Monday, March 31, 2014

Ernesto Rodrigues/Radu Malfatti/Ricardo Guerreiro - Late Summer (Creative Sources)

A 2-disc set containing a pair of 40-minute slices from two days of performances of Rodrigues (viola), Malfatti (trombone) and Guerreiro (computer), both very beautiful. It's interesting to consider the effect of the presence of musicians like Malfatti (or Sean Meehan in the US) on any proceedings in which they take part. You know that they have a set range within which they're comfortable playing and, further, know that that's more or less what they're going to do. Malfatti's not about to go all efi on anyone. Chances are, as a musical partner, you bend his way (not an off-putting proposition as what Malfatti brings to an event is very rich and valuable). Conceivably, you set up in opposition but my guess is that Malfatti's pretty implacable--an attempt I'd be curious to hear, however. Rodrigues' range of attacks is wider but he's certainly at home with the very considered, terse realm that Malfatti inhabits (I'm not as familiar with Guerreiro) and the result here is very fine. A plane overhead is perfectly and quickly echoed by the trombone; there are a number of super-low growls that I admit loving to an absurd degree. Other exterior sounds--voices, traffic, doors, laughter-- are picked up by thin scrapings of strings, transparent sine layers, creaks of chairs. In some respects, it's a very "dach"-like experience. Activity on the second day, at least what's extracted here, bares a bit more bristle, the computer sputtering and pinging, the horn breathier. The outside world, while still present, is less of a factor, foregrounding the trio, perhaps encouraging a modicum of greater activity and dynamics, providing enough of a contrast to justify the second disc. I might slightly prefer Disc One due to that extra sense of adjacent activity, but both are quite strong, unforced and very, very satisfying. Excellent work.

Ernesto Rodrigues/Nuno Torres/Mike Bullock - Asteres Planetai (Creative Sources)

Nice title... :-) From June, 2013, a trio with Rodrigues again on viola, Torres on alto saxophone and Bullock eschewing bass in favor of his modular synth. As one might expect, quite different from the above, more visceral including the in and out usage of drones or drone-like passages effected, I think, both by the alto and the synth. It's not frenetic by any means just a few notches higher on the urgency scale than "Late Summer" as well as sporting an expanded sonic palette. Torres does a welcome job of allowing the listener to forget that there's a saxophone present while, on the other hand, Rodrigues engages in a tad more "traditional" technique extensions on the viola. Bullock seems to supply much of the material here, unless I'm confusing sources (quite possible), issuing metallic bubbles here, static there and various shades of sine-age throughout and interpolating a surprisingly loud and "inappropriate" noise on occasion which is much appreciated. It closes with watery gurgles...Not as captivating as the Malfatti trio but solid enough and well worth hearing.

Ernesto Rodrigues/Bertrand Gauguet/Ricardo Guerreiro - Early Reflections (Creative Sources)

Rounding out this trio of releases is yet another trio, again with Rodrigues and Guerreiro on viola and computer but here including alto saxophonist Gauguet, two tracks, one studio and one live, from July, 2013. It's unfair, of course, to treat these three releases as a triptych of any sort yet the temptation is there. Whereas "Asteres Planetai", in a way, balanced on the edge of the Wandelweiserian, "Early Reflections" sems to consider the matter and then to resolutely opt for a fuller expression, one that, especially on the live track, "Stone", acknowledges its surroundings but fills them to the brim nonetheless, leaving scant space unoccupied. A good decision, I think, to really thrust one way or the other and it pays off in the stronger portions here, especially in the intertwining of the saxophone (harshly breathy) and the computer, which create a seriously scouring force at times, prodded along by harsh pluckings from Rodrigues. When the music evanesces, as it does toward the end of "Stone", there's a fine sense of decompression, an earned release. This approach almost guarantees a rocky road but if and when things mesh, and they do here a reasonable amount of the time, the results carry an extra frisson of excitement. My caveat is unavoidable: that I'd rather hear this trio on an ongoing basis rather than form an opinion from a single recording. But as is, it's another one I'd recommend hearing.

Creative Sources

Sunday, March 30, 2014

download universe....It's a little strange "reviewing" things that anyone can, without spending a dime, listen to themselves. I suppose as a pointer to something it's fine, but still...Luddite about some things... also find that I'm sent, via links, many more things that fall well outside my range of interest than occurs with physical items that reach my mailbox. In any case, here a couple that I liked very much...

