Monday, February 25, 2013

Kostis Kilymis - More Noise Ahead (Entracte)

An aspect often missing in experimental electronic music is a sheer joy in the manipulation of sounds, a kind of serious playfulness. The ten short tracks (total disc time: 36 minutes) that Kilymis has assembled here abound in this feeling, giving the picture of a (very talented) kid in an extremely well-stocked sandbox. Using all manner of electronics, software, cassettes and "anticipation", he fashions pieces that are almost songs, in a way, though bearing no vestige of melody, rhythm or anything like that, but a kind of lyrical sensibility nonetheless. Another element they're happily deficient in is any overt reference to 60s-style tape music, a quagmire that seems difficult to avoid judging by much of what has passed this desk. The music here reads resolutely modern. It's not spare, not at all, but Kilymis manages to find new creases in a well-worn fabric. A track like "Tiny Vices, Part 1" contains a pulse, grinding metallic sounds, electronic blisters and more, all arrayed into a structure that's both solid and flexible, giving the impression of a potentially large field still to be explored. Where vague song-like formations do coalesce, as in "A Crutch", the result is also clear and vibrant, no Fennesz-y like smudges or Radian-ish quicksteps. Even the urban field recording which ends the disc (sporting the odd title, "Old Tape Worms Direct") has an openness and freshness to it that many things in this area lack.

In sum, tremendous fun to be had here and beneath the fun, some serious sound investigation. Get it.


Erst dist is also carrying it.

The Sheriffs of Nothingness - A winter's Night at the Crooked Forest (Sofa)

The direly named Sheriffs of Nothingness are Kari Rønnekleiv (violin) and Ole-Henrik Moe (viola). The music is resolutely harsh, traditional tonalities only surfacing intermittently between the far more frequent raw sound of grainy bow on strings. It's quite dry; one can easily imagine rosin dust surrounding the players. Often, a raspy, seesawing drone underlies slightly more rapid playing but the overall character is relentlessly astringent--makes your ears pucker. On "Dysfunctional Folklore with Brian O." (Hey! wait a sec! I knew I reviewed their previous recording a couple ears back and made an allusion to the Scandinavian fiddle tradition, but I take it that it's another Brian O.) they get into a lopsided folk tune that's a bit of fun, though of a limited kind. The title track also swirls around rather nicely, but it's the sort of idea I'd love to hear developed for more than the 3:21 allotted here. "Blizzard:, clocking in at 14 minutes, supplies the length, consisting of cascades of rapid buzzsawing of varying dynamics and works well enough though here, one would have liked a bit more variation. I love singleminded intent but the object of focus needs, to these ears, to have more that's capable of being wrung out of it. The final track, "You are walking on a sleeping summer", whispers a bit (maybe talking in their sleep); the moaning, wispy nature of the strokes is very fetching and, again, seems to indicate a pathway worth exploring at greater length; it has an intriguing vocal quality, very nice. A mixed bag, though...


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Klaus Filip/Toshimaru Nakamura/Andrea Neumann/Ivan Palacký - Messier Objects (meenna)

Messier objects, as we're all aware, were astronomical detritus that gave the appearance of comets but weren't, aggravating comet hunters like Charles Messier who compiled a list of the things, numbering 45, so as not to confuse him in further cometary quests. Their actual nature varied widely, including several pretty spectacular nebula such as the two titular ones here, the Carb and Trifid.

I'm hesitant to draw any overt connections between a ppooll/nimb/inside piano/Dopleta 180knitting machine colabration and a vast aggregation of starstuff, but there is a really strong sense of structure hear, of tendrils expanding into the void. The mix of sounds is wonderful, Neumann (I assume) early on summoning gamelan-like tones from her stringboard, with rough, grimy rumbles, dry scrapings and other material circulating around and through. The music doesn't dwell more than a few minutes in any particular area, shifting, often abruptly, from relative smoothness to a blocky, harsh sequence, static pops against brutally struck, non echoing strings, for instance. Both tracks, 40 and 16 minutes, the first live the second recorded at Amann Studios on two successive days in October, 2011, embody a kind of improvisation I greatly enjoy, wherein the listener needs to hear the piece in its entirety, mentally calibrating and reconciling it in retrospect, grasping the form and relationships after it's over. The range of sounds is quite impressively enormous here but at the same time there's a cohesion and constant sense of purpose and direction. This is all blurry sounding, I realize, but it's quite hard to describe; the sounds themselves are quite coherent and identifiable but it's their mix and the implied propulsion these mixes provide that gives the music such force and staying power.

