I'd love to see the score (this applies to most music from this cadre). It fits in with one trend of his recent work in that a relatively generous amount of sheer aural beauty is allowed to seep in though not so much as to overly sweeten matters. The thin crackle of Farmer's electronics create a huge and wondrous space between it and, say, Lash's deeply bowed bass. The clear, bright piano chords act as a kind of beacon for a while, steering the more erose sounds through the darkness. Eleven minutes in (out of 30), there's a pronounced shift, as though our band of travelers has encountered an even darker, more treacherous area; the piano still rings, but more warily. It's an incredibly fine several minutes here, frightening and resolute. Eventually, after a brief snatch of Josquin des Prez (!), the piano takes on a tolling aspect, the funereal character that had been lurking all along emerging clearly. Beautiful stuff.

His "Descending Series (1)" (2009), for piano (Thomas) and sine waves is simply unearthly. It's highly Romantic, in a way; as "simple" as the chords are, they're highly evocative and bittersweet, but supplied with crucial rigor by the sine tones, which aren't cold, really, but have a kind of "stepped back" impassiveness and understanding. The concerns, as it were, of the piano are acknowledged but placed in a larger context. Heh, I may be applying a far greater programmatic intentionality to this music than is justified, but it's hard to imagine these aching phrases not having such an effect on almost any listener. Again, a fine, fine work.

Stefan Thut's "Vier, 1-12" (2010), performed by Angharad Davies, Julia Eckhardt (viola), Lash and the composer on cello, is something of a tough nut and perhaps exemplifies a certain distinction between much Wandelweiser music and other contemporary work. The structure fits in snugly--the plentiful silences, the small knots of quiet sound. But the language of the strings refers more directly to post-serial tonalities, at least near the beginning. Later on, there's a kind of expansion into a vaguely chromatic area that hints at the subtle, sublimated emotional aspects often found in these here parts. After broaching this aspect, the music recedes, almost hides. Interesting work; sometimes frustrating, other times oddly rewarding.

His "Many, 1-4" (2009), played by the Set Ensemble (Davies, Guastella, Hughes, Jones, Lash, Parkinson, Stent and Paul Whitty on harmonium) begins rather differently, with solid drones underlying crinkly percussion and electronics but also, soon, evanesces into a soft spray of elements. I do get something of the sense of spores being released from a central fount. Good piece and at five minutes, perfectly timed.

"Ensemble" (2010), by Jason Brogan, with the Canadian crew of Crys Cole, Jamie Drouin, Lance Austin Olsen and Mathieu Ruhlmann all wielding electronics. Hard to ascertain the structure; to the ears, it could be an improvisation and, as such, would fit well into what I've heard in recent years from the quartet's members in various configurations. There's a forlorn, distant horn sound dwelling beneath the scrabbly, staticky foreground that inevitably brings to mind that snowy north country...It's the sort of piece one could easily pass over thinking, "OK, I've heard things like this before" but at the cost of missing some finely etched detail (a whispered phoneme at one point, I think) that lends a good amount of mystery to the proceedings.

One improvisation is included in the collection, performed by Davidson, Rhodri Davies, Dickson, Farmer and Lazaridou-Chatzigoga, and to my ears, it's the weakest track here. It's maybe overly ingratiating in this context, not bad but somehow actually sounding more conservative when placed among this music (or, at least, as represented here). One might question it's purpose as well. Apart from acknowledging the Wandelweiser group's effect on contemporary improv, though I can't hear even that with any specificity here.

I'm not very familiar with Taylan Susam's work. "for maaike schoorel" (2009), with the edges ensemble directed by Philip Thomas, is an odd little work, burbles of chamber group playing appearing now and again as though someone's opening and closing a door to a rehearsal studio. "for sesshū tōyō" (2010), rendered by Angharad Davies, Durrant, Kudirka, Lukoszevieze, Patterson and Thomas, isn't too dissimilar, containing discrete, brief episodes, but the language used is, to these ears, more interesting, owing less to the academic classical world than the previous piece. The flow is more supple, the tonal contrasts more delicious.

"for five" (2010), by Dominic Lash, the five being A. Davies, Guastalla, Lash, Parkinson and Stent, seems somewhat akin to the Susam pieces in structure (of course, I've no idea what the respective scores indicate) in that a series of sound blocks are heard, silences between. The texture is quite different, a tendency toward dry scraping long tones here, along with the occasional bandoneon bellow. Perhaps excessively dry to my taste.

Jürg Frey contributes three pieces of his own. "Time Intent Memory" (2012), played by A. Davies, Frey, Hughes, Kostis Kilymis (electronics) Lash and Malfatti, as it happens, also initially adheres to the general structure of the Susam and Lash works above. By virtue of allowing himself more substantial time (26 minutes), however, he enables scalar effects to come into play that don't quite arrive on the others. More likely, it's that combined with the actually sound choices, mostly long-held tones, including the always luscious Malfatti, that generates such an expansive feeling. I can't say it's an exceptional work--it fits in snugly with much I've heard before--but it's nonetheless quite satisfying. (I pause to consider whether "exceptionalism" isn't beside the point here...)

"Circular Music No. 2" (2012) (A. Davies, Durrant, Frey, Lukoszevieze, Malfatti, Patterson, Thomas) is slow and pastoral, having a song-like quality, the piano and clarinet gently ambling along, buffeted by "winds" from the strings and electronics, which sigh with a melancholy air. Very lovely.

"un champ de tendresse parsemé d'adieux (4)" (2011), with the edges ensemble, comes as a refreshing change of pace, dropped objects, generally small (coins? pebbles?) though sometimes more massive, tumbling amidst what seems to be breathily whistled, gently descending wind sounds. I translate the title as "a field with gentle farewells strewn". At 20 minutes, it perhaps lasts a smidgen too long but hard to complain.

Angharad Davies, who plays on many of the pieces contained here, offers a work of her own, "Cofnod Pen Bore/Morning Records" (2011), performed by Davidson, brother Rhodri, Dickson, Farmer and Lazaridou-Chatzigoga. It's another that, to me, is hard to distinguish from an improvisation, which doesn't matter much except, maybe, to stand a bit apart from the essential gist of the collection. It's a solid piece, though, gaining interest when some strong rising tones (Davies' e-bowed harp?) emerge near the ending.

John White's "Drinking and Hooting Machine" (1971) is included here for reasons I can't quite figure out. I've heard the work before (can't recall where) and thought it was kind of of its time even then, more so now. One of those pieces that's (I imagine) much more enjoyable to experience live, where the players take swigs from their bottles, thus changing the pitches, on recording...something's lacking. Maybe it's the inherent knowledge possessed by virtually any listener having blown across the top of many a bottle. Part of the pleasure is the nearness of the vibrations, the physicality of them, which is missing here (the edge ensemble, once again)

In addition to her actualizations of two Werder compositions, Annett Németh contributes one of her own, "eine unbedeutende aussage" (2012).Hardly "a minor descriptive", as rendered by the Set Ensemble, is a ravishingly lovely piece with hushed rustles augmented by gossamer sine-like tones and accented by a sole, deep piano note. Hard to describe why this one works so, so well (again, it sounds almost like it could have been improvised) and others are more...routine. Németh and/or the players manage to capture something very special and encapsulate it with rigor and tenderness. Excellent music,

Finally, and happily, we encounter Eva-Maria Houben, one of my favorite composers in this field. Her "von da nach da" (2005), for violin (Davies), electronics (Durrant) and amplified objects (Patterson) is a marvelously subtle and somber study. That idea of fluctuating detail within a sustained, not-quite-drone is so effective here, evoking more than one expects, the "bits" acquiring fullness and flow. And the sheer aural colors are endlessly, sensually exciting. A great way to end this massive document.

