Tuesday, February 28, 2012

i treni inerti - luz azul (Flexion)

Ah, my favorite palindromic band! Ruth Barberán (trumpet, objects) and Alfredo Costa Monteiro (accordion, objects) return with a pre-dawn recording realized in an olive grove alongside a working train stations (not an inert one). The atmosphere, from crickets to trains, pervades the proceedings, Barberán using mostly soft but raspy technique (scraping the horn's metal, I imagine, and placing thin plates at the bell, etc.) while Costa Monteiro largely allows a fairly natural accordion sound to emerge, rather plaintively when one considers the environments, vaguely echoing distant locomotive whistles. The trumpet picks this up, injecting burred, industrial tones, mating calls to the passing engines. The tones tend toward the sustained, echoing both rumble and the delicate insect life, but the duo, manages to attain a wonderful equilibrium here, neither too deferential or overweening, but fitting in as though a regular nocturnal occurrence at this location. The sense of relaxation is amazing.

There's something very magical about this performance. It's so beguiling to imagine sitting on some bench at the station, perhaps around the corner from this pair, hearing their sounds emerge and blend into the surroundings, perhaps never looking to see what had happened. Very, very lovely. (and a sandpaper cover never hurts...)


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Richard Garet - Areal (23five)

Another strong effort from Garet, part of a long string of same, departing a bit in structural terms from prior work in that the piece has a number of breaks and shifts, even as the substance of the music will be recognizable to listeners aware of his music. The tonal haze prevalent in Garet's sound is there, but drops out every so often, leaving the aurally delicious crackling and rustling that it had been enveloping before. When the tonality returns, it has shifted, acquired some darkness and edge, distant, metallic moans having become discernible. These welcome dissonances proliferate as the piece continues, the tonality escaping any cloying factor. It concludes in a wash of almost insectile sounds, bleak and cold--nice.


The Automatics Group - Summer Mix (Entr'acte)

Well. I remember when Theo Burt was creating sublime music/video pieces with arcs and circles in a delicate ballet, where the merest touching of boundaries elicited gentle beeps. Lovely work. He's also part of the Automatics Group, which I'd written about once before, a very different animal. Here, he's producing and "phase-resetting" while his erstwhile partner Peter Worth is, along with presumed relative Solomon Burt, "testing". The titles of the pieces are the names of the groups whose music is subjected to Fourier transforms that strip the sound of selected layers, leaving a kind of skin (I thought of sloughed off snakeskin more than once). I take for granted that the actual process is rather complex but I choose to simply reflect on the experience of the sounds as presented.

But that's not so easy. Essentially (and the four tracks aren't so different) one hears a gauzy, disembodied wash of sound over a beat, the latter tending to fade out somewhat only to well back in. It's not, to these ears, inherently fascinating except when heard as part of the process that formed it. There's a general Reichian feel to much of it, due to the rhythms and the perceived (if not in actuality?) crossings of beats. But much of it, perhaps unfortunately, reminds one of a severely remixed "Different Trains". Still, there's something going that retains my fascination, even if it's of a more technical rather than aesthetic nature (knowing I shouldn't differentiate).


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Crys Cole/Jamie Druin/Lance Austin Olsen - Linnaeus' Hydra (Infrequency)

(may I first mention how beautiful the covers to thee two releases are?)

This is a lovely recording yet one of those that, when pressed to describe "why", leaves me with few descriptives. In a a sense, it fits easily enough into quasi-similar work from the recent past--a trio wending their careful, quiet-yet-bumpy way through a field of intimate sounds. As I know I've said before, rather unhelpfully, it boils down to the choices involved and how those choices mesh with my own (hopefully always changing) sensibility. The means employed (Cole: contact microphones, no-input mixer; Drouin: modular synthesizer, radio; Olsen: amplified copper plates, objects) are, these days, unremarkable enough, but the combination works and breathes quite well, plastically here, ethereally there, metallic sometimes, sandy and scratchy others, generally at low volume but, crucially, with no feeling of constraint in that regard, simply not happening, on that day, to get very loud.

I suppose the best one can say is that my attention never wandered. I was always willing to be led down these paths, always finding more than enough to perk my interest, to tickle my brain and ears. A very good job indeed.

