Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bruno Duplant - slow breath (b-boim)

Funny, when I was scrounging around to find a pilferable cover image for this release, I cam upon Richard's write-up, about which I'd forgotten. While I'd been listening to, and enjoying, the disc, it had never crossed my mind that there was anything other than a trombone in play here (with some minor enhancements, perhaps) so when i read his assertions of the core sound having been electronically generated, I immediately began to doubt my ears. Allah knows they've been mistaken often enough, especially in this area where sources can be obscure. In any case, I was heartened to discover they so still occasionally function properly.

Richard gets to much of what's interesting about this release. It's clearly in the Malfatti lineage part from being on his label; I don't thin kit's straying to far afield to consider it at least partially an homage. The question would be: within those quasi-narrow strictures, how does one produce something recognizably one's own? A difficult task but I think Duplant does a fair job at that. The swells are Malfattian on the one hand but deeper and louder than is the elder trombonist's wont. The attacks vary subtly, more softness here and added hint of a growl there. The spacing of the sounds defies easy pattern- recognition; my guess is that it's intuitive with no score or timings but I could easily be wrong. As well the subsidiary sounds, the hollow gravelly rumbles and gentle taps establish a lovely space adjacent to the one carved out by the trombone.

It's wetter than Radu's work and substitutes a certain looseness for the master's precision but, qualitatively, it sits comfortably beside that work and is a thoughtful, clear and sensuous experience. Highly recommended.

also available from Erst Dist

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eva-Maria Houben - druids and questions (Edition Wandelweiser)

I've been listening to this recording quite often over the past few weeks, including a couple of days (like today) when it's the only thing I'm playing. I absolutely love it though explaining why--why this particular recording works for me so well--is, as usual, a little tough.

One work, an hour long, consisting of "electro-acoustic music with organ sounds". Had only the latter been indicated, I wouldn't have raised an eyebrow as almost all of what one hears sounds as though it could have been generated by adapted organ pipes. The passages, full but soft, embedded in a quieter hiss, are airy and breathy with a tracery of organ-tone within, the kind of sound I imagine could be conjured up by allowing more air to escape a pipe than normal. What other sounds are incorporated i couldn't say though I get a hint of traffic now and then; but that traffic, if it is such, sounds like it could have been organ generated as well.

No matter. The wavelets of sound appear in succession, held for a bit, differently lengthed, interposed with periods of near silence, a form one might more or less expect from Houben, fitting in quite well with the Wandelweiser aesthetic. And yet it stands apart, very beautifully and strongly.

On the left inside of the packet is written, "Listening to Charles Ives, The Unanswered Question", on the right, "Yet a Druidic Difference/Enhances Nature now" - Emily Dickinson. The Ives is a high favorite of mine and, once posited, making a connection between the gently keening tones created by Houben and the searching trumpet in the older piece isn't difficult. Perhaps it's, in part, that quality that's so moving, that blending of calm and subsurface agitation limned in the Houben, the breathing sequence, not regular but also not panicky, and the unease beneath. I can't say I know from druids more than the man on the street and have no notion how they mingle here.

The music has a huge tinge factor, coloring one's room, seemingly fading away but always maintaining a crucial presence that one registers from time to time as things around you suddenly leap into a different focus than before.

Wonderful work, endlessly listenable, affording new discoveries every time.

available from ErstDist

Monday, January 16, 2012

Richard Chartier - Transparency (Performance) (LINE)

There's this amazing-seeming thing called the Grand Tonometer pictured here, built by the physicist Rudolf Koenig in the 1870s, consisting of 692 tuning forks, designed to elucidate the range of frequencies over some four octaves.

Chartier has taken recordings of the device to construct this lovely work. As one might expect, the general sound-world is one of shimmers, layered tones usually without the initial strike, though that bit of percussiveness surfaces now and then, a very beautiful effect. There are other subsidiary rumbles and noises, the whole embodying a complexity not immediately apparent. There's something almost stately about the way it proceeds; one picks up something of the ceremonial, as though witnessing a rite of some kind. I'd love to have witnessed this live but am happy enough to have this document, a unique and beautiful recording.

Seth Cluett - Objects of Memory (LINE)

Five pieces with widely varying instrumentation but fitting into a common aesthetic, quiet, pensive, with, at their best, a nice subtle tension. "objects in stillness", for bassoon, viola, guitar, percussion and four sine tones, exemplifies this approach well, a sandy, drone-like piece that never rests easy, but diffuses slightly along its path. It also illustrates what I find lacking about some of the pieces, a kind of papery thinness that I might normally enjoy but here, often, find a tad insubstantial. The second work, for amplified paper, bowed vibraphone, bass drum and compressed air gets past this and works very well; the occasional grounding by the soft, thick sound of the drum no doubt helps but the textures as well integrate in a manner I hear as more delicious and sexy, if you will, than on the prior piece. The next work, for three guitars, electric bass and four sine tines, drifts back toward the territory marked out but the first, though smoother given the sources. Again, while pleasant, I felt the need for more grain, more toughness, however disguised.