Moreover, the booklet includes an excellent conversation amongst Beuger, Lash, Pisaro, Thomas and Reynell, not that you should require any extra inducement to pick this up post haste. Reynell deserves massive kudos for assembling this set. The music provides a decent, if necessarily incomplete overview of the Wandelweiser folk, is both a superb intro to the newcomer and a very valuable addition to those of us who have been enjoying this area for some time now. There are several first class works here s well as many of generally fine quality, only a handful that I might have omitted.

What are you waiting for? Listen!

Another Timbre

[the image atop this page is from one of the interior sleeves, not the box, of which I couldn't locate a sizeable enough image on-line...]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bruno Duplant/Pedro Chambel/Jamie Drouin - field by memory inhabited 1 & 2 (rhizome.s)

Two interpretations of a Duplant score by this trio, using various electronics, each 20 minutes long. The first evinces an enjoyable mixture of low-key and jittery, the sounds soft but active and prickly. That tension between calmness and nervousness is what carries the piece, the hums not quite serene, the rough, glitchy noises sometimes sounding very much like CD defects, in fact. Hard to describe overall, really, except that there's an uneasy eeriness to much of it that's very effective. The second realization is fuller and describes a very different character, perhaps a bit closer to a Luc Ferrari kind of feel, somehow more naturalistic. Not sure about the scores, not sure how much was recorded remote from one another (I suspect all of it) but if the score is in the nature of those done by, say, Michael Pisaro and others in the Wandelweiser enclave I think it might be a piece of evidence that such sets of instructions are very conducive to this kind of long-range collaboration. Kind of wondering about the thoughts of those involved, pro and con, on the differences between direct and indirect communication re: the realization of such scores.

In any case, yet another fine document courtesy M. Duplant.

Hugo Carvalhais - Particula (Clean Feed_

A quintet date with Carvalhais (bass, electronics), Emile Parisien (soprano saxophone), Gabriel Pinto (piano, organ, synthesizer), Dominique Pifarély (violin) and Mário Costa (drums). I should say right off that the music is well outside of my range of the last couple of decades at least but, still, it's quite well done and, even to these jaded ears, worms its way in and sits with surprising comfort. There's something of a classic ECM feel, especially with the soprano tracing catchy unison lines with piano and bass, but also hints of Anthony Davis' Episteme ensemble (the opening to "Capsule" bears more than a passing resemblance to Davis' "A Walk in the Valley") and, in Pifarély's violin, a welcome tinge of Leroy Jenkins. As well, Carvalhais' playing strikes me as owing a good bit to Dave Holland--his intro on "Simulacrum" almost sounding like an outtake from a Circle session--and Pinto occasionally recalls Paul Bley.

This can be problematic for me, needless to say, but on the other hand, the influences are well-chosen and the group manages to, to some degree, transcend them, creating work that somehow stands on it own without teetering. It may not be my current cuppa, but I can easily imagine it being greatly enjoyed by both fans of the earlier music and nascent ears looking for an attractive and intelligently played alternative to more humdrum attempts at maintaining the genre.

Clean Feed

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Andrew Lafkas - Making Words (Sacred Realism)

70 minutes of wonderful, rewarding music by Lafkas, arranged for a 12-piece ensemble (Ann Adachi, flute; Adam Diller, tenor saxophone; Tucker Dulin, trombone; Kenny Wang, viola; Lafkas, bass; Margarida Garcia, electric guitar; Gill Arno, electronics; Keiko Uenishi, electronics; Barry Weisblat, electronics, Bruan Eubanks, electronics; and Sean Meehan, snare drum and cymbals).

My first thought, my first point of reference was Feldman's "For Samuel Beckett". I heard a similar cloudy richness to the music, that sense of turbulence within a fairly steady stream. This isn't drone music but there are certain features that more or less remain constant throughout: a medium level dynamic range and a regular issuance of sound, a flow that's uninterrupted even as it fluctuates smoothly but widely in color. Overlapping lines, opening with deep tonal swatches leavened by Meehan scraped metal, begin the work, the leader's ultra-deep, bowed bass establishing a fine, loamy bottom.

There's often an opposition of the pungently globular and the scratchily raspy in play here, all of it carried along on some billowy cushion, allowing for the necessary bump and skewing but always pressing on. It bristles a lot, scouring out the church in which it was recorded, while maintaining this coiling, surging form; really impressive. Another vague point of reference: those great early Olivia Block discs; there's firework-sounding sequence over lush, organ-tones that brought her work to mind.

I'm guessing there was a score involved where the continuo was passed from one group of musicians to another, the baton never dropping, the methods of continuity always shifting but retaining an urgency that's really compelling. I'm not sure what else to say except that "Making Words" held my attention, rapt throughout. Wish I'd been there.

Catherine Lamb/Bryan Eubanks - Untitled #12 (after Agnes) (Sacred Realism)

One of the first questions that popped into mind was: Would I have reacted differently to this piece without the reference to Agnes Martin? Probably not a meaningful question as the reference is there and is part and parcel of the work. As she is, paintbrush to head, probably my favorite visual artist of the last century, Eubanks' and Lamb's release has a leg up, settling me into the (or, at least, a) proper frame of mind to experience this demanding, hyper-minimalist music.

Briefly, the hour-log piece is divided into four 15-minute sections. Each section consists of a single sound field (I say that guardedly as, to the extent it's a kind of white noise, there are fluctuations within each field, not unlike those found in a band of Martin's painting); the shifts between them are distinct but not huge.

That's it. The inside sleeve reproduces a 1984 work of Martin's (the title of the disc), a tan square centrally placed over a just slightly larger, somewhat lighter tan square (very beautiful). I tend to naturally think of some of Martin's gray wash paintings of the 90s,where the bands contain "just" a thin wash of gray paint but worlds of life and action therein. Doing so, I try to mentally excavate the same from this "thin wash" of sound. It's challenging but achievable. Donald Judd somehow comes to mind as well; there's a similar kind of subtle monumentality which, of course, dwells in Martin too. More than anything, there's a steadfast and resolute self-erasure-as-presence-enhancer that recalls work like "Bar Sachiko", a major favorite of mine.

I'm not at all sure how this was produced. A line on the sleeve states, "This is a realization of a generative work" and give a site for download on an application. Jacques Oger today mentioned seeing it performed in Paris with electronics and viola; if there's a viola in play here it's masked in plain sight and played with extraordinary consistency. If I had to categorize the general sound range, I'd say something on the order of a very breathy, burnished and burred flute, with an implied wealth of detail just out of the range of hearing.

Great stuff.

And an auspicious label debut; looking forward to more.