Lee Noyes/Johnny Chang - Never Having Been to Beirut (ISR/Digital download)

Chang on violin, viola, field recordings and Noyes handling feedback electronics. Four quiet but tough and gnarly tracks, Noyes' low-level electronics against/with Chang's minimal but sometimes antagonistic strings. "Antagonistic" in the sense that he often occupies that territory which, stereotypically, drives people nuts: for lack of a better term, "the squeaky violin", admittedly, not my favorite zone either, though it shouldn't be the case, just a matter of not being able to jettison all the baggage one builds up. So it's kind of tough sledding for a while, to these ears but also a very welcome experience, forcing one (me, at least) to readjust my preconceptions or try to do so. The first piece, "First day in Beirut - composite state - initial encounter" sort of traverses many conditions, from Wandelweiser-ly soft to uncomfortably itchy to a kind of resolution, Chang's violin (I think) settling into a brief and lovely area, almost romantic, toward the end. "Untitled 2" takes a fairly simply structure and works it out very strongly, Chang concentrating on a single bowed tone on viola (if I'm not mistaken) and putting it through all sorts of permutations, Noyes beginning alongside with high sine tones and allowing them to branch into regions tangentially related but generally with a sense of continuity. The five-minute third piece seems a bit throwaway but th efinal one pushes all the right buttons. It's very wide-open and manages to attain something of an epic quality over its 22 minutes, full of air and undulations. Huge variety of sounds here but somehow they remain almost backgrounded, very much part of the fabric. Strong piece, beautifully realized.

You, of course,can listen and see if you agree.

ISR Bandcamp site

J.C. Combs - Every Junkie is a Recording (Digital download)

Admittedly, an album title that, on its own, would not have me putting in any extra effort to hear,'s really pretty good!

A 34-minute piece for electronics, though it seems as if some percussive elements may have been sourced, The calmly paced progression that begins the piece reminds me of those slow Javanese ensembles (Jegog?). Here the basic sound is somewhere between a tap and a pluck, quickly becoming absorbed in the general, ringing haze. Very hallucinatory, very enticing. The serene rhythm disappears into the void, leaving a large, rippling eddy, reasonably interesting on its own if overstaying it welcome by a few minutes before it begins adding layers and intensity in anticipation of the recurrence of the initial theme heralded by some lovely bell sounds. But the gentle ambiance cedes way to a fine dark surge, inky water rushing by which, in turn, expands into a larger body, still agitated and roiled. The ticking of a clock suddenly enters, all else ceases.

A scenic ride, very enjoyable, hear for yourself.

J.C. Combs Bandcamp

Friday, March 28, 2014

Daniel Brandes/Andrea Young/Benjamin Brandes - Through the Window & the Wood (digital download)

A very challenging recording. Sixteen pieces, each precisely ten minutes long, each a similar construction, differing subtly in internal details.

Had I heard this blindfolded, I likely would have guessed Antoine Beuger, both in the calm temporal extension and in the quietude and repetition of a serene space. Not too far afield as Daniel Brandes is affiliated with the Wandelweiser composers and, in the accompanying notes, cites his walks and conversations with Beuger as a shaping influence. What he's done here is to take the texts of several poems by his brother Benjamin (or fragments thereof. The poems are printed in the booklet and, in my less than knowledgeable opinion about things poetic, are often quite beautiful) and has them sung by Young, softly, slowly, surfacing now and again during a given work's ten-minute span. The ongoing sonic elements are also sourced from Young's voice, though altered through samples and time-stretching enough that I think it's fair to say that, without being told, there's little chance one would recognize them as stemming from a voice. Always very hushed, my impressions would have ranged from enhanced room tones, to breezes to breath through slightly resonant metal tubes. As is often the case in my experience with the work of Beuger and several other akin composers, I find the music particularly amenable to the integration of whatever happens to be occurring in my actual environment, at least to the extent that these sounds are similarly soft and non-aggressive (there was a point, during one listen, where I thought Brandes may have introduced a vague pulse into the proceedings. No such luck, just a beat from the stereo in an adjacent apartment...). Young's voice, though seemingly quite clear, elongates the words to such a degree as to almost obfuscate any definite recognizability. When her voice surfaces it's very much in the foreground but generally appears for only a few moments, singing just a couple of words, before receding into Daniel Brandes' reconstructions of her sounds. All of which works very effectively. Again, though, as with much long-duration work from the Wandelweiser group, the music levies strong demands from the listener if (s)he chooses to concentrate instead of setting it amongst the happenstances of daily life. I found it fascinating and often beautiful but it requires some commitment.

Benjamin Brandes' poems are very imagistic and dreamlike. There's one, though, that stands out for its overtly sing-songy character, which I love I thought I'd print it here, making allowances for the inability to center the lines, as they are in the original. The title is, "How Many Were There?"

I put the ponies
in the parlor

the horses
in the cellar

I went running

up the staircase

through the doorway

just to tell her

Daniel Brandes' Bandcamp site

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sink - [unreleased recording]

Here's something I've never done before: writing about a recording session that, at the moment, hasn't been and isn't about to be released. Not exactly sure how to go about it...

Suffice it to say that Andrea Ermke (who plays mini-discs and mixing board with Sink) sent me four music files which I've listened to and she was interested in having me write about the music. I'd previously heard a track from Sink (the other three members being Chris Abrahams on DX7, Marcello Busato on drums and Arthur Rother on guitar) on the Echtzeitmuzik collection that appeared a couple of years back. The four tracks "here", recorded in 2012, extend and elaborate that sound. Sometimes I think of a less obsessive Radian or Trapist in that the music bears pulse patterns every so often but they're more readily allowed to unspool and wander. Abrahams' keyboard is occasionally pitched very close to the classic Terry Riley tones, very warm, especially when arrayed against Busato's sparkling metals. Ermke (I think) throws in plenty of noise elements to keep things honest. It's an unusual sound, very electric--you almost expect things to break out into a fusion session, but it never does--, very insistently dreamy, meditative but active, some hints of alap in the guitar, maybe. Much of the third track is all flutters of various kinds set atop a thin drone and emerging, barely nascent drum rhythm, really fine.

