Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tim Feeney - Caroline (Weighter Recordings)

The image above gives you every scrap of info I have about this recording. I like that and like the release very much.

I'm guessing most of the sounds are in fact produced by hands, possibly holding something, sometimes (pine cones, blocks of styrofoam, scrub brushes, who knows?) though not, I don't think, drumsticks, brushes or bows, all in action on a large, vertically-oriented drum. Think of it as a pared-down, more intent (and intense) version of the finest Le Quan Ninh performance you remember and you'll be on the right track. Feeney is pretty single-minded here on each track, both of which benefit from being played back at high volume to revel the multitude of incidentally generated layers within, underneath the surface swirl that otherwise dominates. You can feel the action of Feeney's arms quite clearly in the first track, the back and forth as he scrapes whatever it is he's holding over the drum head; it's the interaction of those "top sounds with the ancillary ones, the low bumps that arise at the terminus of each motion and the beginning of the next and the faint, almost indiscernible, high, whistling tones. There's an abrupt break midway through, jarring, jagged-edged Pisaro, When the music returns, a deeper, more liquid sound is heard, perhaps a bit more frenetic, though maintaining the general rotating-in=place structure of the first. Quibbling, I might have wanted this second portion to be three or for minutes shorter, but hell, it's fine on its own.

The second track sometimes sounds like it's being produced by high-pressure rubbing; there are multiple occasions when, blindfolded, I might have guessed I was hearing a deeply=bowed string bass. Other times, I get the impression of a heavy object being rolled around the drum's perimeter. Whatever the reality, it once again sounds great and agin one picks up all sorts of subsidiary noises, a huge volume of them echoing into the distance as far as you can hear. There are two breaks this time. After the second, matters subside into deep moans that sound more cetacean than anything else, really wonderful, lasting to the end of the piece (the first track begins and the second ends with about a minute of silence).

An excellent recording, rigorous, expansive and even sensuous.

Weighter Recordings

Bruno Duplant/Julien Héraud/Nate Wooley - Movement and Immobility (Peira)

Duplant (here on electroacoustic devices and percussion) has made a number of long-distance recordings in recent years, some more successful than others, some improvised and others, like this one, using some kind of directional indication if not a score proper. On the first of the three tracks here, Héraud (on alto saxophone) and Wooley (trumpet) float languidly along an electronic stream for the first few minutes. You think you know what you're in for, but smooth base suddenly disappears, replaced by shuffling percussion and, off and on, rougher, deeper electronic layers. I'm reminded a bit of George Lewis' classic "Homage to Charles Parker", but more hesitant, more admitting of disjuncture. Wooley contributes some fine, harsh buzz, allowing the piece to retain an edge--strong track overall. Another surprise, given what I tend to expect when Duplant's involved, surfaces on the second cut, "Climate Disruption", in the form of his insistent percussion, a percolation of sorts, hollow and resonant enough to cause me to wonder whether it might have been produced by key tapping from either Héraud or Wooley, but I think not. It takes on a semi-rhythmic character, not so many worlds apart from West African drumming. As I said, a surprising, but very welcome element to encounter in this neck of the woods. The final track turns harsher still, Duplant muted but troubling, the horns shrill but not overbearing, subtly piercing long tones. Some snare action yields underground turbulence. Once again, a steady rhythm enters toward the end, a tolling sound that lends a processional feeling to the work, supporting the keening horns.

A strong release, venturing into byways not often taken, well worth checking out.


Matthew P. Hopkins - Nocturnes (Vitelli)

Within the sleeve of this LP the listener will find a small packet of colored cards pinned together, the front bearing the printed inscription "3 Listening Events", each of three cards (one per track) listing a series of banal, almost Beckettian activities. Suggestions, one assumes, on how to occupy one's time while listening. The third reads, "In chair at desk. Roll batteries, spin coins. Click, whistle, and wobble along with these. Eyeball disfigured sculpture, stare it down. Tap desk twice, light a flame and wheeze. Let arms slump, remain hunched. Wait for the final click."

I admit that I enjoyed these dour shards of advice a bit more than the recording which traffics in a kind of throbbing drone adorned with grainier ornamentation, all perfectly listenable (master by Graham Lambkin, incidentally) but not to my ears so gripping or, given the inclusion of those cards, as isolating or contemplatively depressing. The throb is pervasive. In the first nocturne, it's accompanied by obscure creaks, snaps, rattles and hisses, all creepy enough but not quite so rich or deep as to engage for its length. The tonal content of the pulsations recalls Fennesz and the like and while the darker tones are welcome, I found myself wishing for a release from the constancy of those "chords" which too easily connote the mysterious, macabre, etc. Of course, oppressiveness may have been the desired goal here. The shorter second track fares better, if only due to its concision as the elements are roughly the same, though its more intense, churning quality helps a good deal. Side B is occupied by the final nocturne and, in part, I find it to be the most successful. The drone is raised from the murky depths and some of the ancillary sounds--various static forms and other intrusions--intersect with the throb in interesting ways. On the other hand, there's also a profusion of loopy synth lines flitting about which which I could do without, but that's a general pet peeve of mine with regard to that "kind" of sound. Ends with a good, solid click.

So, not exactly up my alley but dystopic dronage fans will probably enjoy it just fine.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Mike Bullock - Figures Without Ground (Sedimental)

Bullock, while better known as a bassist, has delved into electronic composition before and does again on this LP with two side-long pieces.

"Trompettes Marines" begins with an achingly lovely and forlorn descending line (on synth, I think, though it has Theremin qualities; if thats a somehow transmogrified bass, I'm floored), gradually accompanied by sympathetic bowed bass, distortions of the original line and vague field recordings. A maritime theme pervades, with gulls and (abstracted) wave crashes but, as Bullock notes, he's going for a cinematic quality without being especially narrative and, indeed, the mood is dreamlike and mysterious, those elegantly drooping notes always somewhere within, tingeing the ambience with a forlorn aspect. Lest things get too moody, the sound of vinyl run-out grooves appears, creating necessary tension between the modern world and the sense of the archaic brought to mind by the titular instrument. The work maintains a singular sound sensibility throughout, very impressive; lovely, immersive music.

Side B, "Figures Without Ground", is something else again. My very first reaction, unavoidable, was hitting on mid-60s Sun Ra, the era of "Atlantis" and "The Magic City"--was that the clavioline? Well, here it's a "Doepfer-format modular synthesizer" and apparently most of the work involved had to do with constructing the patches, the synth then producing the sounds (in one take) "with only very minimal involvement" on Bullock's part. It's the kind of sound, a somewhat loopy, tendril like tone on top, a buzzily growling one snaking below, that in most case would put me off but...damn it, it works here. I have to speculate that part of its success, for me, is exactly the non-intentional aspect alluded to by Bullock, the sense of the music being driven by internal or, on the other hand, environmental contingencies rather than human agency. It takes paths that seem very non-gestural. It veers into a more feedback-y stage with accompanying static for a while before flipping back into its insane yodeling. I can easily imagine this piece irritating many people but I got a real kick out of it.