Excellent stuff, mandatory purchase.

Katsura Yamauchi/Toshimaru Nakamura - Yokutojin (ftarri)

Things start out well enough, on low simmer with Yamauchi reining in his alto and Najkamura creating some fine, eerie tones and washes, but some eight minutes into this 1/2 hour recording, the pair launch into a wailing, free-jazz explosion that doesn't sit too well. Toshi can be interesting when he works loud (as with Rowe on the sunspot track on 'between') but here it's an unwelcome distraction. They settle down after five or so minutes but have at that point begun to establish more of an episodic set than a cohesive one. A few of the segments work well enough as discrete units but more of them suffer forms saxophonic over-exertion and the whole just never comes together for me.

Katsuyoshi Kou/Satoshi Hironaka - state, state, state (ftarri)

Four tracks of guitar and drums. On "State", Hironaka offers some quite fascinating percussion work, sounding like he's using tuned drums of some kind in an off-kilter, quasi rhythmic manner, almost as if someone had taken a slice of Xenakis' "Rebonds' or 'Pleiades' and irregularly looped it. As it happens, drums and guitar were recorded separately and very brief blank spaces were inserted post-production into the drum tracks, creating beats that are "off" just a bit. Kou's contributions are more staticky noise with the odd pure note, a decent enough offset though it was the drums that held my attention. "sTate" (you get the titular idea), the longest track at 27+ minutes) begins in quietude before moderate guitar squawks appear and that turns out to be more or less the path--small squalls of guitar (it's a solo) really not creating enough tension or filling up of (or emptying) space to quite justify its length. Again, it was treated after the fact, adjustments made to "confound listeners' expectations"; well confounded, perhaps, but not so moved. Then "stAte" returns to the propulsive drumming (solo, overdubbed), here with more of a rock feel, screeching in the distance that I would have guessed was guitar but I suppose is of a cymbalic nature and things work just fine, like a lost Material cut. The final cut, "staTe" (unaltered duo), finds a slightly different path, the drums lighter but still rhythmically skittering, the guitar continuing its oblique, metal-scraping-metal commentary, not bad but leaving me a bit unsated.

Tough album to recommend, just too few really good ideas to latch onto, but curious to hear further music, especially from Hironaka,


also available from erst dist

Friday, February 22, 2013

Satanic Abandoned Rock & Roll Society - Bloody Imagination (Mikroton)

Said Society consisting of Tetuzi Akiyama (high-frequecy-resonator guitar with samurai sword. heh), Naoaki Miyamoto (mid-high frequency-electric guitar), Utah Kawasaki (mid-low frequency-analog synth) and Atsuhiro Ito (low frequency-optron). One track, 52 1/2 minutes. It's pretty much a layered hum. As indicated by the frequency distribution, it's separated into four, fairly clear strata, high to low. some ways in, a two note bass figure appears, which is about as close to anything rock and roll that happens. If you can imagine the closing hum of a vigorous track by some particularly noisy band stretched out to this length, you wouldn't be far off. It's the kind of piece that doubtless would be far better served in a live setting, amidst the swirl of tones, where the listener is able to move at least his head, if not walk around. As is, it's a fine slab of sound but one that I have trouble really plunging into. Not satanic enough, perhaps.

Alessandro Bosetti/Chris Abrahams - We Who Had Left (Mikroton)