Hard to describe, but there are other soundfiles at the site below to give you a better idea. Just keep an ear out for this if it ever properly surfaces. You heard (about) it here first...


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coppice - Hoist Spell Extensions (Quakebasket)

A selection of remixes of the track from the Quakebasket release, "Big Wad Excisions".

I have to say that the whole (by now, ancient) remix thing pretty much passed me by. I'd run across stuff from time to time, of course, but the idea never particularly intrigued me as such. So, in cases like this, I simply listen to the works as independent pieces, not referring back to the original to check my memory of it (or lack of same), not looking to hear like threads from piece to piece etc.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, my preferences in this batch run to people whose work I already know and admire. Michael Pisaro's take enters refreshingly rough waters, coasting through layers of itchy, crumbling material, strong surge beneath, sizzles above--great stuff. A longish version by Jeff Gburek is fascinating throughout, working with the drones of the original pump organs, finding a really lovely middle ground through them, using bits of iterated material and a vast array of colors within a relatively narrow dynamic spectrum; another wonderful piece. I also greatly enjoyed the contributions from Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt), a meditative essay emphasizing the organ tones and adding delicate bell-tones, and mAAs (Connor Bell and Tim Barnes), wherein a fine, scratchy matrix of noise morphs into a resonant, even melodious throb (maybe even containing Brazilian echoes). That throb works for me whereas some of the more rockish rhythms encountered in other remixes sit less well, though I hasten to point out that each track is well-constructed and sounds excellent. I was pleasantly surprised by Joachim Nordwall's closing entry, expecting something perhaps more oppressive but instead finding a darkly shuffling bit o' chill, sleek and reptilian, very fine.

But listen for yourself at Quakebasket-bandcamp. Then buy.

Zero Centigrade - Birch (obs*instrument)

A simple enough structure, well executed, results in a very attractive recording. Tonino Taiuti and Vicenzo De Luce, on acoustic guitars, send their music from one area to another and back over the course of some 26 minutes, an enjoyable and subtly complex journey. The body of the work is bracketed by two short episodes of the pair plucking strongly at their guitars but leaving substantial space around the notes, perhaps echoing Fahey at his sparest, both tonal and abstract. After five or six minutes, they then allow various forms of feedback to enter the picture, gradually at first then quickly coming to predominate. Several general characteristics of the acoustic guitars are always retained--a certain buzz, the overall tone--even as they're bent, warped and twisted, often resonating quite deeply, as though the listener is placed right beneath the sound hole. The variation within the world is captivating, ranging from smooth throbs to harsh scrapes and much between, until a single piercing note announces the return to the acoustic realm, wisps of electricity still flitting about above the proceedings, but soon evaporating, the guitars stroked lovingly to conclude. Concision within which you hear expansiveness; no mean feat and well done here.

iQ+1 - iQ+1 (Poli5)

Georgij Bagdasarov (vintage turntable, baritone sax, guitar), Kateřina Bilejová(body weather, an aspect of Butoh dance), Jana Kneschke (violin, FX), Jára Tarnovski (analog synths, theremin, kalimba, FX, percussion), Petr Vrba (clarinet, trumpet), Michal Zbořil(analog synths, kalimba) Federsel, bass guitar, Max/MSP recording, mixing).

An oddly interesting recording. You can tick off influences as the music progresses: certainly electric Miles rears up a few time and also the early Art Ensemble of Chicago; even a seeming nod to "No Pussyfooting" at the end. But the overall sound manages to slide between these reference points, not necessarily resulting in something terribly new but it does become music that sounds reasonably unique. Bagdasarov's baritone often feels as though its charting the course here, played deeply as a rule (and the source of the Roscoe Mitchell tint; the kalimbas add to the AEC vibe as well) but the synths and, presumably, other electronics, fashion a pulsing bed, sometimes almost a rhythm, that carries things along with a certain amount of smoothness and also, along with the occasional muted trumpet, is the reason that "Bitches Brew" and the like is evoked. Not to belabor the point but, towards the end of the first track, the combination of soaring clarinet and burbling electronics also caused me to flash on that old S.O.S. (Skidmore, Osborne, Surman) album on Ogun...The stew is fairly dense, always a surge of activity from several quarters, more of a free jazz than post-AMM sensibility afoot, but never really overbearing. It's not exactly up my alley, of course, but very well realized on its own terms and worth a listen if the above mélange would seem to strike your fancy.