Sacred Realism Also available from erst dist

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Anonymous - Improkup! (w.m.o/r)

a description of events

An action is one thing; a documentation of that action is another. Within the act of "documentation", one can create something which is purely that, a record of the events, for various reasons from historical to contemplative, or one can seek to present it in the guise of an art object, which raises questions. In a more overtly art-centered world, we have items like Manfred Werder's scores which may consist of lines of found or extracted text which the "performer" may take upon his or herself to actuate, often by experiencing surroundings of choice. All well and good, but when released to file or disc, one wonders, "Why?" What has been accomplished that couldn't have been done so as effectively by the listener, the recipient of the work? More complicatedly, sometimes the release does, indeed, seem to elicit something previously unheard (unseen?).

There's the experience and then there's the compunction to elucidate it not via abstracted, edited form, but with a second by second (aural) reproduction of it, as though the importance, the meat, is inextricably bound in the smallest details, though this implies a god's-eye view of things, especially when dealing with something of this length, over 24 hours (I forget the exact cumulative time), that thought is paradoxical in that none of the participants conceivable attended to matters that closely; they slept, ate, excreted, etc. An event occurs, you weren't there but now you can, if you chose to listen in that matter, gain a second-hand experience of the activities. Or, you could (much to the dismay, I imagine of the creators of this object) listen in an abstracted, aesthetic way, something that the very nature of the pure sonics involved does tend to pull one toward, at times. There's a portion early on when Mattin and a friend or two are driving toward the warehouse in which they intend to squat and conduct their workshop, where they apparently pull over, perhaps grabbing a bite, and the tape is left running in the vacated automobile, maybe 15-20 minutes, and one "merely" hears the ambient sound, the roadway, etc. It's very beautiful, I'm afraid to say.

[A little earlier, I thought I'd turned off the recording. Was sitting here typing something else when I heard faint snores, which I assumed where emanating from our dog, Katie. Looked around, didn't see her. Took me about 30 seconds to realize that the squat had entered their sleeping phase...nice]

and then...well, I think Richard mentioned some technical problems he had with this disc and similar ones have plague me. My Macbook would spurt out the disc at irregular intervals, in between making noises that caused me some concern. I thought you could stream at the Metamina site, but it didn't work for me. So I decided to call it a day.

All in all, I listened to 5-6 hours of the activity and it's hard to say what more value I would have received listening through; the relative paucity of English was one thing and listening "aesthetically" would seem to be missing the point (though, as mentioned above, it was an easy enough trap for me to fall into). The consistently lingering question was the issue of the documentation as such as opposed to the action it was documenting. Even that--it's hard for me to know what significance squatting has at that point in time, at that particular place in Basque country--what did that signify? Did anyone (outside of the participants) care? Did it matter to the discussion that they had done so or could the same talk have been had camping out somewhere or at a bar over a long enough span? Not sure but, as with Werder (admittedly, I enjoy bringing such apparently disparate activities and approaches into some kind of tandem), my gut feeling is that this sort of text inevitably, perhaps tragically, loses much impact.

With the caveat of having missed a substantial portion of the work, it still strikes me as reasonable to say that I'm afraid you had to be there.


Saturday, December 08, 2012

Cockroach Boy - s/t (Pilgrim Talk)

40+ minutes of sounds provided by Satoshi Kanda and Nick Hoffman, live in Japan in 2010. More than that is bafflingly tough to say. Searching for referents, one might hazard to place this material in the neck of the woods recently occupied by Taku Unami. That is, for one, there's a strong impression of missing something vital by virtue of merely digesting the audio portion of the event. When glass shatters early on, I conjure up a thrown bottle, but who knows? (Kanda is known for milk bottle utilization...) And much of the other sourcing is similarly elusive and disjunctive. I'm tempted to fall back on the old "liming space" trope; listened to with that in mind, it does so quite well; there's some depth at hand, enveloping the sparse bleats, moans, taps etc.

It's often very quiet, enhancing the feeling that I'm missing important portions, but so it goes. Aurally, its get to the level of listening to a quiet individual putter around his kitchen, not such a bad thing. FOr whatever reason, I found myself enjoying more often than not though I'd be hard pressed to say explicitly why. It breathes and feels honest, best I can do.

Pilgrim Talk

Monday, December 03, 2012

Jürg Frey - Piano Music (R. Andrew Lee) (Irritable Hedgehog)

Lee, who I've previously encountered performing Tom Johnson's "An Hour for Piano", ventures more directly into the Wandelweiser fields with these two compositions for solo piano by Frey, "Klavierstück 2" and "Les tréfonds inexplorés des signes pour piano (24-35)". They manifest a certain kind of minimalism that floats somewhere beyond Gurdjieff, nestles in obscure, never-visited corners of Satie and hyper-distills the early work of Glass, perhaps via an extremely fine sieve woven by the aforementioned Johnson.

"Klavierstück 2" opens with somber, low chords, allowed to toll and hang for several seconds each, repeated for a couple of minutes before being replaced by brighter, even sprightly higher ones, brilliant but with a sour edge, iterated more quickly. The fine liners by William Robin make the claim (not contested by me) that this perfect fourth is sounded 468 times. Necessarily, even if not consciously attempted, there's a tiny amount of variation in touch and certainly int he manner in which the notes weave, smoke-like, in the air between the strings and the microphone. It's wonderfully mesmerizing, a really exquisite balance between the stringent and the subtly complex. It's bookended at first by four like chords a bit higher than the first, but just when you think you've ascertained the structure a virtual melody, brief and spare though it may be, appears, ethereal, Messiaenic. A lovely, surprisingly emotional coda to a rigorously ecstatic work.

"Les tréfonds inexplorés des signes pour piano (24-35)" comprises twelve sections ranging from about two to eight minutes in length, the entire piece running over 47. Robin describes them as vignettes, not precisely related but akin. I find myself thinking of pieces from Satie's Rosicrucian period, the Ogives and other "gothic" works, often somber and brooding. The pace, depth and orientation of the notes varies, from repeated chords at regular intervals, higher or lower, faster or slower to leisurely descending scales embedded within static frames to sets of notes that are almost melodies. I tend to have an imagistic reaction first (old church interiors, doubtless hastened in via Satie) then that's swiftly subsumed by the bath of sonics, of the rich, wet chords, these globules of sound.

Lee, to his great credit in music like this, virtually disappears. There's certainly wonderful thought, consideration and decision making at play here, but the music seems to exist apart form a performer, a fine thing.

And a fine and beautiful recording, a necessary addition for the collection of any self-repsecting Wandelweiserian.

Irritable hedgehog

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hans Koch/Gaudenz Badrutt - social insects (Flexion)

...I remember a disc from Koch on ECM about 24 years back called "Accélération"; liked it a bunch back then, had a nice edge to it, though I imagine I might feel differently now. Here's a far more recent affair, a collaboration between Koch (bass clarinet) and Badrutt (electronics). As much as I hate to generalize, it falls into that category of musicians trying to extend the parameters of efi, a tough task to these ears. There's always that uneasy balance being sought, wanting to venture into post-AMM improv (another generalization) but being unable--or unwilling--to shrug off the jazzish flourishes and tropes associated with the Euro free tradition. So there's much activity (hard, given the disc's title, to refrain from a certain adjective...) without a sense of either close listening or real abandon. There are a couple of happy exceptions on the ninth and twelfth (final) tracks where the duo veers into a deep, steady hum interrupted by fine, ragged crackles, alternating roles on the two pieces; would that there was more in this line.