Yet another in what's becoming a lengthy string of adventurous and excellent releases from Bullock.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Troy Schafer - Action for Solo Violin (Dusty Grass Imprint)

Schafer's work, a cassette release, seems to be almost as much about dance/movement/performance as music. The score includes "text and photos of my moving body" and his notes indicate concern with, among other things, "the weight of an arm". I find it almost obligatory to, when listening, imagine Schafer in motion, swinging the violin by its neck around, behind and under his body. Though bowed sounds surface every so often, the overriding impression is of pizzicato, very crisply recorded, yielding extremely prickly sensations. The sound field is very full, quite active but somehow manages to avoid feeling cluttered or overly busy, the cascade of plucks having a very natural (always irregular) cadence as though they were generated by simply sweeping the instrument through the air, the strings activated by thousands of invisible fingers. It's quite unusual and effective; I found myself wondering how it was that I enjoyed this far more than, say, any quasi-similar (not similar at all, really) music I've heard by, say, Philipp Wachsmann. The sense of a person moving in space, sounds appearing as part of this process, as a result of the arm weight, gravity and so on but in an almost ancillary manner, is striking. I don't know Schafer's music otherwise and from what I can glean on-line, this might not be typical of his work (though the notes mention that this recording was his seventh performance of the piece, so it's clearly a focus of his), but it's very much worth checking out.

You can hear for yourself at Schafer's bandcamp site

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Anne Guthrie - Codiaeum variegatum (Students of Decay)

There have always been some musicians whose sheer musicality, at least how my brain perceives same, just resonates with me--everything just sounds so good, retains some inherent quality that I just love. Monk and Don Cherry were good examples of that in jazz, Keith Rowe has it, Lambkin too, some basic approach that simply syncs up quite well with what I like to hear. Often, it seems to involve an exquisite (to me) balance between a fine sense of the melodic and a healthy amount of abstraction. I'm starting to think Guthrie is in that crowd. I think I've enjoyed just about every new release of hers more than its predecessor and "Codiaeum variegatum" (issued on LP) continues that trend, in spades.

Right from the start ("Branching Low and Spreading"), with the beautiful, seesawing arco lines (courtesy bassist Joseph Digerness; the album also features some cello by Dan Binschedler), merging with distorted French horn and ambient sounds, that balance is achieved. There's always a sense of song regardless of how fractured the line becomes, the field elements somehow acquiring the character--absolutely obliquely--of the bass lines and the horn laments. Things are further dissolved in "Strongly Leaning with Irregular Crown", sparser bass turning over melodic duties to flies, then semi-practising cello. When the horn enters, there's a wonderful feeling of listening in on activity in a bower, gradually understanding that you're hearing things over a not entirely functional mic nearby as static interferes, providing a really fine and unexpected scrim, negating any over-pastoral quality. Each of the six tracks (all bite-sized between five and nine minutes) offers a distinct aspect, a unique range of sounds even given the common presence of the horn and site-recordings. "Rough Above with Uneven Base" stands out somewhat in its use of repetitive cells, nodding to mid-60s Riley and every bit as strong in its combination of rigor and elastic spaciness. The final piece, "Persists into Winter", might be both the richest in terms of depth of sound as well as the most abstract, a dense, somehow forward-moving mass, a thorny cacophony borne along by low, horn bellows beneath.

A really superb effort--with the Cluett reviewed earlier, my favorite release of this new year.

Students of Decay

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Seth Cluett - Wound of This Deep Blue (Notice Recordings)

A wonderful cassette recording from Cluett, fashioned from seven Dictaphone tapes of earlier performances of his (2005-2013) without otherwise being processed or edited. If there's more to it than that, I've no idea, but the effect is marvelous. You get a sense of several discreet entities, each with their own "goal", inhabiting, for a few moments, the same space, gliding past one another. I imagine glass panels, encrusted or imbued with various substances, arrayed adjacently, the light passing through forming connections, transmitting colors and shadows, but otherwise separate. There's a very organic progression here, impossible to tack down but feeling entirely natural and even, paradoxically, space-specific. The flow is fantastic, always convincing, forever encountering strange and fascinating vistas, letting them go, glimpsing new ones on the way in. The elements themselves vary widely from throbs to scratches to howling air and far more, yet they manage to embed themselves into the same, gnarly, bumpy fabric.

Really fine, an early favorite of 2014.

Notice Recordings

Babel - Rillingen (Arachnidiscs)

Babel being the nom de musique of Toronto-based guitarist and improviser Jakob Rehlinger.

The four tracks seem knot together into a kind of symphonic form, the first three totaling some 25 minutes, the last 37. The general sound is of an electric drone/throb, a few parts the Fripp of "No Pussyfooting" (sans Frippertronics), a few more of a sunnier version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The first three sections are all about vastness, sometimes a bit overdoing it (the closing wind sounds on the third sections, for example) but generally resting in a rich swirling sound area that's not unpleasant. Rehlinger takes the opportunity to tease out more structural strands in the fourth part, separating out various sonorities, allowing more breathing room while still maintaining the kind of simmering ecstatic output heard earlier (here, I think of Loren Connors at his most otherworldly and Branca rears his head as well). I enjoyed this "movement" the most, like the shifting layers and changes of emphasis, though I still wouldn't mind either hearing more structural rigor or, conversely, letting things flow out with very few constrictions.

Listeners keen on the above mentioned musicians might derive a good amount of pleasure from this release.



A French trio consisting of Monobloc Sound Fidelity (electronics, sampler), Cisco C. (cello, electronics) and Anton Mobin (cassettes), four improvised tracks.

"Séquelles" begins as a jungly-drone piece with overtones of Sun Ra, nicely messy and dirty on the one hand but with electronics lines that, presumably with intention, resonate with science-fiction-y references. It flits from scene to scene, a little too glibly for my taste, encountering some interesting areas along the way but not seemingly too concerned with mining them in any great depth. "Infra Novæ" is more concise, inhabiting an area of brushes, distant ringing overtones and intermittent detritus; again, the grime works well adjacent to the shinier elements, the whole package forming into a fine, gritty ball. There's a quasi-rhthymic feel to the brief "Active Debris Removal" which, abetted by rather bloopy electronics, doesn't amount to much apart from sound effects. The concluding "Bloc Resperatoire" fares better, the two elements that marred the preceding track sublimated into a larger entity, evoking the work of Voice Crack and similar bands; the kind of piece that could have appeared on Four4ears a while back.

About half and half for me then. At best, it's far better than the cover. :-)

You can hear it at Bandcamp

or order it from Tünel

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Machinefabriek - Attention, the Doors Are Closing! (self-released CD)

A dance score by Rutger Zuydervelt for a work by Iván Pérez dealing with aspects of human relations in contemporary Russian society, the six tracks ranging from rhythmically aggressive to serene and much in between.