Criticon Duo - How to get a cold (Noplyn)

Petr Vrba reappears as half of Criticon Duo (trumpet, objects--the photo insert seems to show him playing a reed trumpet and, indeed, I think I hear it often), joined by Tomás Gris, also deploying objects as well as saxophone and electronics. The music is much closer to "eai" than the above though by and large of a perfunctory sort. Gris utilizes standard extended techniques on the saxophones (alto and baritone, I think)--breathiness, key clacking, etc., doing so effectively enough, intertwined with Vrba's objects, often more or less percussive in nature, at least when the trumpet isn't in use, the pair buoyed along by cracked electronics of the kind we're entirely used to. It's fine just not so out of the ordinary. I've mentioned before what I think of as the Mullerization of a branch of eai, the more burbling electronics type, which Günter Müller refined to a point where things became far too routine and smooth. Something of the sort is my impression here as well: too much routineness in the sounds (regular sequences of taps on the sax, for instance), too little thought about placement or even the necessity of making a noise at all. Playing sparse and rarely isn't easy and, as is often the case (to my ears) when difficulty is encountered along those lines, the most rewarding moments are when the musicians essentially abandon that tack and begin playing more fully, more "normally"; that's the case here, as well. Not bad after all's said and done, but a bit dispiriting in many respects. But by all means, hear for yourself.

Noplyn Netlabel

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Coppice - Vantage/Cordoned (Caduc)

Everyone's favorite old wood organ duo is back with another highly enjoyable effort. The enigmatically titled "So Lobes Drape as Such Gills Over a Hangman's Pit" features a Kinder pump organ which is coaxed to emit super-deep thrums and throbs, a rich, wet grind. Taped sounds, fast forwarded or reversed, arise within various wind patterns that shift into an altered version of the beginning, the low tones moderated but still growling menacingly before the enormous centrifugal force collapses in on itself. The far longer (25-minute) "Soft crown", using an Estey brand instrument, necessarily takes its time to unfurl, quiet hisses turning out to be a vast apian swarm, laying waste to a field of crickets. They apparently start a fire (I'm reminded of the locust swarm scene in "Days of Heaven"); things appear to be crumbling, falling apart. Me, I'm wondering how (or how much of) this is being derived from the pump organ, poor thing. An uneasy calm settles in, the fauna circling desultorily, then a kind of tidal surge takes over, semi-regular, pulsing, covering everything uniformly and bringing the day to a peaceful end.

Good work, very satisfying, Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer generating a unique and wonderful sound world.

Joda Clément/Daniel Jones/Lance Austin Olsen/Mathieu Ruhlmann - A Concert for Charles Cros (Caduc)

A sort-of-live recording from 2013 with Clément (analog synth, field recordings, objects), Jones (guitar, electronics), Olsen (tape players, amplified objects, trainer guitar) and Ruhlmann (reel to reel, cymbal, ukelin, objects) honoring, I take it, the poet Charles Cros otherwise unknown to me but, it seems, "muse to Manet and Mallarmé". I say "Sort-of-live" because, as I understand it (via a little bird), Jones' contributions came via a pre-recorded session, played into the room in which the three Canadian musicians improvised. Whatever the case, it's a strong effort, with AMM-ish tinges. The first of the four tracks especially, with low-level hums, scratchy-soft static and radio snatches, evokes that model quite well, though perhaps with more of an ongoing, connective drone-like thread than AMM would generally employ; solid work. The second cut, bearing the delightful title, "An insect tests the circle of light", is very intriguing in that on the surface, it sounds very much like an extension of the first but on repeated listens, you realize it's quite different, generating a soundscape that has an entirely other sense of grain, very fascinating, active in some strata, serene in others, altogether lovely. Both of the final two tracks, "May, is out there, three" and "Not vital" are shorter, about five and seven minutes, and never quite congeal before they're rather abruptly ended, striking an odd note. The first two make up for this, though, fine stuff there.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Christian Kesten/Mark Trayle - F23M-12: Field with Figures No. 1-4

Annette Krebs - rush!

(Another Timbre)

The second release in Another Timbre's split-disc Berlin series, two very challenging works.

I'm only minimally familiar with the work of both Kesten (voice) and Trayle (electronics, guitar) and had little in the way of expectations. The piece, in four parts, is very jagged in some respects, especially the earlier electronic portions, the sounds arrayed in unusually "awkward" sequences--I should rather say unanticipated as, over its course, a kind of implied pace, if not rhythm, makes itself felt. Kesten's contributions are extremely subtle; generally, the only way to distinguish them (not that it's necessary) is to infer by exclusion and assume what remains must be him--the sustained breathing sounds. Often, those sounds act as a kind of tinge on Trayle's more aggressive noise but then they'll suddenly sync up, attain equal "weight". When they do, it's a very beautiful, if icily alien effect. The work trends toward slightly quieter climes, the second part engaging in some sound-play that's a bit goofier than I'd have wanted to hear, though the latter two sections settle down into some fine areas, still prickly--sharp pings and harsh breath, for instance, morphing into rough-edged siren-like sounds--but interspersed with softer, if slightly sour moments, really fine. My own perceptions shifted substantially from listen to listen, always picking up different relationships, different senses of structure--this is a good thing! A tough, bracing piece, I like it.