Jonas Kocher et. al. - duos 2011 (Flexion)

Kocher (accordion) in tandem with Hans Koch (bass clarinet) & Patricia Bosshard (violin)--a trio--and duos with Christian Wolfarth (cymbals), Gaudenz Badrutt (electronics), Urs Leimgruber (soprano saxophone), Christoph Schiller (spinet) and Christian Müller (contrabass clarinet).

Perhaps necessarily something of a hodgepodge, the general tenor is in line with the aesthetic of the recording above, more or less alongs the lines you expect if you know Kocher's work and that of his collaborators. Koch burbles and erupts, Wolfarth bows his cymbals, merged with high accordion pitches, Badrutt contributes some subtle work (more interesting than the session with Koch), Leimgruber is more restrained than I've often heard, generating some good, hollow metal tube noise, Schiller's spinet gets a spiky workout to no great effect and Müller closes things out by contributing to the richest track here, flush with dark bowings and low, liquid growls from Kochar, pensive and troubling, quite effective.

As with "social insects" there are signs here and there of more intriguing work but, for these ears, too much time spent on more superficial "interaction" than on probative playing. I would like to hear more Müller....


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Esther Ferrer - Concierto zaj para 30 o 60 voces (w.m.o/r)

I hadn't previously been aware of Ferrer, though she's apparently quite prominent in Spain and elsewhere (and married to Tom Johnson, fwiw).

This performance was part of a "Noise & Capitalism" exposition, organized at least in part by Mattin. The idea behind the piece, I take it, is to both illustrate the banal, humdrum nature of the workday of a victim of this system while, at the same time, evoking strategies that might be employed to alleviate and, possibly, transcend that system.

The text is recited, sung, yelled and whispered by however large the throng is that participates and consists of a real time recital of numbers representing the passing minutes; as the minutes progress, we go from "uno minuto" to "dos minutos", etc. (I take it that it's Spanish, not Basque, but I could be wrong) How these words are stressed, enunciated, subjected to dynamics or emotional extremes varies over the course of the 40 or so minutes at hand. I'm not sure if a score was involved or, as I would rather hope, decisions were made cooperatively within the group. There are passages that are more or less in unison, though I could imagine them having been arrived at during consultation away from the main action at the time. Sometimes the sung numbers take on the character of a Catholic service, intoned repetitively and with (mock?) solemnity. But they may just as likely be whistled, spat out, hummed or screamed. If anything, I'm reminded of works like "Cardew's "The Great Learning" where the massed voices have a similar balance, or seeming balance, between the orchestrated and the improvised.

Other strains appear, deviating from the numerical recitation (though that never vanishes): simple songs, perhaps nursery rhymes, and an increased density of sound including a prominent, fairly regular beating of a metal pipe. The crowd evenually reaches the 40-minute mark with cheers, whoops, applause, laughter and an eddy of conversation. They sound happy.

It's the type of event that, were I have to read a description, wouldn't likely have intrigued me. But I have to say, I found myself rather immersed in all the activity and enthusiasm, much like being in the flow of a busy street, purposive but chaotic. Maybe the progression from spare to richly complex is indicative of a way out of the aforementioned capitalist rut; there does seem to be a positiveness about the whole affair, in a way, not dissimilar to the worker songs that Cardew championed in the 70s. I couldn't help but feel that he would have smiled at all this, been drawn in and buoyed. I was too, a little bit to my surprise.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Patrick Farmer has published a book of words, "try i bark".

I can't begin to say anything about it, really, as my experience of contemporary word/poetry/letter placement is almost nil. I can say that I enjoyed reading it in approximately the same manner that I enjoy Farmer's sound work, which is to say, quite a bit.

But as difficult as it is to attempt to convey what goes on, much less evaluate, the activity in that music, it's far more so, for me, to do anything of the sort here.

So, take a look.

Compost and Height

(I tried to put extra space between "i" and "bark" above, something I sense is important, but this format doesn't allow it)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Robert McDougall - Unfinished Studies (Angklung Editions)

A charming and ingratiating LP out of Australia by McDougall, the first of his music I've heard, I believe. Four medium length tracks, each generally concerned with textures that combine the percussive and the softly electronic, bringing to mind, to an extent, the early work of Christopher Hobbs and the Gavin Bryars of "Hommages", but with an underlying tug and grit that's very current. "Platter Study #2", which leads of the album, illustrates this quite well, it's chiming tones, eddying slowly, filtered through mid-range, industrial hums and a strong crackle, among other strata. The density of detail is handled very well--it's not immediately apparent how much is going on until you focus on it and realize it's not three sounds but seven or eight. It's also very nicely "of a piece", doing it business, drawing in the listener, lasting precisely the 11'20" is should, then evaporating

"Untitled #4" is laden with field recordings, into which have been weaved a tolling keyboard note and what sound like flutes of some kind(aeolian?) but may well be something on the order of howler monkeys. Organ-like tones and strummed guitars enter eventually and this piece becomes somewhat pastoral, perhaps a bit too so, but managing to straddle the divide between groovily contemplative and bland. I pick up a bit more Bryars and perhaps even a bit of "Discreet Music"-era Eno in "Angklung Study (After Anne Boyd) #3", with wonderful deep tones flowing beneath muted, flitting piano figures and high, ringing bells. I take it that use is also made of an (angklung, a bamboo instrument, though I'm not sure. I have to say that the surface noise of the vinyl actually adds a welcome, sandy counterpoint here (!). It concludes with the bells having acquired an intriguing buzz, a nice bit of mystery there.

The final piece, "Installation Study #2", is my favorite, if only for it stripped-down character, acting as kind of a palate cleanser for the fine richness that has preceded. Hums, clicks and other slightly percussive ephemera come and go, soft bird and/or insect chirps linger. Again, as with the opening track, there's much more occurring tan might be apparent at first, but here, there's also a more expansive sense of air and atmosphere, pre-dawn air, cool and seemingly empty. When the somber, slightly sour piano chords enter, offset by some harsher but subtle electronics, the effect is fantastic. A real sense of beautiful place has been established, mysterious and alluring.

A fine recording, entirely enjoyable. Don't miss it.

Angklung Editions

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chip Shop Music (with Toshimaru Nakamura - Protocol (Mathka)

Wherein Toshi joins Erik Carlsson (percussion), Martin Küchen (baritone and alto saxophones, radio), David Lacey (percussion, electronics) and Paul Vogel (computer, clarinet). Two long tracks, full of color though something about them nag at me, not the degree of rigor I like to hear in ensembles like this, perhaps. In some ways, the music reminds me of older things on Erstwhile like "La Voyelle Liquide" or "Bits, Bots and Signs" but without the vigor and bristling excitement those possessed at the time. I don't mean that to sound overly harsh as this work is perfectly enjoyable, just not as gripping as I want it to be. It's dark and sonorous, the percussion often dwelling in muted, low bell territory, Küchen performing in his gritty, wrenching, very strong manner. The latter provides some of the more probing motives as a real sense of angst accrues, the reeds offset now by an insistent pulse, then by scratchy, nervous rustlings, this right at the conclusion of the first piece.

The second track establishes layers of ringing tones, very dry, offset by deep gongs, pulsing rapidly. It;s a wonderful sound and something one can easily wallow in but, I don't know, maybe too easy. Maybe it's the sheer consistency of it, that it's too unruffled; despite the surface anguish, there isn't much perturbation in the structure.