Gears shift a bit for "doleros", a documentation of an installation at the Diapason Gallery in Brooklyn, delicate (and lovely) clinks playing off against a flux of gentle drones, the latter varying in texture, quietly surging forth and ebbing. Ambient voices and harsher clangs make a welcome appearance just as the near-twenty minute piece concludes; might have preferred such action earlier but the work hangs together well enough as is. The final and longest track, at 26 minutes, is a live performance involving cassettes and sine tones. It's the most purely drone-based work here, the pulsing (and attractive enough) sines offset just a bit by some rumbling beneath. It's a work one would much rather experience live where personal movement would effect the sounds perceived. On disc, there's once again a lack of depth, some gap I need filled.

There's much good music here but I can't shake the feeling that everything could be tightened, dirtied up a bit or otherwise somehow enhanced. I'd be curious to hear more from Cluett down the line.

Seth Horvitz - Eight Studies for Automatic Piano (LINE)

Impossible not to think of Nancarrow while listening to Horvitz' collection though in terms of the actual music heard, there seems to be a sliding toward Reich (with, as noted in the text one can read here Tenney serving as intermediary). Not sure if I'm imposing foreknowledge, but the use of a Disklavier imparts a subtle amount of cleanliness, if not slickness, to the proceedings that's mildly offputting; my analog soul prefers some irregularities and roughness that a paper roll and metal and wood piano can supply. Given that, though, the intricacies of the compositions are impressive and sonically overwhelming in the sense of the impossibility of a human to manage these scores with such precision. An yet, one wishes for more of a purely musical nature to balance the precision. Sometimes I had the impression of a mechanical Andriessen or Adams--much form, less of musical or, really, sonic interest. The barely-tamed wildness of Nancarrow is absent, subjugated to technical mastery. The final cut, "Strumming Machine", clearly nods toward Charlemagne Palestine but refuses to acknowledge his excesses which, after all, are a large part of his most successful music. More grit, please.

Steve Roden - Proximities (LINE)

Nice idea. Roden, using a text by Donald Judd, selected a sequence therein of the letters A through G, recorded them on an old Paia Oz, played back the result,at dawn, in a gallery of some 50 of Judd's sculptures in Marfa, recording it all on a digital recorder, an iPhone and a micro-cassette recorder. One has the sense of other exterior sounds bleeding through though perhaps they're artifacts of the devices themselves. In any case they're a welcome tonic to the thick, syrupy (in a good sense) mini-organ tones, scraping and scouring them. It's 42 minutes is sometimes in danger of palling, but those background sounds buttress the Paia Oz, supplying the necessary tension, even dominating the affair on occasion. Toward the end, one hears a cascade of marvelous, hollow pings, which Roden identifies as the Judd sculptures themselves, expanding in the growing warmth of the room as the sun rose and beamed through the glass-sided enclosure. A lovely way to end.

Asmus Tietchens - Soirée (LINE)

Wherein Tietchens takes pieces he's done in the past and "recycles" them, subjecting them to some kinds of iterative processes and presenting the 10th iteration of eight works on this recording. He asks, "Confronted with the variety of the results I ask myself: Is it really necessary to create further new electronic music if only one piece as a nucleus is sufficient to derive hundreds and hundreds of different distinct individual variants?" Well, I've no idea about the general question and don't know Tietchen's prior work nearly well enough to discern whether the results here are as rich as the originals or offer glimpses that they didn't, so I can only take these at face value. The music ranges from pieces with echoes of 60s tape collage to sparer, spacier works like "p1" that contain (refreshingly) too many gasps to ooze into anything too Eno-esque. Elsewhere, one almost has a sense of reworked field recordings, which may well be the case. The music is slippery in an odd way, giving hints of form and structure but quickly evaporating. It doesn't leave a strong image in my memory, but a pleasant enough tinge, like a blurred photo.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lee Noyes/Radio Cegeste - to orient themselves with coastlines (idealstate)

Radio Cegeste is a project created by Sally Ann McIntyre which involves site-specific recordings of a "micro radio station", in this case operating on a hilltop near Dunedin, New Zealand. It seems to comprise the bedrock of this fascinating disc; what else is mixed in, by Noyes and perhaps McIntyre, is hard to distinguish, though I take it a broken accordion is one such (and a lovely element, at that). Whatever the case, the results are quite fine, varied within these radiophonic parameters and flow beautifully. Had this emerged from N[Q], I wouldn't have been surprised. There's a similar level of restraint, of allowing the phenomena to stand on their own for extended periods, a minimum of overt manipulation or gestural activity. Snatches of voices, a violin melody (I recognize it, but can't place it), swarms of other generally low-key detritus come and go, very much giving the sense of drifting by, being momentarily captured, then going on their way.