Krebs, on the other hand, I've been following pretty throughly over the years and my impression at the moment is that "rush!" (two versions presented here) is her most solidly realized work yet. The elements will be more or less familiar to listeners who know her work: isolated words (or fragments thereof), urban field recordings, guitar-sourced sounds. In earlier works, there was often an intriguing and, for me, beguiling awkwardness in structure, sometimes not entirely working, other times seeming to work despite itself. Here, she's just barely smoothed the edges and, while retaining a very personal feeling of pace and progression, imparting a real, flowing solidity to the music. Her choices are dreamlike, sometimes disturbingly so. The second version includes several of the same elements but also makes use of protracted silences that somehow increase the dreamy aspect, the voices, radio grabs and other sounds appearing suddenly--and briefly--out of the dark. The scattered instances of what I take to be a deep, bowed guitar lend a beautiful, mournful cast. Really strong work, perhaps my favorite thing thus far from Krebs.

Another Timbre

Monday, March 17, 2014

Partial - LL (Another Timbre)

I've often opined that there are some folk who simply strike me as have such a marvelous, inherent (to my ears) musicality that most anything they do somehow manages to sound good. Not that I can parse out the contributions of Joseph Clayton Mills to Haptic and Noé Cuéllar to Coppice and other formations, but I have that sense here as well. As Partial, the pair made use of the kibble found in the basement of Pilsen Vintage and Thrift in Chicago to construct the two long tracks here (and the delightful coda), creating some outstanding, intimate and, well, very musical music.

"Marcel" uses material found in the store but "augmented" with other sources. It builds wonderfully from the opening sounds, crests and falls off suddenly into a more disparate world, rumbling and popping. You *do* get the feeling of a large, subsurface room, aflutter with activity. It's interesting knowing, via text, the nature of much of the sound sources (as there's no way you'd know from simply listening, in the sense of the kind of patina it casts over the piece, a subtly moving, nostalgic one. Much ground is covered; I especially enjoy the creaking and squeaking later on, a wonderful seesaw effect, very present and tactile. "Paul", built from a series of duo improvisations Mills and Cuéllar recorded when first investigating the scare is sparser, rawer, but no less captivating. Rubbing sounds predominate, adorned by metallic pings, scratches, dropped items (recorded well enough to have had me up off the couch, checking to see what happened in the other room) and a distant hum--verbal descriptions wont convey much but, as above, I hear a really fine sense of what's musical amidst these "non-musical" sounds, an acute sensitivity at play.

As a final grace note, we have "a SIngle screw of Flesh is all that pins the Soul" (great line which I shamefully admit having to look up--Emily Dickinson), a simple, gorgeous recording of a music box found int he thrift song, wound up and played as is, no more, no less. Very moving.

As is the whole disc, a a beautiful, superlatively musical document.

Another Timbre

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A quartet of new things from Copy For Your Records

delicate sen - Four Years Later (since.why not)

An unexpected point of reference surfaced in my head while listening to this altogether wonderful new recording by Billy Gomberg (synthesizers), Anne Guthrie (French horn, preparations) and Richard Kamerman (drums, junk, YouTube, Deicide)--I found myself thinking of work done by the pre-Don Moye Art Ensemble, music from 1968-69 in which there's (to my mind, anyway) a somewhat similar physicality and sense of space. Guthrie's horn takes on Bowie's role (about nine minutes into the second cut, she gives vent to a couple of startlingly Bowie-esque bleats), Gomberg perhaps Jarman (even some deep log drum echoes late on the first track!) and Kamerman a combo of Mitchell and Favors on "little instruments" (I can imagine the earlier group using YouTube and even Deicide were they available then). I take it for granted, of course, that nothing of the sort occupied the minds of these three musicians, that's it's just a function of this aging listener...Long tones of multiple kind, electronic and horn-generated, the latter sometimes strangled but always poignant, arrayed among a beautifully full yet spacious clatter, the three pieces sustained very ably, never over-meandering. There's a wealth of great stuff here--repeated surprise as one delightful passage after another surfaces, unexpected but making sense in hindsight. Gomberg's sensuous tendencies on synth are accommodated here more fully than I've heard before, not by simply an opposing stance taken by, say, Kamerman, but by choosing sounds that give those lush layers more weight, even if that element is (I take it) a YouTube instructional video on drawing a rabbit. Needless to say, the same works in reverse and more with Guthrie threading between and above. Roscoe Mitchell meets AMM may be overselling things but this marvelous session does hint at something new, even as it evokes something old. Great work, very exciting.

Jack Harris/Samuel Rodgers - Get Buried

A testy little number...EP of disembodied, thin shards inflicting paper cuts on one's ears. Well, not that abrasive but there's a (welcome) sense of purposeful discomfort in the opening minutes, the needling tones here, dryly ratcheting ones there. The lower growls that enter some four minutes in act as a salve even as further, more varied pinpricks emerge. That deep strain and a clattering/staticky higher one do a kind of intertwining dance for a while, tossing off semi-related splinters now and then, before crumbling away. Things get rough for a bit with gnarly slabs of raw, dirty noise interposed among bleak, pale sine-like tones, very arid and oddly bracing. The last several minutes offer another balm of sorts, bell-like sounds wrapped in heavy wool, battered by muffled thuds and radio interference. Strong medicine, good for what ails you.