After a low hum on the first track, the second section launches into a metallophone driven, bleak landscape, where tiny creaks blossom into infernal, post-industrial vistas, all steam and isolation. The music descends back into darkness after this, dim glimmers and crackles appearing midst the gloom, all very effectively handled, especially as the resonances of the gongs (?) gains power and depth. (titled, "Kostya's Solo", I'd be very interested to see how this was danced to). Ultimately, the cut develops a heavy, malignant throb, a moment that shows how far the shadow of "Swastika Girls" can stretch. A peaceful track for floating, muffled gongs is followed by one with a more insistent, abrasive (though fairly soft) mechanical rhythm. The disc ends very ethereally though. It's been mostly percussion and electronics throughout, here in warmly vibrant tones, hazily ringing, suspended, muffled voices, even making oblique references to melodies, dreamy but never losing rigor.

A good job all around, excellent sound (mastered by Joe Panzner) in which to wallow. I can only imagine how well it worked at Ballet Moscow.

bandcamp site

Zoor - Volumes a + b (Umlaut)

Bertrand Denzler (tenor saxophone), Jean-Sébastien Mariage (electric guitar), Antonin Gerbal (drums).

Two performances, about 40 and 30 minutes respectively, from 2013, the first at Instants Chavirés, the second at Atelier Polonceau. They each follow a similar path, that of the extended, slow, meander--not quite a drone, but using long tones and no overt form, instead allowing the billows to form cloudlike shapes on their own. I sometimes found myself thinking of the music as the antitheses of The Ames Room. Denzler spins out mournful, slowly ululating lines, Mariage churns sustained chords and Gerbal creates lush flourishes on cymbals and tomes, snare rolls, all resulting in this dense, inertial mass that sits and seethes. Sometimes, Denzler gets into a Coltrane-ish, mode, as though playing a ballad and lingering on the long, slow codas. These are some of my favorite moments, actually, as take place about 1/2 hour into the first track. It's an interesting approach and both sets are enjoyable although, as with Ames Room, once heard, you wonder how much else there is to say. On the other hand, by continuing this line of investigation (if they do so--I'm only going by this recording), they may uncover areas unknown. You get glimmers of that now and then, late in the second piece. We'll see what happens from here on in.


Matt Davis/Phil Durrant/Mark Wastell - s/t (Confront)

The most recent in Confront's reissue series, an August 2000 date with Davis (trumpet), Durrant (violin) and Wastell (cello).

A good set from the early (ish) days of quiet improv, when the word "reductionism" was still in the air. I think, though, you can still detect the vestiges of older-school free improvisation here, especially in the little spurts and starts from Davis and Wastell near the beginning. Durrant, here, is the one that maintains longer, very quiet and sandy lines while the others create tiny explosions around the edges. But some ten minutes in (out of 30), things simmer way down, the space around notes expanding, the contributions from the musicians becoming sparer and, to my ear, more considered. Spare enough that it seems to have engendered a round of premature applause from the audience...There's not so much more I can say about this. If you were aware of what these fellows were up to in 2000 (especially Durrant, circa "dach"), you'll know what to expect. Fine work, do check it out.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Well, I dislike doing this more and more but it seems to be a requirement of the job....

As many have noted, 2013 yielded a bumper crop of outstanding music, for which I'm very grateful and, as ever, I sincerely thank those musicians and labels who choose to send things my way; it's greatly appreciated. It wasn't at all difficult to tease out more than twenty releases that I thought were fantastic in one respect or another. In alphabetical order, these included:

Adam Asnan - Inconsistent Images (Entr'acte/Senufo Editions)
Antoine Beuger - 24 petits préludes pour la guitare (Edition Wandelweiser)
Antoine Beuger - sixteen stanzas on stillness and music unheard (l'Innomable)
Antoine Beuger/Jürg Frey - Ensemble Dedalus (Potlatch)
Antoine Beuger/Michael Pisaro - this place/is love (Erstwhile)
Olivia Block – Karren (Sedimental)
Lucio Capece - Less Is Less - Music for Flying and Pendulating Speakers (Intonema)
Stephen Cornford/Samuel Rodgers - Boring Embroidery (Cathnor)
Richard Glover - Logical Harmonies (Another Timbre)
Anne Guthrie/Richard Kamerman – sinter (Erst AEU)
Sarah Hughes - accidents of matter or of space (Suppedaneum)
Haco/Toshiya Tsunoda – TramVibration (Skiti)
Nick Hennies - Duets for Solo Snare Drum (Weighter Recordings)
Nick Hennies - Flourish (Consumer Waste)
Tom Johnson/Samuel Vriezen - The Chord Catalog-Within Fourths/Within Fifths (Wandelweiser)
Mike Majkowski – Why is there something instead of nothing? (Bocian)
Lee Patterson/Vanessa Rossetto - Temperament as Waveform (Another Timbre)
Michael Pisaro - The Middle of Life (Gravity Wave)
Michael Pisaro – The Punishment of the Tribe by Its Elders (Gravity Wave)
Michael Pisaro/Greg Stuart – Close Categories in Cartesian Worlds (Gravity Wave)
Keith Rowe/Graham Lambkin - Making A (Erstwhile)
Peter Streiff – Vokal/Instrumental (Edition Wandelweiser)
Jakob Ullmann - fremde zeit addendum 4 (Edition RZ)

Forced to choose three that stood out, for me, among this stellar grouping, I'd go with Rowe/Lambkin, Capece and Glover.

Others I enjoyed almost as much (again alpha):