A very fine recording, recommended.

and/also - like also and any (idealstate)

and/also being Noyes on percussion and Stuart Porter on alto sax. More of a post-free jazz session with Porter, especially, sticking in more (relatively) traditional frameworks, recalling Braxton among others, with something of the plaintive quality of Marion Brown (and McPhee, too). Noyes moves things in a Prevostian direction and, once in a while, Porter follows suit but mostly stays in a fairly non-extended area, creating something of an oil and water effect, which actually does work on occasion but more often sits uncomfortably for this listener. He seems like a perfectly sound player but, given my predilections, it's hard for me to get too excited about this kind of venture. Well played on its own terms though.

Lee Noyes - Xiàzhì (idealstate)

Solo Noyes, one live track and two studio, from 2011. Extremely quiet for the most part, all electronic as near as I can tell. The lengthy live track is especially impressive, a long trek from the kind of sparse playing I relate sometimes to Rowe (as in his recording with Sachiko) that lays a fine groundwork for some explosions later on, said eruptions not at all sounding forced or requisite, more natural bubblings up from the pre-sewn seeds. The subsidence, with its heavy thrum, is an unexpected joy as well. Good, thoughtful work, deserving of more commentary than I can come up with today. Check it out.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Haunted House - Blue Ghost Blues (Northern Spy)

I don't know Connors' work, in or out of Haunted House, nearly as well as I should, having seen him but two or three times and only heard the early Erstwhile release by the group and a handful of solo projects of his. This recording should go a long way to changing that (and should have been somewhere on my year-end favorites listing; apologies for the omission). The opening track, "Millie's Not Afraid", is one of the more exciting pieces I've heard in recent months, a churning, surging stew of guitars, throbbing percussion and voice. The remaining tracks might not quite approach this height, but they're damn fine. Langille's voice works perfectly hear, the drumming of Murgali (on naf and kanjira) never fails to incite bodily movement and the twinned guitars of Conners and Burnes compliment and mesh in a thick, ropey, chiming mass that should be the envy of many a rock band. Fine stuff, do check it out.

Northernb Spy

also available from Erst Dist

Lasse-Marc Riek - Saison Concrete (Semperflorens)

As the title suggests, an evocation of the seasons via musique concrete means, though not overtly so. It begins slowly and not so distinguished from much other work in this field but gradually coalesces into something thickly mysterious, cavernous and immersive. That depth doesn't last too long though and the rest of the trip, while pleasant enough as it passes, doesn't really hit me so hard, It ends rather too cutely with a snatch of barrel organ (thought the ghost of Breuker appeared for a moment!). Not bad, not essential


Merzouga - Mekong Morning Glory (Gruenrekorder)

Merzouga is Eva Pöpplein and Janko Hanushevsky who together recorded sounds along the Mekong River through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, assembling them into the work at hand. There's a good bit of recognizable music from the beginning, presumably instruments encountered along the way (strings, by and large) reconfigured int he studio, melded with similarly deconstructed bird, engine, water, vocal, bell, urban and other sounds. There is indeed a strong sense of structure--the pieces don't just meander about but have discernible dynamic variance and blocks of morphing densities. It stands very much in a middle ground between field recordings and composition--a recurring single bass note offset by skittering strings around the 15-minute mark could easily be a near contemporary cello/bass exploration (Johnny Dyani/Abdul Wadud?) with a tweak or two. An interesting approach and it makes for an engaging listen. My main quibble is a general soft focus and lack of rawness, as though events had been "filmed" through a very thin gauze; I wanted a bit more bite.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Keith Rowe/John Tilbury - E.E.Tension and Circumstance (Potlatch)

I'm not sure if all readers are aware of the circumstances surrounding the pair's first recording, "Duos for Doris" (Erstwhile, 2003). The session, set up by Jon Abbey to occur in Nancy and involving no small amount of logistical and personal difficulty was suddenly in danger of not happening at all due to the serious illness of Tilbury's mother. An uncertain day was spent at Rowe's home in Vallet, after which Tilbury called from England to relate that his mother had indeed passed away but that he'd still meet up in Paris and travel to Nancy, a day later than scheduled. The result was a recording that remains right at the very pinnacle of music for this listener.