Intrigued expectations before my first listen. I've had many problems with Bosetti's output over the past few years but, on the other hand, I've greatly enjoyed much of Abrahams'. What would transpire? Actually, something, or things, very different from what I'd heard of either. "We Also Dress Today"combines pointillistic, one-note piano with light electronic clatter, sounding like a pot of small cans being gently stirred. Low, rough tones nudge but the piece stays put; odd and attractive. The following ifs more of a jazzy excursion, something along the lines of late 60s or Circle-era Corea, perhaps, with hostly, swirling electronics behind. Bosetti's voice, something I wasn't looking forward to, makes the first of two appearances on "We Cannot Imagine", iterating a line slowly, often in a very slightly sing-songy manner, Abrahams' delicate piano supporting. It eventually gets to a point not all that far from those mid-70s Mantler adaptations of Beckett, like "No Answer", Bosetti eerily echoing Jack Bruce here and there; good piece. There follows a track akin to the second, but spacier; pretty but a bit hollow. In another oddly allusive cut, "When They Are Overheard" venture into Charlemagne Palestine territory, Bosetti employing very subtle electronics within the piano cascade; strong if, again, a touch to referential. The duo closes with that standard in the eai community, something one hears at every other concert, Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby". :-) Bosetti sings, near-falsetto but movingly, once more weaving his silvery, flitting sounds between the fine and straightforward piano accompaniment. Well, it's a beautiful composition of course and, I have to say, I'd rather hear this than a rendition by any contemporary "straight" jazz duo I can imagine.

An unusual recording, but overall a winning one.

Barbara Romen/Kai Fagaschinski/Gunter Schneider - Here Comes the Sun (Mikroton)

A 2008 recording with Romen (hammered dulcimer), Fagaschinski (clarinet) and Schneider (guitars). Interesting to hear the dulcimer (often sounding like one) in this kind of context. The music is soft, gray and somber, bearing strong tonal underpinnings, freely improvised but in a pastoral sort of way. I might even go so far as to say that some portions, much of "Feelings Without End" for instance, could constitute an ECM-ish branch of eai...Which isn't to say that it's all pastels. It's highly listenable throughout, some nice pulses feeding in here and there, the colors always clear and refreshing. Fagaschinski, as ever, is wonderfully warm and controlled. I can't recall if this is my first real exposure to Romen and Schneider, but both offer subtle, not overly-instrusive contributions. This said, there's nothing terribly memorable here either, though the final track, "plainchant and Goodbye", manages to transcend the rest, it's calm resolve evoking a mysterious forward motion that's very attractive. It emerges, passes, one experiences a short pleasant sensation and that's it. Maybe enough.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Just a couple of notes on my first few days in Paris, music-wise.

On Sunday, hooked up with my old friend Jacques Oger (who, happily, lives only a ten-minute walk away) and it turned out that The Ames Room was playing that evening, in a wine cellar of a bar near the center of the city, so off we went. Much fun to surprise Will Guthrie, who I hadn't seen in about five years, maybe. Seeing the trio live made clear the structures they use--not sure if it was apparent on the recordings and I've just missed it. Each player constructs brief phrases, perhaps 2-6 seconds long, and more or less repeats them a varying number of times. This results in a kind of brutalist/cubist effect, a modular interlocking, the phrases being of unequal length, iterated a differing number of times, being essentially different (but always rhythmic in some sense), thus enabling a very exciting, propulsive music, really very different from free jazz for all the surface similarity. Jean-Luc Guionnet was extremely brutal, with short, choppy lines that recalled Roscoe Mitchell at his harshest while bassist Clayton Thomas more often chose calm, deep patterns that reminded me of Malachi Favors. Guthrie was a monster, really an unbelievably furious, intense and exact drummer, creating motif after motif, sometimes with delicious hesitations.

They did two pieces in this fashion for the first set and then loosened the bolts just a tad for the second round, elevating the music significantly. If I have a caveat, it's that part of me thinks, "this is a fine idea for a piece or set of pieces, but do I want to hear this attack time after time or does it reach a point of diminishing returns?" I'm guessing it would pall on me after a while, though I leave open the possibility that by pounding away at it, they could find themselves breaking into some unexpected area, something that could surprise the trio and audience alike. Hard to say.

Fortuitously enough, Les Instants Chavirés was hosting the Eddie Prevost/Sebastian Lexer/Seymour Wright trio last night, providing more than enough impetus to make my first visit to that fabled venue. Nice room! NYC should be so lucky. Had the additional pleasure of meeting Lucio Capece, something I've been looking forward to for many years. With regard to Prevost and Lexer, the music was about what I anticipated: Prevost spent the vast majority of this time bowing either his large gong or hand-held cymbal--he does it so beautifully but I often longed for some different sounds--while Lexer logged many minutes inside the piano, sometimes electronically filtered. Again, wonderfully done but those moments where he returned to the keyboard, especially the softer playing. made you ache for more of the same. Still, that could be part of the deal, to induce such longing. Wright was a bit of a surprise and I'm still wrestling with his contribution. In brief, he was most often very shrill and strident, either when utilizing just the upper portion of his alto or its entirety. He never fell into a free jazz mode, but it was hard to reconcile the super-high, very loud multiphonic squeals and squawks (exquisitely controlled, I should add) with the music from his two companions. Obviously, this was a clear choice on Wright's part and one can easily imagine getting a bit tired of quiet, breathy reed playing and searching for an alternative. Not sure this is it, though there were moments when things jelled very well. Wright ended the first set and began the second with some wonderful low burbles on the detached neck, wryly amusing.