Peter Ablinger - Regenstücke Vol. 1 & 2 (God Records)
Jeffrey Allport/Joda Clément/Chandan Narayan - The Party (Simple Geometry)
Atolon – concret (Intonema)
Lali Barrière/Miguel A. Garcia - O⅃ƎUႱƎꟼƧƎ (Nueni)
Antoine Beuger - Cantor Quartets (Another Timbre)
John Butcher/Thomas Lehn/John Tilbury – Exta (Fataka)
Lucio Capece/Jamie Drouin - The Berlin Series no. 1 (Another Timbre) (that half of the disc)
Scott Cazan – Swallow (Care of Editions)
Johnny Chang/Stefan Thut - two strings and boxes (Flexion)
Edu Comelles - A Country Falling Apart (Audiotalaia)
Coppice - Big Wad Excisions (Quakebasket)
Stephen Cornford - Music For Earbuds (3LEAVES)
Devin Disanto - Tracing a Boundary (Task)
Bruno Duplant - Le rêve de la nuit est un rêve sans rêveur (diafani)
Lawrence English - Suikinkutsu no Katawara Ni (winds measure)
Ferran Fages - Radi d'Or (Another Timbre)
Patrick Farmer/David Lacey - Pictures of Men (Copy for Your Records)
Klaus Filip/Dafne Vicente-Sandoval - remoto (Potlatch)
Klaus Filip/Toshi Nakamura/Andrea Neumann/Ivan Palacky – Messier Objects (meenna)
Jack Harris/Samuel Rodgers - Wasted Five Years (Organized Music from Thessaloniki)
Jason Hoopes/Agnes Szelag - October Pieces and Shadows (Trestle)
Eva-Maria Houben - Piano Music (Irritable Hedgehog)
Eva-Maria Houben - lost in dreams - works for piano (Edition Wandelweiser)
Laurent Jeanneau/KINK GONG - Soundscape China (Kwanyin)
Kostis Kilymis – More Noise Ahead (Entr’acte)
Christoph Korn/Lasse-Marc Riek – collection II (Gruenrekorder)
Christina Kubisch/Eckehard Guther – Mosaique Mosaic (Gruenrekorder)
Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet - Photographs (Erstwhile)
Sebastien Lexer/Grundik Kasyansky - The Fog (Dromos)
Hannes Lingens – Four Pieces for Quintet (Insub)
Joe Panzner/Greg Stuart – Dystonia Duos (Erst AEU)
David Papapostolou - Contrastes (Dispositifs d'écoute/C'est moi qui souligne) (winds measure)
Robert Piotrowicz - When Snakeboy Is Dying (Musica Genera)
Michael Pisaro - Tombstones (HEM)
Martyna Poznanska – Listening East (Polish Culture)
Ian Rawes/London Sound Survey - These Are the Good Times (Vittelli)
Matthieu Ruhlmann - This Star Teaches Bending (3LEAVES)
Philip Samartzis – Current (Bogong Sound)
Domenico Sciajno et. al. - Sonic Shuffle (Bowindo)
Grisha Shaknes – leave.trace (Glistening Examples)
Leo Svirsky – Songs in the Key of Survival (Ehse)
Michael Thieke Unununium - Nachtlieder (Mikroton)
Stefan Thut – drei, 1-21 (Edition Wandelweiser)
Toshiya Tsunoda - The Temple Recording/O Kokos Tis Anixis (edition.t)
VA AA LR - It Just Ain't Flapping (Consumer Waste)
Biliana Voutchkova/Michael Thieke - already there (Flexion)
Ralf Wehowsky/Anla Courtis - Aseleuch Tendrradero (Noise & Hate/Ultra-Mail Prod.)
Donato Wharton - Place and Presence (CDr)
Lao Yang - Untitled (Subjam)
(Various-Populista) - United States of America Triptych (Bôłt/Monotype)

Thanks again to everyone who allowed me to hear their work.

Eva-Maria Houben - lost in dreams - works for piano (Edition Wandelweiser)

Two pieces, one as delicate and beautiful as we've come to expect from Houben, the other a rather surprising suite.

"traumverloren I für klavier (lost in dreams I for piano)" (2010) has a disarmingly "simple" structure: a single note is played, softly and steadily several times (between four and ten, I think, though I could be wrong) followed by a chord of only two or three notes. The single note varies as does the number of iterations, intuitive as far as I can tell though perhaps there's a plan. The chords seem to stay in the general pitch range of the single notes. That's it, the kernel repeated over 33:40, each new section commencing just as the previous one fades away. A great example of the imaginative use of a seemingly non-complex idea, offering wonderful contemplative moments. A jewel.

"klaviersonate nr. 10 (sonata for piano No.10)", subtitled, "les cloches du songe (traumglocken - dream bells)" (2013) is, at least with my knowledge of Houben's work, unexpected: a set of five piece composed "in memoriam" to five composers--Mussorgsky, Enescu, Schumann, Liszt and Messiaen. How the music relates to these composers is beyond my ability to determine, I have to say, save perhaps for the Messiaen tribute. The basic structure in the Mussorgsky section isn't hugely different from the prior piece. Here, a single note is struck and, while it's still resonating, a quick, two note phrase, in a higher pitch, is played. This is at a fairly loud level, the notes shining brilliantly, sounding very much like a certain sequence Tilbury sometimes employs. The Kiev Gate, maybe? Enescu merits a gentler approach, clipped notes contrasting with sets of sustained ones, in sequences that suggest a slow dance, ending with deep, troubled single tones; very moving. For Schumann, Houben presents a two note pattern, the first always the same, the second lower at first, each sustained about twelve seconds, then higher in a quicker pattern. The bells referred to in the subtitle seem prominent here and, one realizes, in all pieces of the set. Liszt's homage begins in appropriately grand style, two loud notes followed by a single, low one. This patterns varies to a two-note one, back and forth, each time the general pitch changing. Again, there's an amount of stridency one doesn't normally associate with Houben, but it's not overbearing at all, more like clearly heard church bells in pure, cold air. Finally, Olivier Messiaen receives the kind of ethereal, sublime, suspended chords he deserves, not overtly imitative but acknowledging his presence. They hover, appear at irregular intervals, tinge the space and vanish.

A very touching, beautiful recording, one in a long line from Houben.

Stefan Thut - drei, 1-21 (Edition Wandelweiser)

A tough nut. Twenty-one pieces, each exactly 3'06" long, recorded independently in three different places at three different times over the course of a year, by the trio of Johnny Chang (violin), Sam Sfirri (melodica) and Jürg Frey (clarinet). The score consists of twenty-one sets of six configurations of from one to three horizontal lines, arranged in two rows of three. So, for example, the first (at least the one in the upper lefthand corner) has an array of two, three and three lines over two, three and one lines. The last, using the same positional logic, is three, one and one over one, two and two. I don't know whether or not any other instructions were given with regard to interpreting the sets, but here the playing is uniformly quiet and spare, each musician contributing soft, grainy, single note lines and leaving a great deal of space in between. I take it that the recordings were done in isolation, with no one knowing what the others had played, where they had placed their sounds within each mini-structure, but I suppose it's possibly the tracks were laid down sequentially, first Chang with his grainy bowings, then Sfirri's gentle melodica and finally Frey's soft, high clarinet. These issues aside, I prefer to simply listen and experience but that's a tricky business as well. The material traces are so scant, such (lovely) wisps, that I find it more conducive to listen as one tries to look at a faint star, "from the corner of my ear", allowing the sounds to just tinge the room. This works quite well, though I'm aware I'm likely "missing" something, unable to grasp the lacy organicism of the composition. A good challenge, happy to grapple with it.