Not long after came the dissolution of AMM, a bitter affair. It seemed utterly unlikely that Rowe would ever again play with either of his former companions. In 2008, Rowe's own mother, Eileen Elizabeth Charters-Rowe, died. Tilbury, upon learning of the event, re-established contact and eventually suggested that, just as their first duo ended up centering around the passing of his mother, so they perhaps could get together in honor of Rowe's. Happily, that event took place in December, 2010 at Instants Chavirés in Paris.

When I first heard recordings of the concert, I thought of the almost hour-long set as one of searching and finding, the latter taking up most of the second half. I don't think this is really the case though and, on reflection, it's perhaps silly to think that a mere 6-7 year absence would in any way negate the empathy and sensitivity that had been established since the mid-60s and, especially since 1980. I now here it more as a gradual coalescing of elements, something like a pond in which randomly floating elements, via surface tension and other affinities, slowly accrete, soon forming a wonderfully complex and beautiful entity which lingers for a while, before gently dissipating.

The sheer sounds and, especially, their congruence, are amazing. There are several occasions throughout where the mix is simply unique, like nothing you hear anywhere else; such ears these fellows have. Since 2003, Rowe has gone through a couple of fairly substantial changes in his overall approach, from the maximalism one heard in, say, his 2004 dates with Fennesz to the Twombly-esque scratchy sparseness of his recording with Sachiko M to the hyper-dense obscurantism of some sole projects like The Room. In a sense, he seems to jettison much of that, though by no means all, for a more purely organic interaction, not fundamentally different from what was heard on the Doris sessions. I hear this set as very much an extension of that one, almost as though it could have been recorded the next day, like a conversation picked up after an unfortunately long interlude, returning to the thread but with implicit knowledge of what's intervened. Tilbury is as solid and extraordinary as ever--arguably more so later in the set; he play figures both recognizable and knew and I admit to no small amount of joy when hearing some of the more familiar emanations, like that four-note climbing arpeggio that appears at about the half-hour mark, like an old friend rounding the corner.

We're very fortunate to have this music.


available in the US from Erstdist

Monday, January 02, 2012

Wade Matthews/Afredo Costa Monteiro - Winter (Copy for Your Records)

A strong recording from Matthews (digital synthesis, manipulated field recordings) and Costa Monteiro (amplified springs, electric motors, radio). I'm increasingly at a loss how to describe work like this insofar as differentiating it from that of others. This isn't a criticism--far from it, the music here is excellent--just to say that it inhabits a zone--grainy, amorphous but with organic shape, rich in depth--that's not so uncommon. Again, that's fine by me. I've enjoyed Costa Monteiro's work for quite some time and find he rarely disappoints. I'm far less familiar with Matthews, having heard perhaps four or five examples, liking some, not caring for others. But this is a really nice pairing, consistently (at least) interesting, sometimes elevating matters further. They handle density and sparseness equally well and their palette, which I hear in tones of rough gray and brown, is prickly and engaging. Love to hear them in concert...In the meantime, check this one out.

Miguel A. Garcia/Richard Kamerman - Homophest (Copy for Your Records)

A half-hour live set from late September of last year, possibly a bit less aggressive and itchy than you might guess, building its own kind of flow, with tinkling and scratches and hums, cresting a couple of times, resettling. A satisfying set, one that would have been enjoyable to witness, not too far in character from some of the shows Kamerman and cohorts put on during the. AMPLIFY:stones earlier that month.

KEROAÄN - Daunting In Its Variousness: First In A Suite Of An Indeterminate Number Of Pieces (Copy for Your Records)

Software designed by Ian M, Fraser and Reed Evan Rosenberg. Funny, before I visited Ian's page, I remarked to myself on the Xenakis-ness of the title...otherwise, difficult to know what to say and, in fact, probably unfair given that it's the audio for a video installation where the light effects influence the audio (I think). One can get an idea from this vid:

KEROAÄN - LIVE DIFFUSION from spacecoffin on Vimeo.

Clearly, something you'd really have to experience in situ. As is, the audio dis feels a bit insubstantial though I think, as the structure is stochastic based, it may also simply be tough to grasp (at least for me) all at once. I have similar problems with some of Xenakis' music at the beginning, though over time things settle in. In any case, would love to see/hear the work sometime as I find something pretty exciting about it.