I admit I get the sense I'm nitpicking here and I'm sure many will enjoy this release, in some ways similar to the Bombax recordings with Toshi from a couple of years ago (this was recorded in 2009, btw).

Jonas Kochar/Gaudenz Badrutt - Strategy of behavior in unexpected situations (Insubordinations)

33 minutes of subdued, generally solid bumping of heads between Kochar (accordion) and Badrutt (electronics). For most of the work, there's a fine sense of evolving form, the soft hums, taps and breaths gently swirling into shape, dissipating, re-forming into related figures. Kochar, while more often than not using various extended techniques, largely on the air-rush side of things, isn't averse to injecting standard accordion sounds and does so very well, playing the instruments richness against the astringent, softly piercing whines that Badrutt conjures forth. At its best, the music is very spare but very gentle, smoky wisps in a dark space. However, about midway through, it veers into a bit of a rambunctious patch, not bad but somewhat disruptive (debating whether that's a good thing here, undecided) and some accordion-led eeriness that's uncomfortably close to old horror-movie shenanigans. That segment doesn't last too long, but it's soon replaced by a kind of manic traffic jams sequence, replete with tooting "horns". As I said, the disruption bothers me most of the time but occasionally, it makes a kind of sense, a sideways sort of slant into a room that may be adjacent but also "out of place". Apologies for the vagueness, but at any rate, the music here got me thinking along those lines. Try for yourself and see.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

John Tilbury - for Tomasz Sikorski (BÔŁT)

In the early 60s, Tilbury studied in Warsaw under Zbigniew Drzewieck during which he met the young composer Tomasz Sikorski (the disc sleeve says "Tomasz", the liner notes, "Tomek"; not sure if that's a salient difference in Polish), with whom he was very impressed and formed a fast, if temporary, firendship, the two not seeing each other again following Tilbury's return to England in 1965.

This recording presents three works by Sikorski from substantially later on, 1971, 1980 and 1984 as well as an improvised homage by Tilbury. There are vestiges of a minimalist approach in play but nothing, so far as I can discern, of a direct connection to any of the big four. Instead, the acknowledgement to repetitive forms seems to be buried in a moodier, darker music, a tolling kind of sound that often resides in the piano's lower register. I might go so far as to suggest that the music here has a good deal in common with Tilbury's own improvising at its further remove from the Feldman influence. One wonders if the influence on the younger pianist was substantial.

There's a bit of Feldman in the rolling, repeated patterns of "Rondo" (1984) but with a kind of lugubrious quality that the older composer doesn't have (that motif is one of the more striking figures herein). I found myself thinking of German Romantic painters like Arnold Boecklin, a modernist extension (and extreme deviation) from Rachmaninoff's great "Isle of the Dead". Not that it sounds akin, just containing a similar brooding, dark, troubled aspect. Otherwise, I can't think of much contemporaneous music to compare to this. Gurdjieff, maybe? I've listened to a bit of Sikorski's orchestra; music on-line and, generally, find it interesting and enjoyable though not utterly gripping. Glad to know it, though. It goes without saying that Tilbury's playing is rich and assured; I'd be curious to compare it to other pianistic interpretations.

It may also go without saying that the highlight of this disc is the concluding "Improvisation for Tomasz Sikorski", an absolutely gorgeous, probing 12+ minutes of Tilburyness that reminds me of portions of his playing on "Duos for Doris", high praise indeed. It's somber, dark in a way that matches the same quality in Sikorski's music (he was only 49 when he died; a sense of loss certainly pervades here). His ability to be both spare and supremely melodic has rarely been shown to better advantage. The touch, the choices made, the space encompassed--it's all here. Heartbreaking and profound. Must be heard.

BÔŁT (via Monotype)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Under the Carpet - Under the Carpet (Ruptured)

It's all too easy, as a listener or writer about this music, to pigeonhole a given musician into a slot based on what you've happened to have heard, forming a mental image that, in all likelihood, is seriously incomplete and inaccurate. My notion of what Stéphane Rives was about had been based on the handful of recordings, beginning with his stunning solo, "Fibres" (Potlatch) form a few years back: a rigorous exploration of the properties of the soprano saxophone considered as a sound-producing metal tube. There were elaborations on that, but they served to broaden that initial conception, to add fullness and detail.

Now, in fairness, Under the Carpet has all the appearance of a cooperative trio and, having never previously heard (I don't think) the music of Paed Conca (electric bass, clarinet) and Fadi Tabbal (electric guitar, ipad), it's possible that the music here simply conforms more to what they'd been doing all along, Rives (laptop--no actual soprano here, though I believe it's sampled and altered via the computer) adding his own ideas to the mix.

There are 21 tracks that pretty much segue into each other and the music covers a pretty decent range though, again, one I wouldn't have guessed for Rives. The modus operandi here is essentially improvising off of melodic fragments. Describing it? Well, there's a proggish element throughout; sometimes I hear hints of Terry Riley, sometimes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor; a quasi-industrial patch here, one referring to country blues there, a nod to Derek Bailey over here. I occasionally picked up glimmers of Hector Zazou or Benjamin Lew...quite the smorgasbord! There's generally a rhythmic element in place (often with a mid-East feel, natural enough given the music's origin in Beirut), more often a pulse than a beat, though the latter pops in once or twice. But the main factor is an inviting, almost gooey lushness, all of the sounds rounded and slippery, squelchy even. But these are usually tempered with harsher sonorities (via Rives?), allusions to 60s tape music, perhaps. Are there times when the sound gets a bit too proggy for my taste? Sure, once or twice the syrup is laid on rather thickly, the guitar too Rypdalian.

But overall, I find myself just enjoying the ride. It moves well, varies nicely and has a strong underlying musicality that carries it through. Really interesting work and, to its credit, really tough to pigeonhole. Check it out.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Radu Malfatti/Taku Unami - s/t (ErstLive)

A recording wherein Richard Kamerman's conversational voice during the first couple of minutes possibly comprises more decibels than the ensuing 49 minutes...

Unami performed several times during the AMPLIFY:stones festival in 2011. All of the shows at The Stone in which he participated involved his construction of mini-edifaces made of large cardboard boxes, often connected by twine and bestrewn with measuring tapes. Noise was necessarily made during these actions and I recall going back and forth as to whether this was incidental to the proceedings or should be taken as an essential part. With Malfatti, who steadfastly and gorgeously projected his softer-than-soft beams of tromboneliness into the room, the latter seemed more appropriate. The box-building became somewhat problematic when it was repeated a few times, with different partners, though I guess one could level the same "criticism" at a Malfatti--somehow this doesn't seem to fit though, which perhaps has more to do with prejudices about musicality than anything else. Unami's activity implied a kind of narrative, if only that of building and (maybe too automatic) destruction and it was questionable how much blood could be wrung from that particular stone. Near the conclusion of one set (I forget with who, perhaps Rowe) he left the cord that would through the piled boxes in the hands of a front-row audience member and walked to the rear of the space, where he gave instructions to pull and, of course, the containers came tumbling down. My immediate thought was that it would have been far more interesting had Unami simply exited the venue, leaving the choice of how to conclude the performance (indeed, whether to conclude) in the nervous hands of that audience member.