Beat Keller/Reza Khota - Play 11 Microexercises by Christian Wolff (Wandelweiser)

In the notes, Wolff writes about being asked to compose a piece consisting of no more than 100 notes, doing so and enjoying it enough that he wrote a number of them. "I don't worry too much about intensity of focus; it's more about transitoriness and catching what's going by, then letting it go." So we have eleven of these pieces (plus two second takes) rendered by a pair of electric guitarists with roots in jazz and rock, histories that are by no means hidden here. Some of the tracks, like the opening "Exercise No. 12", sound "wolffian", if you will--a series of tones that manage to be both abstract yet highly lyrical, more difficult to grasp than you think they should be. On the second, "Exercise No 1", one of the players introduces brief lines that strike me as jazz-phrased and the result is a bit jarring. I'm guessing a phrase like this isn't specified in the score (I could be wrong!) but is allowed for on the part of the performer. I'm not sure I go along with the choice though, if choice it was. This dynamic surfaces throughout the disc, most overtly in the second take of "Exercise No. 22 (Powerchords)" where, at least, they're open about it! The insertion of a given vernacular should, I'm sure, be countenanced by the score, it's simply a question of taste what one chooses to utilize. I'm reminded of the well-known, hopefully not apocryphal story of Feldman's admonition to an orchestra member playing one of his graphic scores, wherein there was the instruction to play three notes. "Not those notes!" Here, there's something of a Zornian collage feeling at times. Not always, by any means, and a number of the pieces work, for me, very well. On "Exercise No. 8d", for instance, the lengthiest of the cuts, just under twelve minutes, some smooth drones that wouldn't be out of place on an old Fred Frith record sound excellent, perhaps my favorite piece here.

I'm forced to wonder how I'd react if I didn't know these were Wolff compositions. I think differently, which is, of course, unfair but hard to avoid. As is, I went back and forth, trying to keep in mind the transitory approach but being, on occasion, jolted out of that frame by the idiomatic portions. A mixed bag for me, overall, but well worth hearing if only to see one of many possible interpretations of Wolff's music.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Peter Streiff - Vokal/Instrumental (Edition Wandelweiser)

Sometimes, music reaches my desk which I genuinely feel is beyond my ken to write about--I simply don't have the necessary tools. This wonderful disc, in large part, is one such so I'll pretty much stick to just giving my impressions and make no real attempt to put the music into context. I do feel confident in saying that, though I haven't heard everything released from Wandelweiser, the music herein will pretty definitely not coincide with your impression of the label, and I think that's a great thing. All praise to Antoine Beuger for being intuitive rather than succumbing to any absurd expectation as to what should or shouldn't be represented.

Streiff's work, at least as indicated here, is widely varied to say the least. The first work is "Sechs Lieder" (1976), six short pieces for contralto (Anne Schmid) and sextet (violin, clarinet, piano, cello, guitar and harp, though all don't appear on every song). To my untutored ear, they fit into what I usually think of as post-WW II art song of a semi-ROmantic variety, though containing a gorgeous sinuosity that's rare enough. The instrumental accompaniment on some, like the second part (no violin) is thick and sumptuous, a joy to hear and nicely contrasted with the following portion, just voice and violin, the latter astringent and soulful. It's not the "type" of music I'm normally drawn to but I love this set.

This is followed by "Melodien Band II" (1983) for solo oboe d'amore (Katherina Suske). I guarantee that if I (or, I daresay, most new music fans) heard this blindfolded, the first minute or so would garner guesses of either Steve Lacy or Anthony Braxton; it carries a bit more of a soprano saxophone than oboe sound to me (the oboe d'amore is slightly larger and fuller -sounding than the traditional oboe). The melodic line is also calmly Braxtonian, though more restrained and clearer than Braxton was likely to have created, with something of an improvisatory feel. But the tones are all pure (no extended technique) and there's a sense of drive, no meandering, while still maintaining a languid air. Very different in character from the preceding suite and, again, very beautiful.

"Nur allein für deine Ohren" (2011) combines the talents of Schmid and Suske, the texts based on various poems, from Rumi to Scwitters, involving "the ambivalence of love". That's a 35-year span between these first three works. It's odd: the oboe d'amore lines sound roughly similar in general to those from the preceding piece but, while the vocal lines often trace a path alongside the reed, these latter sound to me more related to the melodies in "Sechs Lieder". I've no doubt this is some internal prejudice, so to speak, on my part. This combination, therefore, takes me a little more time to grow comfortable with, though repeated listens have allowed it to worm its way into my zone. As said above, I've no idea where this would fit into the "art song" canon, but I enjoy it.

Just when you think you have Streiff pegged, up pops "Zeitstrahl" (2010) for solo aulos, played by Conrad Steinmann. That's a word I think I've encountered in the more abstruse neck of cruciverbalism but still had to look up. Essentially a double-reed flute of ancient Greek origin, often played in paris as is the case here. It's an extremely intense sound, somewhere between a shenai and a hojok, perhaps. The composition nods to minimalism, sometimes sounding like an early Riley piece played by Evan Parker, though there's great use of hesitancy throughout, especially midpoint as it almost fragments into shards that somehow bring Cantor dust to mind, though never so regular. It's a marvelous, unique work.

Yet another shift occurs with "Studie (Sprachzeichen)" (1978) for six violins. A huge, spiky mass, seemingly more like sixty than six, throbbing and prickly. All bowed, I think, the colors ranging from the harshest and most guttural of moans to the sweetly pure, often at the same time. Dense, ornery and fantastic.

Lastly, confounding the novice listener even further, is a composition for two pianos, "Ohrspuren am Drittelberg" (2008), performed by Dominik Blum and Tamriko Kordzaia. My amusing Google translation of this is "Ear trails on mountain-thirds"; I like that. One piano is in "third tone tuning" (admittedly, I have no idea what this means" apart from a relationship with microtones), the other standard. The music is an unusual combination of dreaminess and rigor, sometimes seeming to float away on the odd (and beautiful) tonalities but then being wrenched back into strict, almost march-like processions. Such amazing sounds, though! Ultimately, over its 17 minutes, the piece wanders into the more oneiric territory, evoking Feldman now and then, including a wonderful, near-unison passage of steady up and down progressions in that luscious combination of tunings. Another outstanding work.

I'm sure far deeper appreciation can be mustered by someone more versed in the field(s) occupied by Streiff, but I'm extremely happy to have been exposed to his music, very exciting and captivating work and one of my favorite releases from 2013.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Die Hochstapler - The Braxtornette Project (Umlaut)

I love that "Hochstapler" translates to "impostor"....

A quixotic and, well, I guess pretty successful idea, at least on its own terms, taking compositions by Braxton and Coleman (admittedly, I'm suckered in at the start), learning them remarkably well and, more interestingly, staging them in a sequence that journeys from rigorous exposition of themes to freer variations to extremely open structures. In the accompanying notes, we read, "We don't copy them we steal them and restructure their ideas according to ours".

The central groups echoes the instrumentation from classic ensembles of both composers: Pierre Borel (alto), Louis Laurain (trumpet), Antonio Borghini (bass) and Hannes Lingens, he of the recent excellent release on Insub (drums). On the first of four sections in this 2-disc set, Tobias Backhaus replaces Lingens and on the final portion, the Peeping Tom quartet is added: Pierre-Antoine Badaroux (alto), Axel Dörner (trumpet), Joel Grip (bass) and Antonin Gerbal (drums), recalling both Ornette's Free Jazz octet and Braxton's midsize ensembles.