Johnny Chang/Jamie Drouin - Tumble (Infrequency)

I'm a bit less enamored of the duo between Drouin and Chang (violin). I should mention that my copy had some poppage which doubtless hindered appreciation, but I could shut that out of my head without too much difficulty as well as listen on the Infrequency site to an excerpt to make sure I wasn't missing anything. They stick to a drone-like approach and it's ok but I never found it so engaging, it never transcended the everyday for me, didn't gain the traction I wanted to hear. Others mileage may well differ.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thomas Tilly/Jean-Luc Guionnet - Stones Air Axioms (Circum-Disc)

Intriguing idea--Thomas Tilly (whose recording of insect sounds from a year or two ago I was so taken with), has here, in collaboration with Guionnet, sought to "measure" the interior of the St. Pierre Cathedral in Poitiers using the amplitudes of organ-generated sounds as yardsticks. The theoretics are complicated enough that I haven't nearly the ability to go into them, but suffice it to say that I envisage the organ somehow "shooting" sonic rays into the apses, naves and chapels of the structure and being duly recorded by Tilly as they describe the space they traverse and the forms they encounter.

Is it silly to say that it sounds good? Well it does, as much as I'd have to guess that the effect would be multiplied in situ. The organ tones are garrulous, visceral, often sounding as if sourced from organs of the more corporeal kind. The first track is brutal, the sonic barrage caroming off the wall (possibly doing damage!) while the second subsides into smoky whispers, occasionally flushed out with large, groaning heaves. The third is more acidic, harsh, the piercing tones scouring the columns, peeling varnish form the old canvases, while the finale strays furthest from overtly organ-related sounds, including clanks, whistles, rubbings and such, though largely overlaying a deep, rich drone. It's huge and full; again, one can only imagine being enveloped in these tones.

A fine recording. I haven't been very keen on a lot of releases from this label--this is by far the best I've heard.


Stuart Chalmers - Fantasia (CDR)

A set of four dense tape collage pieces that seem to have been sourced willy-nilly from world music, industrial sounds, speech among a myriad of other things, sliced and smushed together into a compressed cake of sound, a sonic head cheese. Sometimes I'm reminded of Carl Stone's ventures in this direction from the early 90s, but there's more abandon here. It works well on the first track, less so on the second, where the vocal sample (which I insist on hearing saying "funky butt", though I doubt that's correct) sounds a bit silly, though the underlying, iterating throb (again, sounding very Stone-y) is very effective. Overt beats emerge, disappear in lieu of children playing and cd-skips, densify to an extreme degree, almost explode.

There were moments, I thought too much of a hodge-podge but whenever that occurred, it somehow gelled in the next few seconds. There's a free-for-all quality that gets overly busy at times but then generates some wonderful moments and this happens often enough that one comes to think of each aspect as necessary for the other in Chalmers' world. Interesting recording, worth checking out if the above intrigues.

chalmers at soundcloud

Eric Cordier - La Cite du Bruit (Universinternational)

A 3" disc melding sounds from an airshow and those from aquatic insects and other fauna, and I suppose a few things in between. There are also, I believe, defects in the disc causing little cd-ish blips. I say, "I believe" because you can never be too sure in this neck of the woods but it seems to me that the piece would be more coherent sans these small interruptions. Though, to be sure, I incorporated them into the experience and still found the results only intermittently gripping. There's a rich blend at hand and a reasonably interesting bleed-through between worlds but nothing too much that we haven't encountered before many a time. Admittedly, propellers and insects may just not do it for me.


Textile Trio - AAA (Songs from Under the Floorboards)

A raucous 2004 set recorded at Instants Chavirés by Alexandre Bellenger (turntables), Aaron Moore (drums, trumpet) and Arnaud Rivière (repaired turntable, prepared mixer). It's interesting that a mere eight years can generate a kind of nostalgic feeling. While my ears are more or less in a different, more...thoughtful (I don't mean that pejoratively with respect to this music) place these days, there was certainly a time when the sounds heard here would have tickled me greatly, alongside things like Voice Crack, Otomo/Tetreault and other noise-intense groups. These days, while I can't get as fully into it as I once could, I can certainly appreciate that Textile Trio does a fine job bustling through this terrain, given great propulsion by Moore. At its best when most active and bubbling over (the second of the three tracks stalls a bit), "AAA" should provide great fun for fans of the area and holds its own with some of the stronger examples of the genre.