Marcus Rubio - Music for Microphones

Rubio writes that he took as a starting point the classic (but relatively little known) work by Steve Reich, "Pendulum Music", where speakers were set swinging alongside one another generating semi-unpredictable results. Rubio takes matters a few steps further, using mics--their adjacency, contacts, abrasion, etc. to create an impressively wide range of noise. The first of seven cuts raised expectations with some great, watery pinging set amid rougher, drier soundage. To my ears, there's something of a loss in focus during the remainder of the first half of the disc; I found myself yearning for a more interesting structure to house the sounds, which have the danger of simply coming across as effects. But about halfway through, Rubio lowers the intensity level a bit and a fine, tensile lattice seems to emerge, the sounds--which continue to be marvelous--hanging in a kind of web that has its own fascination and enhances the hums, dings, ghostly flute-like tones and more. The last two tracks, including the final one where he becomes much more active but retains a fantastic sense of elastic structure, are excellent. This is my first exposure to Rubio's music (he says, cautiously)--eager to hear more.

Radioda - Rondo

As I remarked upon first listening to "Rondo": Sometimes, you just want a good, dirty, mealy, abstract throb. Radioda (Mikołaj Tkacz and Piotr Tkacz--I'll go out on a limb and guess at some kind of relation--on radios) provide this and then some. How precisely they accomplish this via radios (a Unitra Diora Beskid, which looks like a 1950s multi-wavelength mini-console and Grundig Freaxx 20, apparently a beatbox of sorts) is beyond me, as one hears a vast, rich, pulsating mess of sound, bass-fluttery, grinding and surging. I'm reminded (as I often am) of the old Partch line (paraphrasing): They do exactly one thing but that one thing they do superbly. Immersion is rewarded with plenty to experience, to almost reach out and touch, the endless plies of shuddering drones occasionally augmented by a murky snatch of voice. A fine sense of "fuck it" abandon and an excellent palate cleanser. Go for it.

Copy For Your Records

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taku Sugimoto - Quartet Octet (slubmusic tengu)

The quartet (Kazushiga Kinoshita, violin; Sugimoto, guitar; Taku Unami, sine tones; Nikos Veliotis, cello) only lasts a couple of minutes, each player creating delicate, spare sounds of about four seconds duration, in three sets of ten reasonably similar sets though with a good amount of interior variation with regard to placement and specific pitch. It's a rather lovely miniature, a seemingly simplepoem that has more richness than is apparent on first glimpse. The octet is without Kinoshita but adds Klaus Filip (sine tones), Ko Ishikawa (sho), Moe Kimura (voice), Radu Malfatti (trombone) and Masahiko Okura (clarinet). It's kind of a looser version of the quartet, the notes' duration allowed more latitude, some instruments taking substantial time between contributions (though it never quite goes silent). As Richard mentioned in his write-up, Kimura's voice stands out a bit here, though it doesn't particularly bother me. If anything, I'd like to have heard clearer sound quality. I'm not usually an audiophile kinda guy and understand that this is a live recording, but I can't help but think a more pristine ambience would have helped matters. As is, it's a gently swaying work, almost pastoral if you choose to hear it as such, and odd combination of the sparse and the sing-songy. Repeated listens yielded different results: sometimes it went by almost unnoticed; other times, I'd pick up on a hitherto unnoticed, surprisingly melodic mini-phrase--there's an especially lovely one just before the end. About two thirds of the time, I've ended up liking the longer piece a good bit, the other third I've been not so impressed. I figure that in itself is (to me) interesting enough to recommend it.

ju sei/Utah Kawasaki - U as in Utah (meenna)

Been quite a while since I've heard anything from the fellow with the greatest name in eai and this is quite a strange one. ju sei is a duo consisting of Junichiro Tanaka (guitars, effects, Kaossilator_ and sei (vocals). I've no idea about their routine output (if it's much different than what's heard here) but on this disc, there's a wide range from drony to jpop balladry to naive hip-hop and much else, little of it, I should say, inherently appealing to me (the the song that appears as track #7 on the first of the two discs here is very charming; I have a notion that's it's a cover of some pop song I don't recognize. There's also a portion of the next section that strongly reminds my of Otomo's rendition of "Super Jetter" from the Takeo Yamashita recording). But generally, with ju sei, I hear a veneer of whimsical wackiness that rather rubs me the wrong way. Kawasaki, on synthesizer, adds adornment and I have to say, nothing that stands out as much more than coloration. Granted, this is a live recording and, per the website, Kawasaki had no prior talks with the duo, in a sense placing it within the ambit of many a free improv session, where "failure" is always an option. If this is meant as meta-commentary on pop music, well, eh, so what. I assume it's more an actual collaboration between musicians who appreciate each other's work and I suppose it works fine if your area of interest overlaps. Say, an updating of aspects of Henry Cow, Tenniscoats, noise-improv and synth-y psychedelia. Save for snatches here and there--the aforementioned and parts toward the end of the first track on Disc Two, where there exists a fine combination of noise and deep, lush synth, I was left largely unmoved. More than most, you mileage may vary.