Did I mention that the food here isn't half bad?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Michael Pisaro - the middle of life (die ganze zeit) (Gravity Wave)

One of the defining characteristics of Pisaro's music, I find, is that his generally lengthy works really need to be heard/experienced as an entirety, which requires the listener to stand back a bit and to retain memory of a great deal of information and its interrelatedness. Happily, the elements themselves are, in a sense, "simple", easily graspable on their own, making their subsequent conceptual reintegration not quite as daunting as it would be otherwise--but still something of a feat. Listening for the first time to a work like "the middle of life (die ganze zeit)", which has as its central focus lines from that text by Oswald Egger, read by him and others, but interpolated with all manner of sources, including field recordings and music from Julia Holter, one may have the sensation of a string of loosely related vignettes, soft and lovely in and of themselves. The tough part is mentally calibrating all of these episodes into a whole, which whole (in my head, anyway) isn't a terribly graspable object either, more a nodal kind of thing itself, like a relief map indicating irregularly spaced disturbances but all lying within the same substrate.

So you have an opening sine tone, then another, than a very deep one. You hear wind, then Eggers reading his text. Other readers follow at odd intervals, in various settings, in English and not: Taku Sugimoto, Kristin Haraldsdottir, Kunsu Shim, Graham Lambkin, Didier Aschour, Lucie Vitkova and Holter. After the initial text, there's some extremely lovely, spare piano, over which the speakers cycle, their words buffeted by the sounds of the forest referred to in the first line which is itself, I think, from Dante (not sure of the connection): "In the middle of life, I found myself in a forest with no path." (wiki gives the line as: "At the midpoint of the journey of life, I found myself in a dark forest, for the clear path was lost.") There ensues a series of gentle shifts, almost like overlapping film slides, at first very much occupied with that outdoors environment, the odd recitation emerging. An ultra-soft flute is heard accompanied by a faint voice, both combing to sound like a ghostly madrigal, underlaid by sine tones high and deep. That episode ends, about 19 minutes in, introducing a brief pure single-note guitar/sine sequence. Egger reappears, reading various texts, in German, selected by Pisaro, amidst a more urban soundscape laced with sine-age which gradually accumulates into a richer, even dramatic organ-like set of tones. There's distant flute playing from Antoine Beuger that seeps in now and again as well, a wonderful sound, as well as, apparently, an excerpt from Pisaro's "Ascending Series (5.2), though it's beyond my powers of observation to isolate it.

Some 39 minutes in, Holter appears, singing wordlessly, plaintively (again recalling, to these ears, medieval music), soon double-tracked; very unexpected and moving. After a few minutes, Pisaro appears on piano, playing Holter's "For One or More Voices", anther gorgeous/spare piece of music, over which Egger is heard once again, cosseted by recordings evoking the sea, birds, wind, concluding as gently as it had begun. You're left at a different point, though it's hard to discern exactly why it's different.

Endlessly fascinating, resisting easy interpretation.

Michael Pisaro - the punishment of the tribe by its elders (Gravity Wave)

This one is a kind of bifurcated creature. It opens with sets of sine tones buried a mile or two below the surface of the earth. It pulses gently, for a while with surprising regularity, pushing its way toward air, breaking ground in an urban setting, the sound of a classroom down the hall, the laughter of teenagers. The scene shifts, a young girl comments, "It looks like we're in Texas." though in fact, she's in Austria. All of this, even the ghostly laughter, is very somber. Weather occurs, rain and thunder, with a light bell chiming beneath, a faint antecedent of sounds yet to come. The bell sounds more brightly, inevitably imparting a ritual sense, a ragged gong is struck, the bell begins to split, amoeba-like, its shards morphing into sines (this is a very beautiful passage).