This being said, there was also something oddly satisfying about Unami's sets, especially this one with Malfatti. One clear reason was the apposition of the relentless calm/incisive placement of sound provided by the trombonist vs. the carefully considered but active movement of Unami. The latter struck an intriguing balance between care in construction and nonchalance when parts collapsed ahead of schedule. He was almost ant-like in his objective of building his particular hill despite any momentary obstacles. On the other hand, one could shunt that part to one side, regard it as peripheral, and concentrate on Malfatti's spare commentary, noting its inherent beauty and how, as can be heard hear, it plays against a siren of a vehicle racing up Houston St. outside the venue. The flickering back and forth of this attention range was fascinating in and of itself.

This begs the question: how valuable is a recording of the same event? I love the instrumental listing: Radu Malfatti - trombone, Taku Unami_______ (actually, no underlining but i can't get pure spaces to register here) But if you weren't in attendance and, moreover, if you were innocent of any knowledge as to what he was doing, it might be easy enough to listen to this as an ultra-low key Malfatti performance with some bumping and rustling noises occurring elsewhere in the room. For some of us, including this listener, that could well be enough and Malfatti is just wonderful here, even injecting the odd three or four note sequence every so often; feels like a whole sonata!

The recording, for me, comes across as far more restful and even meditative than did the concert to the extent the latter contained some amount of tension in the uncertainty of what Unami might do. It's kind of a different bird, then. I enjoy it a great deal and would highly recommend it but I'm curious to hear how it strikes those ears that were not in attendance.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Keith Rowe - September (ErstLive)

During the week prior to this concert, Rowe talked about the Dvorak piece quite a bit. In recent years, there has often been a work form the classical repertoire that's seized his imagination, generating a certain amount of obsession as he sought to understand it on his own terms, often to extract a kind of "commentary" on contemporary issues that concerned him.The repertoire was quite alive and one of the ways of keeping it so is to place it into new contexts, hear what new information it has to offer. For Rowe, the Dvorak Piano Quintet had come to embody certain ideas about memory, including nostalgia, loss and false memories. Knowing that he was scheduled to perform in New York, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it seemed an appropriate piece to utilize.

This has been something f a departure for Rowe, to at least occasionally bring in samples from the classical repertoire, knowing more or less how they'd be used. It first (to my knowledge) surfaced in the solo Tokyo set from several years ago and here, is the thread that winds through the 34 minute concert. But, also as with much of Rowe's work over the past few years, especially solo, the density of sound/ideas here is astounding, bewildering, opaque, exhausting and, finally, so moving.

Aside from the Dvorak, which weaves in and out of the proceeding (and which, I should say, is absolutely gorgeous in and of itself), the principal elements are various radio captures (including an eerily appropriate, clear snatch of EMF's "You're Unbelievable", with all the immediate echoes of Bush it conjures up, as well as some 9/11 discussion and other tidbits) and some extraordinarily brutal sounds from Rowe, possibly contact mic-generated. Imagine the harsher moments from his duo with Sachiko M and amp that up a few notches. But what impresses me from a sonic standpoint is the rough-hewn, brutalist structure of the piece, like a Twombly carved from basalt with a jackhammer. The Dvorak certainly helps to provide some degree of linearity, but it's like, if you will, a string connecting blocks of rock candy (!), and a bitter candy at that.

The explosiveness coheres naturally enough with the allusiveness of the date, though never so overtly as to be at all banal; indeed, they're less explosions than massive fields of static, implying, to these, more in the way of human communication and lack of same in the aftermath of the events. This was amplified in a contribution, unfortunately not picked up on the recording, from a drunken woman outside the venue, who was initially heard screaming, "No! No! No! No!" and then, when asked by the door-person to please keep it down, that there was a concert going on inside, "Fuck you! Fuck your concert!". It was actually the perfect compliment, the ideal "real world" reflection of what Rowe was describing in his music.

A great, great set, absolutely essential.

Erstwhile (The image up top hasn't anything to do with the Erst release--I just liked it a lot...)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tim Olive/Alfredo Costa Monteiro - 33 bays (845 audio)

It's been a while since hearing anything from the bale hands of Tim Olive so it's good to report that his 2009 duo with the stalwart Alfredo Costa Monteiro is a solid, absorbing effort.

Both wielding electronics and metal of various sorts (I don't pick up any accordion or paper on the part of Costa Monteiro), they fashion a thick, rough, spiny set of two pieces, the music elbowing its way through, leaving shavings and unexpected bruises. The first track is quite packed but not overstuffed, several things usually in operation at a given moment--throbbing hums with erratic static and scoured metal here; when a couple of sources drop out, the remaining one or two acquire a ghostly effect, echoing, arguing. One of the impressive things is how varied the landscape is while feeling quite cohesive and of a piece. Not groundbreaking by any means and fans of the pair will find themselves in recognizable territory, but the decision toward fullness is one fraught with the "peril" of hyperactivity and these guys never get near that particular trap.

As with much good music of this character, it's tough (for me) to offer much more than a sonic description and perhaps to give an idea of the shape or scale of the piece(s). That latter is a subtle thing, but here one does get a feeling of breadth, of compass. The sounds range widely, shrill to deep, high to low, though the volume level is fairly consistent, resting in the medium zone and, as said, active without being overly busy. But, for example, when early in the second track, when you hear what sounds like large, hollow metal bars tossed down an empty, linoleum-tiled hallway (which I'm sure is not the actual source), it connotes something more than just the aural sensation, summoning a vague story line, some plot that can't quite be discerned. It's magical moments like this (and there are several) that make recordings like "33 bays" so valuable.

Don't let it slip by.

845 audio

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Seijiro Murayama/Kazushige Kinoshita - 59:01.68 (ftarri)

Percussion/violin, with five compositions by Murayama, each lasting precisely 11 minutes. Given the titles (with the digits, 1, 1, 3, 3, and 4 arrayed in different ways), one wonders if they're oblique homages to Cage and the first one indeed begins with the ambient sounds of...somewhere, before gently plucked strings and rubbed percussion appear. The piece, very subdued and evocative, goes back and forth between these two "locations" almost as though the pair would play, then open the window, close it and play again. Nice work. The first several minutes of the second track are all but silent, eventually filled with only the hushed flurries emerging like small puffs of smoke.

This is the way it goes throughout, kind of like an improvised Wandelweiser set (even though these are apparently compositions, they sound freely performed; I'm guessing it's something on the order of actions performed within time frames). Kinoshita is always quiet, Murayama mostly so, with the odd, brief sharp attack via stick on drumhead, just enough to keep the listener on his/her toes. The disc's cover is one of those old fractal cascades (I'm forgetting the specific name for this sequence), one that, for me, retains a deep sense of randomness within order, always a very lovely image. The back cover has, if I'm recalling correctly, a related set of numbers; presumably the track titles refer to five sets within this frame; perhaps so does the grouping of sounds. In any case, the results are engaging--relaxed though with a sense of rigor, restrained but not timid.

It's a fine work, possibly my favorite thus far involving Murayama.

Available stateside from Esrtdist
Choi Joonyong - Danthrax (Trigger)

In which Choi takes his trusty old malfunctioning CD drive and attempts to impose what he acknowledges are the cliched structures of dance music which, essentially, here entails the predominance of rhythms (Trigger being a new label formed by Ryu Hankil which "focuses on rhythmic sound".