Part I includes four compositions from Braxton's 23 series 9A, B, D, E, all from the first two Arista albums) plus Coleman's "Peace", "Faces and Places", "Free" and "Change of the Century". I should say at the outset that, throughout this recording, these fellows do a remarkable job of nailing the melodic lines, really capturing the nuances. This, to be sure, is all well and good but we want to hear how their larger idea works. You get a glimmer near the beginning when the theme from "Peace" pokes its head into the improvisations on "23E", then takes over. Very nice and only for the briefest moment, when "23D" assumes control. So goes this section, cycling between themes, using the standard head/solo/head format for the most part. Quite enjoyable given the inherent beauty of the melodies and the ease with which they're tossed off, though conceptually not so challenging. Funny, I easily let the larger idea of this recording take precedence, but I should say that everyone involved here plays really well.

The second part expands things a bit, using pieces from Braxton's 40 series (B, F, I, L and O) and some mid- to late 60s Coleman works ("Good Old Days", "European Echoes", "The Ark", "The Empty Foxhole"--there's also a reference to "π"--was there ever an Ornette piece so-called?). It's an extended, 35-minute track and allows for superimposition of themes and, generally, has a much less boppish air than the prior portion. It definitely makes for a more expansive and more lastingly enjoyable endeavor, the motifs segueing in and out, the whole thing a very alive organism. As sprightly and punchy as the first section was, this approach feels more comfortable somehow.

Part III is the logical extension, venturing into collage structures and game situations using Braxton pieces from the 53 and 69 series and six other Coleman works, segments of the compositions emerging and receding, repeating, stretching and otherwise morphing. I found this the most satisfying expedition so far, the mass of jumbled sound now and then coalescing into recognizable melodic lines, decomposing, shifting to another line, free improv or something in between.

Finally, the octet tackles Braxton 348 and "Free Jazz". When they surge into the latter's theme following an engaging period of murkiness, it's quite exciting, the dual drums and basses then providing a rich, pulsating ground for the ensuing solos. But they show good judgment in not simply letting the music devolve into a string of solos, instead consistently arcing back into the Braxtonian sound world and using that to generate more Ornetticism. A solid job all around.

I remember a recording from the mid-90s called "Jump or Die!" by Splatter Trio and Debris, two LA-based ensembles. That was ok, this is better. Anyone with more than a passing interest in either composer, or simply interested in the current European jazz scene, should snatch this baby up.

Hannes Buder/Hannes Lingens - [ro] (Umlaut)

Yet another side of Lingens shows up here in a freely improvised duo with guitarist Buder with four pieces that vary widely in attack (though they're tilted First through Fourth Movements, indicating a connection). In the first, Buder (who I've not heard before) is in a kind of gentle Bailey mode with Linden sliding objects on his skins and adding plunks and soft chimes. It's quite gentle and pleasant, maybe a bit too much so. The second opens up a bit, using soft feedback at first and deep rubbing noises; spacier but holding together well, imparting a good dose of uneasiness. The shorter third section returns to the general world of the first but is much more concise and, to my ears, Buder is somewhere in Messiaen tonality, which is quite beautiful; lovely piece, soft and deep. The last section leaps to an entirely different environment, all harsh atonal buzzes and whispers, often low enough in frequency to generate uncomfortable vibratory sensations. Rough guitar strums appear, muddied in the distance amidst blurred rattling, gradually attaining a bleak kind of clarity by the track's end--a very effective conclusion that draws into question much of what preceded, not the sort of "narrative" that's often encountered. Good job.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

John Butcher/Thomas Lehn/John Tilbury - Exta (Fataka)

It's not a rational approach though I'm probably not alone in this--when I see Tilbury performing in improvising ensembles outside of AMM (or in solo contexts), I tend to tense up. Silly, I know, but I hold his music in such reverence that I want it (as though it's my choice!) to be experienced in only ideal settings. Also the fact that a decent amount of his recorded work in such groupings hasn't struck my ears as being particularly successful. In any case, such fears were largely swept aside by this release, which is very fine indeed.

I do wonder if there's a tendency on the part of his younger companions to defer a bit to him; maybe not, but it's not an unreasonable suspicion nor necessarily a bad strategy. Certainly, Butcher and Lehn provide Tilbury ample space in which to be herd, never cluttering the playing field. Tilbury, whether working loudly or softly, has his way, a very steady step wherein each sound he produces, one feels, is chosen for its depth, appropriateness within the context and sheer aural beauty. Tapping a dampened string or playing a trademark arpeggio, there's little mistaking him. So Butcher doesn't let loose with the violent, tremendous cascades of notes nor Lehn erupt with the full panoply of noise that his synth can generate. So the five tracks are quieter than not and, personally, I love hearing both Butcher and Lehn in quieter mode. I'll go a bit further: I enjoy the music here more than the releases from the Prevost/Tilbury incarnation of AMM. Both saxophone and synth provide a freshness of approach that's bracing and quite often, the sheer sound of the three together is unique and gorgeous. Tellingly, I find the strongest cuts here to be the longer ones, where ideas and combinations have time to unfurl and propagate. "Cor", at 19 minutes, is breathtaking at times, extraordinarily rich; I sometimes imagine Lehn forming tendrils keeping Butcher and Tilbury in contact, creating a wonderfully alive, writhing tension. Similarly, "Iecur" charts a great, empty space, Butcher sounding the occasional sonic probe, Lehn limning the fog-enshrouded floor and walls, Tilbury resolutely, if carefully, treading onward; excellent work.

Sure, not everything works perfectly and there's a synth burble or two I could have done without, but overall, "Exta" is supple, thoughtful and all-around fascinating.

Nate Wooley/Seymour wright - About Trumpet and Saxophone (Fataka)

For some reason, it's taken me forever to get around to really hearing Wooley. In fact, I think the last, perhaps only time I really got an earful was on the Blue Collar release on Rossbin about a decade ago where I likely pegged him as part of the Vision Fest/High Zero affiliated crowd, doubtless an oversimplification at best. Doubly odd as we shared a hometown for a good while. In any case, I'm sure I've missed a bunch. Wright I've heard much more of, though sporadically, including a couple of times this past year at Instants Chavirés. My sense of his work, or part of it, was an insistence on dealing with his instrument, shall I say, saxophonically, not as "just" a metal tube, acknowledging its history, not attempting to lose its inherent nature as is often the strategy employed by saxophonists within contemporary improvisation (I think Butcher has been contemplating this for quite some time as well). I don't know Wooley's work nearly well enough to hazard whether he thinks along similar lines and this recording doesn't clear those particular waters.