Roland Barthes, or someone reading him, talks about power relationships being present in all areas, not just the political ("mon nom est Legion") including the arts, and how the object of the use of that power is made to feel guilt. Serene guitar (Pisaro) ensues, contemplative, with a slightly sour tinge; given what follows and the nature of the Barthes quotes, one is tempted to hear this passage as a kind of sacrificial lamb to the forces of the adolescent, innately misogynist power chords of rock, here sampled from the Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath (I think. I did have fun imagining Pisaro flailing away at his axe...). When they arrive--and it's quite a shock, the volume and incongruity--they possess that swagger, the eight-second chords relentlessly surging, annihilating everything in their path, a hollow, pounding beat buttressing them from beneath. It's exciting at the same time as being disturbing, the way one almost automatically reacts to such strength in rock and then (perhaps, hopefully) questions the nature of one's reaction. Pisaro takes over once again, hear in a more Loren Connors mode, the machismo having been drained somewhat, the melancholy remaining.

The work closes with a complex series of low hums, sines and, I suspect, much else, a compressed clay of sound, a taffy-like conglomerate baring rueful overtones. including echoes of the guitar strutting as if to say, "These things aren't easily shaken off".

This and the above release were conceived of as a pair of sorts, an opposite pair--Pisaro likens them to dark and light branches on the same tree--and that feeling comes through. Both are powerful works, though that power doesn't dominate, but seeps in and merely awaits recognition. Very highly recommended, both.

Gravity Wave
Also available from Erst Dist

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pretty big change and change of address

So, without going into unnecessary personal detail, I am now in Paris and will likely be here for the next 1 /2 to 2 years, at least.

An immediate impact is that you kind souls who send me CDs and vinyl to review will have to up date your address books.

The new address is:

Brian Olewnick
3 Rue Henri Dubouillon
75020 Paris, France

I'm sure, unfortunately, that there will be some items delivered to Jersey City that I'll never see. Apologies for those--feel free to get in touch ( to see if that's the case and hopefully we can arrange a resending.

Looking forward to some face-to-face time with my European friends...heading out this evening with Jacques Oger to see the Ames Room!

thanks, take care


Monday, February 11, 2013

Grisha Shakhnes - leave/trace (Glistening Examples)

When writing about contemporary electro-acoustic music, there are terms that are invariably overused, perhaps none so much (at least by this writer) as, “grain”. But it and its relative, “granular”, are so good, so connotative of such a salient aspect of our lives, from the natural grain of rock, wood and metal to the electronic grain of video screens and other pixilated objects to, of course, the sound world, that it’s tough to do without.

I’ve surely used the term in the past as one descriptive of Grisha Shakhnes’ music, under his own name or his nom de musique, Mites (small bits!). It was just so clear, the layers of particles, of specks that made up the sounds, giving the impression of being open to a burrowing, fractal inspection of their qualities, of there always being more strata below, just outside the audible range. With grain tends to come a certain amount of opacity, not necessarily a negative thing at all but it’s fascinating when, as in the release at hand, that torrent of small morsels begins to be interwoven with streams of air and light. Not entirely transparent by any means, but with a quotient of new a medium, free space, interwoven to a degree.

“leave/trace” begins with rapid scratches, possibly 78rpm vinyl, thin but relentlessly iterating, before things burble up from beneath. More so, I think, than in prior releases (at least more overtly), Shakhnes utilizes field recordings here, contributing to that more open feel. As the clicks fade, the offset between mysterious clanks and the wonderful sound of wind against mic comes into the foreground, the kind of apposition that forges a true spatial sensation and, in some of us, occasions shivers of sensual delight. That first track intensifies, element after element being introduced but always—and this is hard to quantify—with a sense of space surrounding these “objects”. Kind of like an apparently solid piece of matter, a lump of coal say, that yields upon close inspection the revelation that it’s filled with airy passages. This piece take up most of Side A and, rather abruptly, trails off in some muffled speech and a return of the initial click before sliding into a brief (if one so chooses) encounter with an entirely other environment, what seems to be a playground replete with squeaking equipment (swings? see-saws?) and cavorting kids, though a background hum of engines casts a slightly threatening shadow. After only a couple of minutes the side ends, but in a locked groove. Now, I’ve been a sucker for these things since Escalator Over the Hills days but they’re often an awkward device. Not here. The loop is seamless and absorbing; I generally let it play for at least five minutes…

