Saturday, July 21, 2012

Angharad Davies/Tisha Mukarji/Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga - outwash (Another Timbre)

I suppose one of the "fears" I have when slipping in a disc like this, with this kind of instrumentation (violin, piano, zither) is that it might be overly plinkety-plonkety (forgive the technical term) and, at the very beginning of the first track, I thought that indeed might be the case. Foolish me. The trio executes a fine balance between the kind of thin, airy sound I might have expected and a rich layering of extended tones, a very beautiful interplay with the shorter, spikier offerings surfacing like pebbles (or irregular gaps) in the kind of moraine flow alluded to in the disc's title. That image is actually quite effective, I find: "material carried away from a glacier by meltwater". The references to tonality posses just the right tartness so as not to become overly lush,, the structures, that "laminar flow", are very well laid out, occupied in always intriguing and varied proportions by the scratch of the violin, the insides and outsides of the piano (deeply tolled every so often, acting as a base current) and the rubbings, pingings and buzzings of the zither. The more I listen, the more I'm impressed by simply the array of sounds, the almost bewildering variety and apposition, all within a calm, serenely flowing environment.

Something about this works for me on every level--I could listen for far more than the 40 minutes presented here. Excellent recording.

Christoph Schiller/Birgit Ulher - Kolk (Another Timbre)

Schiller plays a spinet (prepared), not an instrument one encounters everyday in this field. Given the preparations, one is hesitant to say anything about its basic sound, but given that it's variously defined as both a kind of harpsichord and piano, my impression of its being about midway between seems about right. In any case, it's a fine fit with Ulher's grainy, unpredictable trumpet and, at best, produces some choice moments. The duo isn't the easiest nut to crack and it took this listener some metaphorical shifting around in my seat to get comfortable, to sync myself with the flow. This is often the case, for me, with Ulher's music (on disc, that is; live it's as natural as breathing); I'm only marginally familiar with Schiller's work but perhaps it's the same. Sonics aside, it doesn't particularly stand apart from other work in the sphere but it's simply good, solid, gnarly music and some days, like this morning, that's enough.

Barry Chabala/Bonnie Jones/Louisa Martin/Tisha Mukarji/Toshimaru Nakamura/Gabriel Paiuk - unbalanced in (unbalanced out) (Another Timbre)

Another in the series of long-distance compositions Chabala has engaged in recently. Here, he chose five other musicians he admires, asked them to play 20 minutes of music in a 50 minute span (how they organized it was up to them). This was done sequentially with, in this case, Paiuk going first, sending the results to Chabala who mixed the work then sent it on to the next musician, here Nakamura and so on, Chabala entering lastly. Does it work? Well, on occasion, to this listener, but not consistently enough. The piece goes through several phases and, of course, there's a certain fascination with knowing how it was constructed and attempting to piece it together with what you're hearing but, ultimately, one listens to it simply as a chunk of music and it kind of ricochets back and forth between unwieldiness and plasticity. As ever, it's not easy to say why this section works (for me) and that doesn't, but it's not until roughly the 40 minute mark that things begin to gel, that an engaging, thought-provoking area is entered. Given these opinions, one can listen to the disc as a journey toward that end, but you may find much of it not a tough slog but something of a routine one.

(thinking there might be something to be written about these long-range collaborations. The first that I came across, I think, was Otomo and Carl Stone, "Amino Argot", from 1994 or so. MIMEO's "sight" still strikes me as the pinnacle of this particular mode of attack.)

Catherine Lamb - three bodies (moving) (Another Timbre)

One may have guessed that Lamb was a student of Pisaro's from the title of this disc but the music itself--and it's wonderful--wouldn't give too much of an inkling. Written for a trio of cello (Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick), violin (Erik km Clark) and bass clarinet (Phil O'Connor), what comes to mind is Feldman, though less in an actual structural sense than in overall feel. I exists in a similar timeless, relatively undifferentiated space, the three instruments weaving longish tones, mixing sweet and sour, about each other--approaching, receding, not having "gone anywhere" over its 45 minutes but, as in much late Feldman, giving the impression of having been at this activity before the piece began and continuing on afterward, this portion simply when a doorway opened and closed. One interesting feature is that the bass clarinet is pitched fairly high throughout; the cello tends to be the lowest presence, and not so low at that/ Yet, there's nothing of shrillness or dryness. There's a gentle, seesawing lilt throughout and a tonality that, to these ears, references both Renaissance music and, now and then, British bagpipe traditions. But I may be hallucinating. Whatever the case, I can listen to this forever, drifting on the semi-regular but always mutating rhythms, that delicious sourness of pitch and the subtle wonder of akin but always varying relationships between voices. Beautiful work.

Pascal Battus/Bertrand Gauguet/Eric La Casa - Chantier 1 (Another Timbre)

A recording of a project in two parts in which the second is presented first. Battus (rotating surfaces, found objects) and Gauguet (saxophones, amplified and not, other effects) creatively recorded by La Casa, played in a construction site amongst workers there. But they later performed in a "neutral" space, their music based on memories of what occurred earlier. It's these (two) tracks which are presented first, an odd strategy in that the listener (unless he's read about it at the Another Timbre site) doesn't have the same frame of reference as the musicians. I'd also comment that, for this listener, the two tracks weren't very rewarding on their own, shrill and harsh with little else to offer (nothing against either quality; they just didn't work for me here).

When the third cut appears, the first thing noticed is how much the space has opened, the volume of air flowing about. Whatever surfaces Battus is rotating and metal tubes down which Gauguet is propelling breath, when integrated with water, whistling, the banging of things unloaded, hammering and chatter, they sound far, far more interesting and, surely, of their environment. In that such sites often employ rotating surfaces and forced-air devices of their own, the four latter pieces become, essentially, field recordings in the classic sense, albeit it pretty enjoyable ones, particularly the last, longest piece which includes (per the conversation at the AT site), some Kurdish music off a worker's cell, a fine cultural cross-reference to a people disinterested in Western affects like...field recording.

Another Timbre

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