Nine fairly contained tracks wherein the pair quietly occupies space somewhere to the left of efi and the right of eai. Sometimes the brevity works quite well, as on the first cut, forming a concise, sharply-drawn statement. Other times, as on track 7, it seemed to me that ideas were just beginning to gel and I'd have liked to have heard more exposition. The techniques employed are almost always of the extended variety, though nothing that hasn't been encountered on many an occasion over the past few decades. I'm sure this is well understood by Wright and Wooley and they're simply attempting to construct solid work using those tools. I found it successful about half the time, not caring for sections when the activity felt forced, when there needn't, to my ears, have been anything said but one or the other insisted on saying something, of pushing. Then again, maybe those moments were a prerequisite for subsequent passages that gelled. Frustrating, though maybe that' a good thing.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Michel Doneda/Jonas Kocher - le belvédère du rayon vert (Flexion)

Five pieces recorded by Doneda (soprano sax, radios) and Kocher (accordion) in a "half-abandoned" hotel in the south of France, near the border with Spain. The hotel is as much a part of the music as the two instrumentalists as they keep their contributions on the quiet side (though things well up now and then), attempting to blend in with both the physical reality of the building and its atmosphere, contemporary and historical. Doneda gets that sour, harsh breathiness like no one else and it serves him well here while Kocher allots a decent amount of time to "traditional" accordion sounds, albeit often in the extreme low and high ranges of the instrument. The tracks are titled "Chambre 11", "Patio" and Cinemas I, II and III and each has its own character. You're surprised at the onset of the third cut by the sudden presence, in what sounds like a large, empty room, of a male/female conversation, though our stalwart musicians carry on apace. It's not like you hear footsteps or anything so this may be a result of my simply imagining it, but I do get a nice sense of the pair slowly roaming around, poking their axes into corners and closets, taking in their environs on the move. A fine evocation of place with well-considered musical additions--one of my favorite things from either musician in quite some time.


David Dominique - Ritual (CDr)

Boston-based composer David Dominique cites influences ranging from Mingus to Zappa to Sun Ra and many others, all of which can be heard in this bouncy, propulsive session, though I found myself thinking more often of another band from his hometown, Either/Orchestra and, most of all, the good old Microscopic Septet. Dominique plays flugabone on all tracks, which I'll assume is what it sounds like, and he's accompanied by a shifting ensemble that includes up to three reeds, violin (Erik KM Clark, who I've heard on other works emanating out of Cal Arts), guitar, bass and drums. The tracks are fairly short, tightly composed and performed, very well arranged (the band often sounds bigger than it is) with catchy, often boppish melodic lines and the occasional good, tough solo. I hear Mingus most often in the Dolphy-esque alto of either Gavin Templeton or Joe Santa Maria and Zappa both in a few of the complicated, convoluted charts and the odd chugging rhythm, though I also detect a snatch of Willem Breuker here and there. The latter comes to the fore (although I allow that this might well be more me than Dominique) on perhaps my favorite cut, the appropriately titled "Drunk Hump", which also features a roaring baritone solo by Templeton. If I have complaints about the pieces, they might include not caring for the guitar parts and a desire to hear some of the compositions explored at greater length, perhaps incorporating less programmed areas, more room for free improv, letting these densely wound nuggets unfurl a bit. In an interview, Dominique documents the history of some of these works as well as going more deeply into his influences. I'm guessing there's a good bit more to his world than what's presented here, though listeners in tune with those musicians referenced above will find a good deal to enjoy with "Ritual" on its own.

Available at bandcamp

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Alan (or Anla) Courtis/BJ Nilsen - Nijmegen Pulse (BromBron)

A set of four pieces by Courtis (depending where you look, he uses Anla or Alan) and BJ Nilsen (who worked with Stilluppsteypa, among others) compiled from field recordings done in and around Nijmegen, Holland. They're quite unassuming on the one hand, quiet and unimposing, though there's a bleakness about them that sends a small chill into one's vertebrae. THe opening piece is next to silent, just a slight urban hum, peaking (about an inch high) a little over halfway in, subsiding; almost nothing and quite satisfying for all that. Numerous birds greet the ear on the next cut, squawking but softened a bit, sunk into the background wash of distant traffic. Church bells enter as the bird call become lighter and, possibly, one hears electronic work by the pair, but it's at a low enough volume and is so hazy that I'm not sure it's direct contributions or altered (maybe unaltered!) site recordings. In any case, it's hollow, metallic and foreboding--very effective. More distant, empty space begins the third track before, a few minutes in, random, irregular drips of water appear, metal banging, muted, around some dark corner. Human voices and non-mechanical activity finally seep in on the final track, soon replaced by agitated, scurrying sounds. As always here, contrary to many hyper-realist field recordings, things remain mysterious and slightly blurry, the sounds having a rounded aspect as if only dimly glimpsed. Even the wind, howling unobstructed through gray passageways, goes in and out of range, as if heard from deep beneath the city. Only at the very end does a drill begin to roar, boring in on the listener, drawing ever closer, reaching just the other side of the wall before it too expires.

Strong work, well laid out, harshly cinematic.

BromBron (under Korm Plastics)

Bespoken - Plays Nick Storring and Daniel Brandes (Heavy Fog)

Bespoken is a newly formed new music ensemble from Toronto (see somewhat hazy info here) and Storring a member thereof, playing cello and perhaps other instruments. Their first recording features music by Storring and Wandelweiser-affiliated composer Daniel Brandes.

Storring's "Algre Douce" is in four movements. The first has a lovely, dreamy feel, the melodica, autoharp, piano, violin & cello gliding past each other, the latter pair adding piquancy to the colorful haze. The autoharp stirred memories of Laraaji's late 70s work, the slower sections, but that string line lends a far more melancholy air. The second shifts gears, enjoyably lurching into territory that brings to mind Cage's Sonatas and Interludes but also includes (inadvertently, I imagine) a repeated melodic line that recalls "Isn't She Lovely" (!!). It's very charming and quirky, a kind of clockwork construction. Next is something of a dance between piano/percussion, stepping daintily on tiptoe, and strings looking on sadly and giving soft, plaintive cries. The dance gradually accedes to the violin and cello, creating a descent into a peaceful wistfulness before a beautiful piano denouement. The finale gives knowing, smiling nods to what I think of as Elizabethan music, though I'm sketchy enough on the subject that I may be well off. I found myself thinking of the sly work of John White. It's an extremely warm, engaging set of pictures, sometimes humorous, sometime touching and, despite the references I've made above, very unique sounding.

Brandes' piece, "Intimations of Melody", for violin, cello, piano, e-bowed acoustic guitar and melodica, sits more squarely in the Wandelweiser ethos, a 32-minute work, not overly quiet but subdued, the ensemble tracing grainy but steady lines of varying duration, having the sense of overlapping lines of irregular length and varying intervals. I'mm not sure what options, if any, the performers have in terms of choice of pitch, duration, etc. The dynamic level is fairly consistent and there are no substantial silent sections. I have the mental image of undulating plates having a certain amount of elasticity, like scales, eddying alongside one another, always shifting slightly but conveying a consistent overall form. Maybe it's the presence of the melodica, but I also sometimes find myself thinking of a very slowed down version of a Christian Wolff piece. In any case, it's a fine work, quite immersive, containing patterns aplenty, a nice balance of sweet and sour and is captivating throughout.