Now, by its nature, the CD drive tends toward the rhythmic due to its internal functioning. I imagine getting it to sound arhythmic entails a decent amount of work. Choi also must deal with the alredy fairly narrow range of sounds available via this device; not really narrow, I guess, in an absolute sense, but occupying a range where most ears tend to group the sounds into a definable area. A daunting task, in other words, more so with 13 tracks spread over some 50 minutes. I find that I tend to listen to the disc as a single, fluctuating work though it's still far from an easy go. The (necessarily) mechanical beats put me off somewhat so that at moments where some sheer noise intrudes, I breathe a sigh of relief. There are occasions where the music actually approaches a traditional pop song kind of feel, at least from one direction where the listener can impute what almost amounts to chord changes; kind of amusing when that happens. Still, I find myself wearying as the disc progresses, just not picking up enough of inherent interest. Given that "touch" isn't going to be in the realm of possibilities here and sound placement has taken a back seat to the foregrounding of rhythms, on either submits to these rhythms and enjoys them as they're couched in the glitchy sounds, or not. For myself, this works ok in brief snatches but not so much in the long haul and, additionally, seems not to contain the kind of depth that reveals more on re-listening or approaching from various angles. an interesting experiment and, who knows, may lead to something in the future but for now, I'm not convinced.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Edited by Michał Libera and Lidia Klein

A truly excellent compendium, assembled to accompany an exhibition by Katarzyna Krakowiak at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, dealing with the intersection of sound and structures. The selections range remarkably widely, from Samuel Coleridge to Toshiya Tsunoda, but are almost always on point, offering historical, theoretical, political and philosophical observations on sound as it's experienced within architecture.

So there's a fascinating piece, by Karin Bijsterveld on the lineage of noise prohibitions and safeguards in Holland as cities became more crowded and industrialized and one by John Locke (not the philosopher) on eavesdropping. Brilliant works by Shelley Trower on street noises and the cataloguing of same in 19th century Britain and one by Lamberto Tronchin surveying architecture's attempts to enhance sound within. A very fine essay by David Toop, culled from his "Sinister Resonance" volume ("Architectural Sound") on the mysterious ways sound travels through building materials and the psychological effects therein has special...resonance. One could go on.

Interspersed among these are brief extracts of thoughts from sound artists including Toshiya Tsunoda, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Alvin Lucier, Eric La Casa and others, as well as very intriguing conversations with Bernhard Leitner and Mark Bain, causing this reader to become quite interested in experiencing their work.

Unlike most such collections, there's nary a disappointing entry to be found--a seriously solid volume and one well worth seeking out for anyone remotely interested in the field. Highly recommended.

Motto Distribution

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Vinyl round-up
Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet - The Food Chain/Nice Ass (Glistening Examples)

A 45, one side for each (no collaboration).

Given its title, one immediately begins thinking along digestive lines at the beginning of Lambkins's "The Food Chain", starting as it does with (I think) human-generated sounds, perhaps grunted into a large tube or other receptacle, before become substantially more leonine (still not certain if those as processed big cat roars or not). It's kind of disturbing and doesn't become less so when the scene shifts to what sounds all the world like a bar fight. One imagines it spilling out onto the street whereupon a jaguar leaps in and devours the participants, establishing its won food chain--that's the image I get, in any case. A rough, fascinating slab of sound, having a bit of the feel of being extracted from a longer work but...meaty enough on its own.

Lescalleet's piece seems to shoot for a more accessible tack, starting with some kind of trigger-activsted sound, morphing through beats, muddy sludge, muted, liquified voices, eventually settling into a Fennesz-y was with gentle eelctric-piano behind washes of ambient, field-recorded material. It's all very alluring and immersive, retaining enough of an edge, both in terms of aural-harshness and the nostalgic figure played by the piano to easily carry the listener through, As with the Lambkin, he leaves you wanting a wider purview, which I guess is a good thing.

Likely available from jason on tour

Aaron Dilloway/Jason Lescalleet - Grapes and Snakes (Pan)

Not quite as wantonly noisy as you might expect...Side A (Grapes?) begins with lush, swirling synth, the odd stutter immersed within, an intriguing, harsher whine skirting the edges. This occupies the first half of the side. Just as interest palls, there's an abrupt shift to a dire mode, sight shudders, a repeated, heavy drop--all dark and damp. It's effective, though a bit reminiscent of some mid 90s "isolationism".

I enjoy the possibly ophidian B-side much more. There's a malevolent pulse, brooding, eddying percusso-electronics and an overall inky density that both inviting and slightly repellent. There'e a good deal more grime in the mix here, so the synth swirls retain grit and teeter uneasily--very nice, the loops possessing a drunken character. there's even a whiff of early, grungy Riley to be heard, buffeted by squeals that build into squalls. Lescalleet used part of Riley' "You're No Good" in his recent erstwhile disc and you get the impression it's a source of inspiration here as well, but more ferocious than Riley ever got. Humorously enough, this segues into a section that harkens back to Pierre Schaeffer's "Psyche Rock", or one of the mixes thereof. It's a delightful, surprisingly bouncy way to take out the side. Solid piece and, again, perhaps not what you were (or, at least, I was) expecting.


The pair will be in Brooklyn on November 3.
The Dogmatics - The Sacrifice For The Music Became Our Lifestyle (Monotype)

Ok, yes, it's one of the worst album covers you'll ever want to see and the title ain't much better. I harbored great misgivings until flipping it over and discovering the perpetrators to be Chris Abrahams and Kai Fagaschinski. There's hope, I thought.

And there was. Seven tracks, fairly short; I think it would be fair to say that, overall, the character of the music is not dissimilar to that produced by The International Nothing, Fagaschinski's duo with fellow clarinetist Michael Thieke--quiet, long-held tones, carrying a smidgen of Feldman and more than a whiff of some Neo-Romantic Teutons. The odd flurry of shrillness or volume emerges for a moment or two, now and then, serves notice that all is not precisely serene, then subsides, leaving a welcome, lingering sense of unease. I think there's a good deal buried here and that subsequent listens will reveal elusive layers. I like it as is and suspect there's more to it than I currently perceive. Good recording.
Michael Wintsch/Christian Weber/Christian Wolfarth - The Holistic Worlds of (Monotype)

Not heliocentric...

Wintsch (piano and synth) is new to me, I think, though I've heard a good bit of the rhythm section. On first blush, Paul Bley, not Sun Ra, comes to mind, both in pianistic touch and in the loose lyricism of the first track, "Singin' Joe". That mood holds sway and, for my ears, it's tough to pull off without the idiosyncrasies of someone like Bley; the rambling can become a self-sbsorbed eddy. To the extent that pieces succeed, it's when the rhythm exerts itself somewhat, pushing the issue, injecting some direction, though this only occurs two or three times. Everything quite well played--I still enjoy the essential sound of Weber's bass, always have--but amorphous in a way that's not as fascinating as it needs to be, at least for this listener. As is of often the case with recordings clearly nodding to the jazz tradition these days, your mileage may differ substantially from mine.