Side B opens with the album’s densest, most aggressive and strongest track. A cruel electric hum and somewhat anguished rumbles begin a piece that only gets darker and more…voluminous. This may be more akin to earlier work from Shakhnes, a similar tightly-packed feel but with a huge surge toward its conclusion, a massive swell that picks up all the accumulated detritus (including those swing sets and youngsters!) and hurls it against the breakwater. Repeated listens cause me to thin that there may be more internally recycled material in play than was apparent at first blush. The closing track seems to recapitulate some of them, backwards perhaps, but in more relaxed and meditative manner, once again returning to that relatively oxygen-filled realm. This sounds closest to “traditional” work in the area, recalling Ferrari, his beach now overrun with heavy boats and a thrumming power plant. The breathing quality of it is stunning, brooding but at peace, a fine way to conclude.

Fine work, among Shakhnes’ best.

Glistening Examples

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Atolon - concret (Intonema)

A welcome return from Atolon--Ruth Barberán (trumpet, objects), Ferran Fages (acoustic turntable, objects) and Alfredo Costa Monteiro (accordion, objects). A single, 35 minute performance from a bit over two years ago, it largely dwells in an area full of keening groans, the accordion wheezing, the trumpet emitting low flutters and the acoustic turntable doing whatever it is that hose devices do. Dronish in character, in the sense of long sounds, but within those tones there's great irregularity and the overlaps also follow no perceptible pattern, resulting in a fine, rich shifting-sands feel, with vast amounts of welcome impurities. The steady state occupies the first 20 or so minutes, drifting into a lovely place where one hears flute-like tones, the accordion respiring beneath, at which point there's an eruption, the turntable splintering into extremely sharp shards, howling. It subsides, not without anxiety and pinpricks, resuming the nervous flow, Barberán's steady horn providing the signposts.

Well-structured, solid and forthright in its trek, happy to hear them again.

Cremaster/Komora A - Haz/Crystal Dwarf Opens His Eyes (Monotype)

Split 45rpm vinyl. The Cremaster side (Ferran Fages, feedback, mixers and Alfredo Costa Monteiro electroacoustic devices) is as excellent as it is aggravatingly short. Careening, echoing blasts and howls sounding as though you're on a gurney ripping through a collapsing, subterranean power plant. Tempted to play it at 33 to draw it out some more...It's rare that I've found a 7" release in this neck of the woods (ie, non-pop) that's both excellent and of perfect duration. More often, it's a cruel tease. That's the feeling I get here: would've loved to have heard more but am satisfied, I guess, with this dollop. Very tasty

Komora A is Karol Kosniec (electronics), Dominik Kowalczyk (laptop) and Jakub Mikolajczyk (modular synth). Their track is quite different, swirling electronics with enough bitterness to maintain interest and a suggestion of pulse that recalls Gunter Muller, Voice Crack, etc. Again, the brevity intrudes a bit, though it's impossible to say whether the essentials of the piece had already been delivered.

A smidgen, necessarily, but worth it for Cremaster fans.


Thursday, February 07, 2013

The latest batch from our friends at Creative Sources

Christophe Berthet - Malval (Creative Sources)

Six pieces for solo soprano or alto saxophone. Nicely controlled, somewhere in a post-Braxton continuum to my ears. Not that "post-" really, as much of it sounds as though it could have been plucked from a random Brax concert from, say, the early 90s. Berthet does a good job of keeping things reined in for the most part and you can hear a serious investigation of timbres and long tones, with a kind of pleasant, hollow whistling aspect to much of the sound but I can't quite pick up much that hasn't been done elsewhere. He may be post-Braxton but he's still slightly pre-Butcher, for example. Well played and earnest but not essential.