Both available via Erst Dist

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Luciano Maggiore - Onagro

Gunnar Lettow/Gregory Büttner - Flakes

Amptext - Seeds of Erasure

This trio of 3" releases from 1000füssler arrived together and, though doubtless not intended this way, their relative (by no means great) self-similarity makes it difficult not to hear them as a kind of a suite, and an excellent one at that, all three being very enjoyable.

Maggiore's "Onagro" consists of six brief pieces comprised of field recordings, though sounding more like amplifications inside a burning Cd player, all delicate crackles, sometimes with regular iterations as of some mechanical revolutions, but also sounding as though embedded in a wider atmosphere, a haze of just discernible noises in the background. Wonderful stereophony in play here; situating one's ears between speakers is a giddy joy. The sounds vary in timbre--lower knocking ones, hollow ping-pongy ones--but the activity level is similar, active but very natural sounding, as some highly mic'd goings on in a garden, though perhaps an artificial one. Fascinating, capable of being listened to over and over.

"Flakes", two tracks from Lettow and Büttner, almost seems like a fuller, denser variation on "Onagro", although entirely unrelated. Fashioned with multiple objects and instruments, including fans, the listener is once more plunged into a quite palpable sound-world, a-boil with movement, one's ears caroming inside a more closed area, the noises a bit more oppressive. Growls, thrums, deep ratcheting--a general sense of darkness prevails, especially in the first cut, "Greyish". The other, "Ocher", is just barely lighter, airier, still twittering with all sorts of vaguely malevolent creatures. Rough and tumble, as harsh as need be, brooding and altogether fine.

Amptext is cellist Gary Rouzer's affair and this imaginary suite full circle, quite beautifully. He also uses a set of fans (air conditioner variety) for the first piece, recorded and set through a complicated series of transformations, including a final recording of four other recordings played at staggered start times. However arrived at, the result is pretty stunning, an expanse of hisses, wheezes, squeaks, rumbles and the odd roar that's totally enveloping, somehow evoking the natural world and its fauna. The title cut involves placing two unrelated pieces side by side and then "erasing sections to expose any narrative flow that might be hidden". I like that idea...The cello is more prominent here (I think it appears on the first piece, unless there are some cello-like fans) heard against an abstract slate of rubbings and soft abrasions, emerging and disappearing. Another excellent work.

Had I to choose, the Amptext would be my pick, but each is very fine. Why not collect the set?


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Sergio Merce - Microtonal Saxophone (Potlatch)

I think it's fair to say that, among labels catering to the portion of the musical spectrum with which we're largely concerned here, Jacque Oger's Potlatch has devoted more time than most to the saxophone, that often shunned instrument, looked at askance (by some) due to the amount of seemingly unremovable baggage retained from its jazz and free jazz incarnations. Perhaps the fact that Oger was a saxophonist himself in his youth (with the fine ensemble, Axolotl in the early 80s) accounts for this. In any case, a listener coming unaware to this recording, without benefit of specific knowledge or seeing the packaging, would be hard pressed to identify the sounds as saxophonic in origin--barely a shred remains, as the Argentinian Sergio Merce has entirely re-imagined the instrument, essentially producing a brand new one.

As can be seen more clearly above, Merce has taken an alto saxophone, removed all the keys and replaced them with various household plumbing fixtures. The videos I've been able to locate (like this one: are dimly lit, but I assume he simply uses his fingers as keypads, covering the open apertures. I also take it that by virtue of the devices being screwed in, he's able to adjust the resultant pitches to an extremely precise degree, resulting in the micro-tunings. Plus, I have to say, the object simply looks fantastic. What does it sound like? Well, first off, as explored by Merce on this disc, it's all soft, long-held, gently fluctuating tones; he doesn't (thankfully) take a Brotzmann approach to it--I've no idea how that would work. While it's possible to detect a reedy sensation hovering in the air, the overriding feeling one gets is of electronics. Merce uses a sustain pedal to enable multiple, co-existing lines as well as creating his own multiphonics, enabling a music that approximates some Lucier compositions wherein sine waves and an acoustic instrument are integrated. There's a marvelous shimmering effect in action almost all the time, transparent scrims of tone wafting about, interacting--really a wonderful sound.

The pieces strike me more as explorations than compositions as such, as though Merce is still negotiating his way through the intricacies and mysteries of his creation, which is entirely appropriate. The connections are ephemeral and even ghostly, perhaps with echoes of Radigue (that's likely to be more me than Merce, but I could easily imagine the microtonal sax being put to use by Radigue). He takes his time, allowing the lines to weave their own patterns, very calm, very beautiful. Four tracks, not appreciably different, just subtle variations in pathways, slight shifts in tint, all containing some level of grit that prevents things from sliding off into pastels. Very much worth hearing on its own and I look forward to hearing Merce wield his axe in context with other musicians int he future.