C. Spencer Yeh - 1975 (Intransitive)

I don't thin I've ever really heard Yeh's work before, maybe on a compilation somewhere. I was somehow expecting something in a more noise-oriented vein and perhaps that's the case elsewhere but this one, which seems to derive its impetus from the avant garde musical activity in circulation around the title year (also the year of his birth) is rather different. The first five pieces oscillate from lovely drone-oriented work (those named, erm, "Drone") where the spirit of Eliane Radigue is clearly invoked to tape splice equivalent thereof) using hair's-width vocal (and other) samples. Things shift after "Shrink wrap from a Solo Saxophone CD (skit)" which is true to its title and not uninteresting. Two cuts titled "Two Guitars" take the Radigue-ian drone into harsher territory, effectively enough. "Drips", another "skit", is just that. On "Au Revoir...", we finally get to hear, I believe, the wonderfully dilapidated piano that appears on the cd cover, looking as though filched from a Ross Bolleter session and it's used to good, squeaky, scrunchy effect, echoes of Nancarrow. Perhaps again, more electronically enhanced, on the closer, "...Et Bonne Nuit", a bit overdone and loopy for my taste.

A mixed bag, ultimately, for this listener, having more to do with my prior taste involving the references than anything else. A bit scattershot in some respects but I'm guessing he pretty much hit his intended targets.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Kim Taeyong/Lee Youngji/Ryu Hankil - profile (manual)

The first of two very unusual and provocative releases on this fine label. The seriously attractive case contains both a disc and a story (by Kim and Lee, printed in both Korean and English, translated by Lee Jooyeup). The story is in three sections, the second of which consisting of a single sentence, a kind of "dash" between narratives. Beckett is the clear influence on this dream-like, paranoid and quite well-written piece, the narrator describing rooms, hallways and such in what seems to be an empty office building beginning to show signs of decay. There's a wonderful rhythm in the passages as translated, a tense balance between short sentences (two or three words) and longer ones. I'm sure I was more sensitive to these rhythmic elements because of Ryu's accompaniment, which consists of himself typing out the very same manuscript.

He uses a "prepared" typewriter, the keys and levers (I take it) attached via wires and whatnot to other sound-producing mechanisms, often metallic in nature. One is naturally compelled to read along while listening and, in truth, the sounds reinforce the coldness of the empty halls, like the ghosts of secretaries and stenographers. As well, the non-typewriter sounds connote, somehow, a sense of dread within the story context, inexplicable noises emerging from rooms wherein hang even less decipherable numbers. These sounds are reasonably enjoyable on their won but gain immensely when heard as a co-equal element with the text.

A great idea then, expertly handled; one wonders if it would suffice to engage in this sort of thing once or if there's enough meat to do so more often. Well....

lo wie/Ryu Hankil - Beckett's Typist (Manual)

....Ryu did it again.

Here, the title of the piece alludes directly to the guiding spirit, this time though presented perhaps a bit more as poetry, in Chinese and English (no translator listed, presumably done so by the author himself--herself?). The text is semi-repetitive, often iterating the same phrases, recontextualized; "I am in my mother's room" (Richard notes as being extracted from Beckett's "Malloy") begins several sections, for instance. While obscure, it refers to solid, everyday things and events, though dissociated from narrative, almost as if excised from a larger story, leading toward Beckettian segments such as, "I said./I cried./he said./he said./I said./did know/I said./Too late."

Ryu, in the title role, is more typewriterly here. I guess there are some enhancements, but it's possible to imagine the sounds as all being derived from a slightly off-kilter electric typewriter. There's an angularity present in the sounds, an erose aspect that once again melds perfectly with the text. I can't add too much more to Richard's excellent piece of a few days ago, really. The link one makes between text and sound seems to work particularly well here, the persisting intensity of the keystrokes varying like the words yet having an overarching sameness, like the words, an obsession with a small but possibly important slice of the author's life.

Both releases are excellent, both thought provoking, each something I think I'll return to over the years.


available from Erst Dist

Monday, February 06, 2012

Joda Clément - The Narrows (Unfathomless)

Labels tend to acquire a certain character after a while. When something arrives from Unfathomless I, fairly or otherwise, tend to expect something in the line of treated field recordings with a drony ambiance. That particular field sometimes works quite well for me, other times seems lacking, a mere collection of effects, made palatable by leavening with some tonal agent. This makes it all the more difficult to pin down what attributes make one work, for me, better than another. Surely some connection to the world, the hard world not the ideal, pastoral one, helps in my case. That may come in the form of "grit", as Simon recently observed, however introduced or it may be more abstract, a feeling that the real world is somehow "out there", if not directly referred to.