Astor - Alcor (Kye)

Released on Kye at the same time as the fine LP by Vanessa Rossetto, this one sounds to me more in line with items from labels like Unfathomless that troll the waters where field recordings bleed into ambiance. Not precisely my cuppa though this is a very handsome set of its kind and, at several moments, manages to generate the sense of mystery I value where the recorded sounds possess an edge and are underlain by electronics subtle enough to almost pass unnoticed. There's a point during 'Guns' where the music might even have been mistaken for the masterer here, Lambkin--it gets to that sort of balky, beautifully awkward unrecognizability. Certainly worth a listen if you're at all into this area. Lovely cover art as well.


Monday, October 08, 2012

I wrote some advance notes for Duplant's fine disc, which you can find here. You should give it a listen.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Michael Pisaro/Taku Sugimoto - D Minor/B♭ Major (Slub)

The tiny reproduction above, filched from the Japan Improv site (he only one I could locate in lieu of my unconnected scanner) seems to fit somehow. Not that the music here is "small"; it isn't by any means. But there is something pleasantly distant about it; listening, I imagine hearing it form across a good-sized room. Perhaps this is influenced by seeing, just last night as I write this, a performance of Pisaro's "Tombstones" in a Brooklyn church bearing the unlikely moniker, "Our Lady of Lebanon". After the first piece, I moved toward the buildings rear, where the sound seemed a bit richer (I have the feeling that's often the case in vaulted rooms like those of churches) but still very distinct.

In any case, the present work is quite different from the pair's collaboration last year on Erstwhile. Here, the Dog Star Orchestra (seventeen instrumentalists, largely strings and winds, including the composers on guitars) tackle a work in sixteen parts, eight written by each of Pisaro and Sugimoto, independent of one another. The parts, if I understand correctly, are for individual instrumentalists, each of whom is given a "10 minute window in which to play", with a good deal of latitude as to when and, presumably, how they play during that period. How those time frames overlap, I don't know, but overlap they do as the entire work runs 48 minutes.

It's fascinating to listen to the work take form, one imagines at least in part due to the ensemble, at first tentative and awkward, gradually acquiring a notion of the fragile ground that has been laid, then gently building atop it, balancing between "squandering" their allotted time and holding some in abeyance. One can guess which principle was responsible for which set of notes, but that's a rather silly endeavor. Instead, you sit and enjoy the fluctuating combinations, generally soft and often of longish duration, as they slide against one another, bump shoulders, lay atop each other forming prismatic sound-colors, stand aside and allow extrusions of silence. One does actually get something of the sense of Sugimoto of quite a while back, circa "opposite", in the spatial openness combines with the delicate, fairly tonal music. Indeed, there's a section several minutes toward the middle of the composition where there's, apparently, only ambient sound; perhaps one of the pages of the score?

After repeated listens, I find myself quite easily slipping into the sound world here, enjoying both the smoothness and the occasional awkwardness, prizing certain individual sounds (that calliope-like set of tones, I guess computer-generated, Sugimoto's dry, lovely guitar) but becoming more and more able to "stand back" and observe the process as a natural event, with sets of nested events.

A fine piece, well worth searching out.

available from erstdist

Monday, October 01, 2012

(Various) Sounds Like Silence (Gruenrekorder)

A quite crowded and noisy compilation of many performances of 4'33".

It's an odd melange, incorporating many announcements (from the radio, for the most part, I think), in German and English, about the piece. The first of the six tracks, indeed, consists of virtually nothing but these announcements, including contributions from Cage himself (once between 103rd and 104th Sts. at 3rd Avenue, an intersection I know pretty well) and a sarcastic news reporter at Harvard Square. The former includes commentary from passersby, over a faintly heard "Day by Day" (that horrid song from "Godspell"), before moving to a brief (14-second) second movement near the river. It's a fascinating listen, somehow much more alive than most field recordings I've heard these days...

There's much repetition here, in the spoken texts and certain sounds, but the works unspool in different directions. There are performances of 4'33 by, among others, Matt Rogalsky, Ulrich Krieger (a saxophone quartet version), Lasse-Marc Riek, Stephen Vitiello, Mathieu Saladin (the wonderful, full-volume rendition) and Einsturzende Neubaten ("Silence Is Sexy"). As a kind of primer that, if nothing else, lists a number of approaches and to an extent, some amount of public reception, "Sounds Like Silence" performs a small service. Personally, only the shards of Cage conversation (that live street piece, especially) were valuable. There's no other attempt at explication to any substantial degree, presuming I'm not missing too much of the German text, which could be the case.

For completists only, I fear.

Artificial Memory Trace - Ultrealith (Gruenrekorder)

Quite recently, I was having a conversation with a musician of some renown. We were discussing field recordings, the plethora thereof, many of which find there way to my abode. "If I were running things", he said, "there would be certain sounds you'd simply not be allowed to use: water, birds, traffic sounds, church bells, airplane engines, wind. I'd make it really, really hard to be able to construct a good recording from the field." I couldn't help but take his point. So many come down the pike, so many, after digesting, are all but indistinguishable. Pleasant but innocuous. I'd add something else: that they're subtly coercive in the sense of taking an environment, one that, were you actually there, you'd have your choice of areas of concentration, etc., and insisting on a certain focus. This happens all the time in "music", of course, but something about it sits wrongly with me. Exceptions abound, to be sure, especially when the field has become subtly and beautifully transfigured (Pisaro's "Transparent City" set comes quickly to mind) but all too often I end up feeling like someone who's just browsed a friend's nicely put together and shot photo album. It's fine, but....

Forgive me for using these recordings as a springboard for the opinions above (though the label, Gruenrekorder, is certainly one whose releases often occupy this territory); just needed to vent a little.

"Ultrealith" falls into that slot of modified field recordings, eight tracks assembled over much of the past couple of decades. Fairly quiet, many insectile and avian sounds, often streaked through by gentle electronics of one kind or another, sometimes soft percussive flurries, occasionally taped voices, but nothing particularly gripping or, as it were, memorable. Some of the works were conceived as installations and, as with many a release in this area, one can at least imagine a more conducive experience being had if one were permitted to walk through the sounds, divert one's attention as desired, etc. As is, it's pleasant, tickling your soles a bit, but not so much more.

Roland Etzin/Katrin Hoedemacker - TransMongolian (Gruenrekorder)

And we're off once again, this time on a six-part journey undertaken in 2010 across Russia, China, Mongolia, South Korea and Japan, Etzin making the sound recordings, Hoedemaker contributing drawings in what seems to be colored pencil or pastels.

In this case, the recordings (as near as I can tell--I could be wrong) are untreated. They're not travelog-ish, no train engines or whooshing winds, more moments that happened along and/or were chosen afterwards by Etzin (though the one from Lake Baikal is...watery). So you're more than usually cognizant of the choice factor: why this and not that. And, by and large, Etzin's choices are reasonably engaging, often obscurely sourced, bearing textures that are sharply drawn, the sonic equivalent of a silver gel print form the Adams (Ansel) school). Still, things quickly begin to pall--Baikal's waves become somewhat numbing, the nighttime in Mongolia is replete with insects and train sounds (nice contrast of the shrill and deeply rumbling), a festival here, air rushing in Japan. As is often the case, there's nothing "bad" here; how could there be? But also nothing that seizes the ears, that makes me wish I'd been there, that, essentially, I can't reproduce for myself at any given moment, with the materials close at hand.

Apologies for the griping nature of this post....listeners with a bent in this direction will surely find much of value here.