IKB -Monochrome bleu sans titre (Creative Sources)

A 14-piece ensemble in homage to Yves Klein--Ernesto Rodrigues (harp/inside piano), Guilherme Rodrigues (cello), Miguel Mira (double bass), Rogerio Silvs (trumpet), Eduardo Chagas (trombone), Bruno Parrinha (clrinets), Nuno Torres (alto sax), Pedro Sousa (tenor and baritone sax), Abdu Moimeme (prepared electric guitar), Carlos Santos (computer, microphone), Ricardo Guerreiro (computer), Nuno Morao (percussion), Monsieur Trinite (percussion) and Jose Oliviera (percussion). Four tracks, the first a fine, quietly ringing piece with high, suspended harmonics hovring over delicately scurrying percussion and several strata between, an entirely enjoyable AMM-ish exercise for large group. The work slowly gains volume though the activity is never frantic, more a gradual awakening. But things never get above a good simmer, the ensemble demonstrating fine control, varying the colors widely but not excessively. I'm not sure if there was a guiding force behind the set or if it was more purely a group improv but, either way, the results make for excellent deep listening. Good job.

Bobun - Suite pour machines à mèche (Creative Sources)

I believe Bobun is the name of the duo consisting of Frantz Loriot (viola, objects) and Hugues Vincent (cello, objects). The cover may presage something of a Ross Bolleter excursion but I hear mostly the strings, no ancient piano in range. Six pieces, the first a very effective set of drones, rising to wails, plummeting to groans, overtly dramatic in perhaps an old-fashioned way but nonetheless, gripping. Things grow more disjointed thereafter, the pair, on the next track, scrabbling about on one instrument, wispily bowing the other, nervous, sometimes over-busy but a solid low tone anchoring affairs now and then. The music veers into a bout of efi-ish work midstream, circles back to the more contemplative, powdery rubs and bowings and I think I hear a few tinkles from that piano...or perhaps a music box. The final returns to the lamentative state of the opening piece, less droning, wavier, quite moving. SOme really strong work in here, even if there are inconsistencies. I get the impression that, like a number of musicians engaged in free improvisation (which this is), they're better served hewing closer to so-called traditional forms than forcing themselves ostensibly outward; there's still much beauty to be found therein.

PascAli - Suspicious Activity (Creative Sources)

Things that give me pause: an awkwardly constructed name (formed from bassists Sean Ali and Pascal Niggenkemper) and 22 tracks on an improvised disc. They explain the latter in notes, differentiating between live performances, where the pieces are lengthier, and the recording where they "wished to present the listener with musical vignettes that could show the variety and diversity of music created with two prepared double basses". Really, not necessary. Interspersed here and there are some strong cuts, especially when the pair get to the darker, woodier realms of there iinstruments, but there's also a lot of busy and effects-driven work with little or no sense of idea development. Hopefully the decide to issue more extended pieces in the future.

Ernesto Rodrigues/Katsura Yamauchi/Carlos Santos - Three Rushes (Creative Sources)

Rodrigues once again on harp (and objects), Yamauchi on alto and Santos wielding computer and piezos. Nice, quiet improv in three parts. Rodrigues' harp work (first I've heard it, I think, on the recording above and this one) is well considered, more recognizable than one might expect (a good thing, in this context). Yamauchi is restrained as well, adding brief daubs of gentle color and Santos electronics tinge and tickle the canvas; all grays and tans with hints of pink and orange. It's very calm and enjoyable; nothing earthshaking but doesn't strive to be and that's fine. A good recording.

Harold Rubin/Alexander Frangenheim - Suite (Creative Sources) Mostly a duo of clarinetist Rubin and bassist Frangenheim, with electric bassist Mark Smulian guesting on three of the twelve tracks. Easily my least favorite of this batch. Just everything that doesn't interest me in improv, sounding like a humdrum Braxton/Holland date from the 70s, all filigrees and swirls--"rococo" isn't a bad term, in fact. No space, everything active all the time, the playing very "emotive", I guess you could say. I find it an avant version of kitsch. Others may differ.

Christoph Schiller/Lea Danzeisen - 47º13' N 7ºE(Creative Sources)

Oh no! Not another spinet duo! :-) I guess the basic sound is midway between a piano and a harpsichord not that you'll hear the spinet's "normal sound very often here. But there are remnants of that metallic, buzzing twang in the rustles, rubbings and plucks encountered herein. Much of the music is active and skittering, but the duo manages to exercise restraint at the same time, creating a strong sense of consciousness of the moment and surroundings, something evidenced on the occasions when they pause and allow the sounds to linger and dissipate. It's astringent and full at once, no mean feat. They go astray every so often, scratching about for a minute or two to no great effect, but by and large this is a surprisingly effective recording. Whoda thunk?

Creative Sources