I was thinking of these things while listening to "The Narrows", a piece that straddles those lines. Clément includes field recordings that encompass both natural and man-made sounds, almost always gentle yet possessing a burbling sense of activity, through which are woven subtle, changing electronic tones that fill the drone role in a tonal manner that sometimes gives me pause, sometimes fits quite well. There's just enough sinew, enough depth in the twinings, to propel things along with sufficient force yet to have enough drag to satisfy the need for grain. Sometimes the throb itself oozes to the fore and carries the weight for a few moments, effectively so. Even if ultimately, I'd prefer something abstracted out another level or two, the music works pretty well here and will doubtless more than satisfy fans of this area and label.


Helmut Schafer - Thought Provoking III (23five)

A 2007 release that Will Guthrie (who plays herein) was kind enough to send me and a very good one. The main track is a piece by Schafer (who committed suicide that year) featuring himself on organ pipes and electronics, Elisabeth Gmeiner on violin and Guthrie on percussion and microphones. I'm not familiar with his earlier work and don't know how/if this fits in, but it's wonderfully tense, the violin tracing a delicate, erose drone over similarly timbred pipes (apparently laid on the floor and activated, without much interference, by hair dryers), with wonderfully varied fluttering and clattering (though spare) percussion alongside. The violin hints at romantic lines but skirts their borders also managing to never become overly astringent. The music is very taut--it stretches then snaps back, expands dynamically, then pulls in; an unusual combination of a breathing quality with dryness, not stuffy at all but very low humidity. There's a hint of the ritualistic somewhere but that and any other reference point never become overbearing. Instead, one wanders around some large, strange room, dusty and eerie but pulsing. Oh, it falters now and then, but overall it's a pretty special piece.

It runs about 24 minutes and it followed by a kind of remix by Zbigniew Karkowksi, a frequent collaborator of Schafer's. It's fine, more violent and overtly electronic that its source, but is really just an adjunct to the main work.

Well worth tracking down if it's still available.


Saturday, February 04, 2012

Rhodri Davies/Mark Wastell - Live in Melbourne (Mikroton)

A fine recording from 2005 with a harpless (not hapless) Davies on electronics and Wastell wielding numerous materials, contact mics and pre-recorded sounds. It's a rougher go that you might expect; though the sounds have a sustained aspect to them, the texture is more often granular and harsh than e-bow-edly tonal (though that seeps in from time to time). I was picturing a sled ride over ground only partially covered with snow, the gliding patches giving way to rough and tumble. It might not be an earthshaking session but provides a meaningful piece into the jigsaw of each musician's career, elaborating on an approach too rarely documented (at least in my experience) for either. A solid, tough performance, recommended.

El Infierno Musical - El Infierno Musical (Mikroton)

Admittedly, I came into this one with major misgivings. Christof Kurzmann's investigations into song form have been hit and miss with me and the inclusion of Ken Vandermark in the quintet here assembled didn't raise expectations. For that matter, Bosch (or a copy thereof) on the cover has been played out for, I don't know, 50 years?

The six pieces use as text the words of Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-1972), an Argentine poet, performed by Kurzmann, Vandermark, Eva Reiter, Clayton Thomas and Martin Brandlmayr. The first track actuallu allayed my fears, a dark, oozing number wherein Vandermark's bass clarinet blended in well with Thomas's arco bass, the vocals wafting in and out. The piece traverses several areas in its nine minutes, always contemplative, singing giving way to speaking. It's a nice intro but then things go a-kilter. The vocal lines in "Ashes I" seem perfunctory, rhythmically not interesting and Vanermark's tenor sounding like a pale (alto-y) echo of Marion Brown, the semi-martial meter introduced by Brandlmayr sounding unnecessarily clunky and cluttered. I can hear a good song buried in there somewhere but it's totally obfuscated by all the extraneous activity.

That's more or less the impression I have of the album as a whole. I'm not as down on it as others I've spoken with or who have commented on it--the first piece works well and the fifth, "Cold in Hand Blues", has a fine surge to it. It's more the extraneous decorations, especially Vandemark's mundane stylings that manage to make muddy the structures, to reduce the tension. Also, there's a quality of sameness to Kurzmann's vocals that, especially in a group context, make me want to hear them more sparingly; a little is fine, song after song, it wears on me. I somehow think this might not be the case were it more pared down, even solo.

I appreciate his desire to push things, to bring an eai-ish (not sure he was ever really whole hog about things) sensibility to other forms and wish him well in the future. But I expect "El Infierno Musical" will turn out to be a relatively uninteresting way station.


available via Erst Dist