Copy for Your Records

Sunday, January 01, 2012

(photo: Yuko Zama)

OK, though I think this gets sillier and sillier over time, here's a listing of the recordings that I've enjoyed most over the past year. I'm fudging more than usual this year in that there are six, count 'em, six releases among which choosing a favorite seems especially ridiculous; any one could occupy the top spot on a given day. I will say that, in terms of momentousness, Φ, by virtue of its bringing together, with such delicious tension, the two main "schools" of interest to me in contemporary music, might have the conceptual edge. In any case, alpha:

1. Jurg Frey - metal, stone, skin, foliage, air (Nick Hennies) (l'Innomable)
1. Radu Malfatti/Keith Rowe - Φ (Erstwhile)
1. Michael Pisaro - asleep, street, pipes tones (Gravity Wave)
1. Michael Pisaro - fields have ears (Another Timbre)
1. Michael Pisaro - close constellations and drum on the ground (Gravity Wave)
1. Keith Rowe/John Tilbury - E.E. Tension and Circumstance (Potlatch)

Five more to make a Top 11:

7. Keith Rowe - Concentration of the Stare (bottrop boy)
8. Lucio Capece/Radu Malfatti - Explorational (b-boim)
9. Cornelius Cardew - Works 1960 - 1970 (+3db)
10. Toshimaru Nakamura - Maruto (Erstwhile)
11. Michael Pisaro - Hearing Metal 2 (Gravity Wave)

(photo: fabonthemoon)

Ten more superb albums that should be on everyone's list:

Antoine Beuger- un lieu pour etre deux (Copy for Your Records)
John Cage - Four4 (Another Timbre)
Luc Ferrari/Rinus van Alebeek - Cycles des Souvenirs (Mathka)
Hong Chulki/Jin Sangtae/Kevin Parks - 音影 (Celadon)
MIMEO - Wigry (Bolt/Monotone)
Joe Panzner - Clearing, Polluted (Copy for Your Records)
Robert Schumann - Dichteliebe (Bolt)
Mites - something but it's not tomorrow (CDR)
Seijiro Murayama/Stephane Rives - Axiom for the Duration (Potlatch)
Haptic - Scilens (Entr'acte)

(pausing to mention four historical items that are incredible:)

Eliane Radigue - Transamorem-Transmortem (Important)
Various - I listen to the Wind that Obliterates My Traces (Dust to Digital)
Derek Bailey - Concert in Milwaukee (Incus)
John Cage _ Ryoanji (hat ART)

So much good music, I feel compelled to also list these other releases, all excellent, all more than worthy of your time:

Greg Kelley/Olivia Block - Resolution (Erstwhile)
Craig Shepard - On Foot (Wandelweiser)
Taku Unami/Takahiro Kawaguchi - Teatro Assente (Erstwhile)
Dominic Lash/Patrick Farmer/Sarah Hughes - Droplets (Another Timbre)
Richard Garet/Asher Thal-Nir - Melting Ground (contour editions)
Anne Guthrie/Barry Chabala - Preston Hollow (Roeba)
Hankil Ryu /Hong Chulki/Choi Joonyong - Inferior Music (Balloon & Needle)
Giuseppe Ielasi(Bellows) - Handcut (Senufo)
Graham Lambkin - Amateur Doubles (Kye)
Michael Pisaro - Hearing Metal 3 (Gravity Wave)
Nikos Veliotis/Klaus Filip -Slugabed (Hibari)
John Wall/Alex Rodgers, Alex - Work 2006-2011 (entr'acte)
John Cage - The Works for Percussion (Mode)
Richard Kamerman - changes.txt (Engraved Glass)
Patrick Farmer - Like falling out of trees… (Consumer Waste)
Anne Guthrie - Perhaps a favorable organic moment (Copy for Your Records)
Ben Owen - 05012009FP (winds measure)
John Cage/Morton Feldman - In a Silent Way (Stradivarius)
Manfred Werder - 2009 (5) (Cathnor)
Mites - something to ponder upon (Mystery Sea)
Graham Stephenson - Defiantly Not (Pilgrim Talk)
Jeph Jerman - Arrantre (CD) (no label)
Eric Cordier/Seijiro Murayama - Nuit (Herbal International)
Jason Kahn - Dotolim (Balloon & Needle)
Ben Owen -Birds and Water, 1 (Notice Recordings)
Gill Arno - Lacunae (winds measure)
Jamie Drouin/Lance Olsen - Absence + Forgiveness (Infrequency)
Christian Wolff - Kompositionen 1950-1972 (Edition RZ)
Boris Hauf/Stephen Hess/Keefe Jackson/Juun - Prismatics (Creative Sources)

As always, much thanks to those of you who send these beautiful things my way.