Two strong works, then. I'm greatly looking forward to hearing more from both the composers and the ensemble.

Heavy Fog

Monday, January 06, 2014

Ilya Belorukov/Harpakahylo/Patryk Lichota/Kim Nasung - After (Nueni)

The first release on Hector Rey's new label and it's a good, rough little nugget. Three tracks and only some 15 minutes in length, a quartet of Belorukov (alto), Harpakahylo (drums, objects), Lichota (saxophones, objects) and Nasung (guzheng). The first track contrasts percolating sounds from the reeds and light rattles from, perhaps, the guzheng with dark, soft moans beneath and, later, even softer wafting lines from one of the saxophones--really strong, great layering, very evocative. Cut two is quieter fare--breath tones, key pops, various rustlings and rubbings, gelling into longer sounds as the piece goes on--a bit more "standard" but well-paced and finely executed. The final, brief piece begins more turbulently but again settles into a space where muted drones co-exist happily with the scrapes and grit. Fro this small sampling, it seems as though this is a kind of operating principle with the quartet or more likely just a momentary tendency. It's a nice taste though, curious to hear where they go if they continue as a unit.

Lali Barrière/Miguel A. Garcia - O⅃ƎUႱƎꟼƧƎ (Nueni)

Using amplified objects and no-input mixers, Barrière and Garcia have put together one of those recordings where my level of enjoyment (high) matches my inability to say much of anything coherent about it. It's generally very quiet although two of the four tracks begin with bursts of harsh noise and there are several lesser eruptions throughout. The sounds are packed with some degree of denseness, busy enough to generate a kind of scurrying quality though not so much as to become gabby. There are a few elements that are long-held, though they tend to be backgrounded, the more percussive or burblingly electronic sounds catching your attention more easily. It's very calm in the sense that you don't feel the pair is hurrying to get anywhere, just carefully ambling about, noticing the odd patch of interest, investigating it for a bit, moving on. They create an active, very alive space, airy but subtly intense. Something clicks really well here, some tensile connections established that vanish when you try to look at them directly. Really fine work, I highly recommended seeking it out.


Saturday, January 04, 2014

Christoph Korn/Lasse-Marc Riek - Collection, II (Gruenrekorder)

Track 31 - Location- Grave of Franz Kafka; Record- 28.03.11, 3.54 PM, New Jewish Cemetery, Prague (CZ) Delete- 01.04.11, 12.21 PM, Duration- 2'15"

One of fifty entries in this collection, made up of similarly formatted descriptions of site recordings realized by Korn and Riek from 2005 to 2012, subsequently erased. The CD-sized book devotes two pages to the procedure and some of the ideas behind it (notes by Georg Imdahl), then lists each recording, in blue text, one per page, in chronological order. The reader (the would-be listener) forms a mental image, visual certainly, perhaps aural, even olfactory of the place and time and imagines what the pair experienced. This is the second such collection, the first, published in 2007, follows the same structure, though with more notes.

It's a bit akin to Manfred Werder's works, I think, of which I've questioned the need to actually record them rather than "doing it yourself" and experiencing them directly. Here again, you're at a remove from the action, simply thinking about what Korn and Riek heard and felt on these occasions and then chose to hide. There's something magical about that. I dont suppose you'd want everyone doing it, but I'm very happy someone has. I like it a lot.

Merzouga - 52°46' North 13°29' East - Music for Wax-Cylinders (Gruenrekorder)

In addition to being a small village in southern Morocco, Merzouga is the duo of Eva Pöpplein (composition, electronics) and Janko Hanushevsky (composition and prepared electric bass). I'd previously heard their "Mekong Morning Glory" a couple of years ago, which I liked pretty well though thought it was a little too picturesque. Here, they've conducted excavations into the wax cylinder collection of the Berlin Phonograph Archive, unearthing eleven samples recorded from 1906 to 1931in Hungary, Egypt, Tierra del Fuego, Yemen, Abyssinia, Bali, Samoa, Switzerland, Mexico and China, weaving them into a kind of variegated rug augmented by subtle additions of their own. The recordings have inherent interest of their own, of course, and are presented more or less sequentially, always accompanied by varying degrees of cylinder hiss and scratch. Sometimes the contemporary additions (or, at least, what I perceive them to be; I'm not always sure) fit in beautifully, other times, I'd have preferred to hear the old recordings unaccompanied. But those ancient sounds, all of which are music-realted, are so fascinating--there's an example of the well-known Ramayana Monkey Chant, but all else was unknown territory for me--that it's quite easy to simply listen to the steady flow of them amidst the rapid, material "noise" of the wax and have a grand time doing so.


Thursday, January 02, 2014

Tarab - atrata (Unfathomless)

A 34-minute excursion investigating the sound properties of vacant lots and nearby areas in North Melbourne, Australia and a typically worthwhile one from Tarab, whose work I've enjoyed since fist hearing his "surface drift" almost ten years ago. Suitably bleak, ranging from a dry, sandy beginning, rising in periodic crests of harsh mixtures of treated footsteps, oceans of insects and birds, dopplering vehicles and, it seems, an enormous supply of other sounds, whipped into vortices of noise. Dryness seems like the operative word for the first half of the work, abetted by deep, booming resonance. I'm intrigued by how hard a time I often have distinguishing between fire and water sounds on field recordings (if not informed one way or the other). I was confused once again for a few minutes here until the liquid nature became apparent (and after confirming that Tarab mentions a creek in his description). These somewhat placid sounds are soon overturned by a roar, possibly the same water cascading through a sheet metal lined, container, I've no idea. Dogs bark in the distance while up close it sounds like people pawing through garbage. It ends with dry steps.

Another strong effort form Tarab, good stuff.


James Wyness - stultifera navis (Mystery Sea)

Wyness conjures up a more pastoral (if somewhat gothic) scene, though cloaked in mist and vapor. Technological sources are utilized but are embedded within the dark echoes and drips. (I admit to assuming the title referred to flora of some sort, not the satire known as The Ship of Fools!) It's one of those processed field recordings that's too wooly and amorphous for my taste, the billowy echoes, drips and muffled clanks combining into a kind of white noise that doesn't quite hold my interest. I kept thinking of the bejeweled grottoes painted by Moreau, attractive at first glance but not yielding more at closer inspection. There's a good deal going on here but it seems to sit still more than flow for its 26 minutes, perhaps Wyness' intention, but I wanted more movement and greater sound differentiation. Your Stygian voyage may vary.

Mystery Sea