IST - Consequences (of time and place) (Confront)

Another in the continuing series of archival recordings on Confront, here documenting a 1997 performance of the venerable IST trio (Rhodri Davies, harp; Simon H. Fell, double bass; Mark Wastell, cello; there's a bevy of percussive sounds on the third cut, though perhaps it's Davies messing with his axe). Its an interesting set both for the music itself and for its moment in time with regard to the the burgeoning quiet improv "movement". What's immediately apparent is how attached the three remain, at this point, to the spikier branch of free improvisation that was quite prominent in England from (at least) the late 80s, not so loud but very active. There's nothing minimalist in their approach at this point and scarce few hints that it might be a direction they'd take, either as a group or individually (Wastell and Davies would make this turn, Fell somewhat less so, at least in my experience of his work, apart from VHF, whose disc on Erstwhile was recorded within a year to year and a half from this date). I must say, there's something very attractive about hearing Davies, by and large, once again pluck at the harp while Wastell often enough bows or plucks the cello in a manner, if not style, that his teachers would recognize.

For this listener, the most exciting sections are actually when the trio is at its most vociferous as in the aforementioned track (titled, "Improvised Explosive Device") and much of the closing "Broad Strokes (for Franz Kline)", where the music verges on the rollicking. They create a real forest here, great depth and a level of activity that, while quite high, feels organic and causal. There are ups and downs for me, looking back over 17 years but I found that the more I listen, the more immersive the material became. Despite stylistic attributes that are less enticing for this listener than they might have been at time, the sheer musicality of the participants ends up carrying the day more often than I would have guessed. Apart from the history, there's good, gnarly, challenging listening to be had here. "Consequences" indeed. Delve in.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

Socrates Martinis - Fusil Photographique (noise below)

The last release I heard from Martinis was about 17 minutes long, this one less than 11 (a cassette, reviewed here on CDr). But there's much to be said for concision. From the onset, an intensely harsh sequence that sounds like a dozen sparrows being strangled, one expects a noise assault but things rapidly shift, multiple times, segueing to layers of hiss and scoured metal, thick, muted scratches and more. Thats the first minute. The rest proceeds apace, jumping furrows from one burred line to another, with leaps and plummets in volume, wide variation in texture, lending an almost haphazard aspect to the affair, though I'd guess the sections are pieced together with care, if "shot" with the photographic gun of the title. It's less a slide show than the above might suggest and, given its brevity, you can "stand back" and take it in at a long glance, rendering at least semi-audible its writhing whole. Good work.

noise below @ bandcamp


I have this other disc, which I think came along in the package with the above, though if there was an accompanying note, I've managed to lose it. The disc bears a label "NU Internationl" which yields next to nothing on Google and it's in a plain, white paper CD sleeve. It might be another by Martinis, though I can't match up the timings with anything of his I can locate and, as well, I neither have nor can find an e-mail for him so's I can ask! It consists of nine tracks, totaling some 24 minutes (leading me to think it might stem from a cassette) of softly chittering electronics, a quiet sound-world of alien insects and small animals, occasionally shadowed by massive gong-like sounds going through several transformations, ending in a rattling, empty space. It's an enjoyable set, nicely focussed. If anyone (including Socrates!) can ID it for me, much appreciated.

[Socrates informs me that it's not of his doing, so the mystery remains. Apologies to whomever belongs to it!]

[Ok, mystery solved: The disc is from No UFO's, MPC Tracks Vol. II on the Nice Up International label, a project of Konrad Jandavs. Deep apologies for its origin getting lost in the shuffle. Here's a link to the discogs page]

Mohammad - Roto Vildblomma (antifrost)

Also a little bit unusual as the disc is a few years old and only made it into my hands via the good graces of Jacques Oger, who had an extra copy. But it's well worth letting people know about, if briefly.

Nikos Veliotis (cello), Coti K. (bass) and Ilios (electronics). Too call it drone music would be oversimplifying--long held lines, yes but with subtle shifts that sometimes, as on the opening and concluding tracks (the latter apparently adding a bass clarinet), have classical overtones. But yes, those sliding tones, ply after steady ply, gauzelike but with enough soot and grain to acquire some tooth. Surging pulse on the fourth piece, altogether great music in which to wallow. Really fine, check it out.


Michael Vincent Waller - Five Easy Pieces (digital release)

A set of five short solo piano works, performed by Megumi Shibata (the first four) and Jenny Q. Chai (the last one). To the small extent I've heard it, Waller's music has centered around a kind of melodic classicism, the source of which I struggle to ascertain. He references, in various fora, many of the grand names of the Post-WWII avant-garde (two of the pieces here, "Per Terry e Morty, I & II" cite, one presumes, Feldman and either Riley or Jennings) but it's usually tough to pick up more than a glimmer of direct influence. Tinges of minimalism appear now and then; patterns repeat but more in the manner of a Ravel than a Riley. More than anything, there's a sense of nostalgic romanticism which can be good or bad. There's beauty in the progressions, which are stately enough for me to think "processional" now and then but there's little sense of hesitation or uncertainty; one gets the feeling of very well-crafted exercises with few chances taken. Often, when they reach a brief, hazy ecstatic feeling (my favorite moments) I think of Jarrett's Gurdjieff pieces which have a similar, vaguely mystical aura. Interesting, well-molded music but I'd like to hear Waller push it more, risk more failure. But then, I guess, they wouldn't be "easy pieces".

Waller's Bandcamp site