Thursday, June 11, 2015

Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Um Em Um (Monotype)

A searing set from Costa Monteiro, credited with accordion and objects but generating sounds it's hard to imagine not incorporating bows, electronic, etc., but that's how he does on his axe of choice. It starts with keening overtones arriving in harshly shimmering waves, gradually drops into "standard" accordion range/pitch (though augmented with a sputtering gargle and other noises), maintaining the drone consistency but fluctuating mightily. Not so dissimilar in basic form to the his just previously reviewed collaboration with Lali Barrière but the acoustic nature of the sound production necessarily allows for more air, particulate matter and other irregularities that help to sustain extreme interest. The long winding-down process, beginning with a fantastic bellows-like section, is expertly handled, a gradual loss of respiratory functions, settling into a thin whistle. Very strong work, one of my favorite releases from Costa Monteiro.

Mirt - Mud, Dirt & Hiss (Catsun/Monotype)

I'm not quite sure about the provenance here. This was originally issued as a cassette by Catsun, a sub-label of Monotype, whose site lists it as sold out. But this seems to be a joint Catsun/Monotype release, complete with new sleeve, though I couldn't locate it on the Monotype site. In any case, we have a set of propulsive, often burbling electronics, synth-y streams (as is likely too often the case, I'm reminded of old Roger Powell tracks, e.g. "Cosmic Furnace") offset by crystalline percussive clatter and breathy sounds. Thrums proliferate, coastal birds appear, soon joined by more rhythms, a kind of Jon Hassell/Fourth World bit of action--very attractive, actually. The album continues in this vein, those kind of rhythms, vaguely tropical (Hector Zazou also springs to mind) but also decidedly Western, some loopy synth, the occasional pastoral interlude with flutes, bells and birds. I hate to say it but I challenge anyone to listen to "Swamp 2" and not think of "Evening Star". A quirky release but engaging enough if the sort of synth-rhythms described above appeal to you.

Astrïd - The West Lighthouse Is Not So Far (Monotype)

Astrïd is: Vanina Andréani (violin, juno, rhodes, crumar, harmonium, metallophone[Junos and Crumars are electric keyboards, I believe]), Yvan Ros (drums, rhodes, harmonium, metallophone), Cyril Secq (guitars, bowed guitars, juno, piano, charango, harmonium) and Guillaume Wickel (clarinets, rhodes, harmonium, saxophone). All those harmoniums! They're been around, at least as a duo of Ros and Secq, since 1997 but this is my first encounter with their work. Well, I'm not sure if it's a good thing that one's initial impression is of someone else's music but it's often tough to avoid. Here, Loren Connors rings out loud and clear, the clear, mournful, bluesy guitar over an organ-like bed of tones and free percussion. There's also, led by the mordant violin, a kind of Godspeed vibe, though a shade or two lighter and more polished, the latter not necessarily a good thing. Indeed, the arrangements are well-crafted enough and there are the requisite daubs of world music accents that this cold have appeared on Nonesuch in the 90s and received a good bit of airplay on NPR. Nice, somber colors throughout but too precious by half for my taste; it will certainly appeal to the darker fringes of the Frisell contingent.

Rydberg - s/t (Monotype)

Rydberg, I discovered, was a Swedish physicist who has both a highly regarded constant and a moon crater named for him. Here, it's the duo of Nicholas Bussmann (sampler, electronics) and Werner Dafeldecker (function generator, electronics). The first of three tracks, "Elevator", starts ingratiatingly enough, gentle faux-cello strums in an ambient soundscape, soon infiltrated by slow beats, which make for a kind of duet with that "cello", rather plaintive and attractive, slowly bleeding out into a hazier space, the beats still there but dissolving a bit. It's a lovely, complex location with much "minor" activity occurring--think a less fussy Radian. "Gardening" is a little jauntier, again, as in some of the music from Mirt, striking me as relating to investigations begun long ago by Jon Hassell. There's an interesting kind of discretion in play, the pair laying back, issuing new lines unaggressively (another sampled cello, if I'm not mistaken), allowing the steady but unplodding beat to absorb the various elements in stride, though it overstays its welcome a tad. In the final track, "And the Science", everything is given over to the beat and, to my ears, a pretty dull one, oppressively regular with tiresome synthed sock cymbals; the ornamentation with squelches and static can only do so much. It's very well produced, sounds great and has its charms but, obviously, will appeal to those who have more tolerance for regular beats than I do.

Dokuro - Avalon (Monotype)

Another duo, here with Agnes Szelag (electric cello, voice, electronics) and The Norman Conquest (synthesizers, sound manipulation). Szelag was part of a fine release with Jason Hoopes a couple of years back though I hadn't been too taken by what I'd previously heard from, um, Mr. Conquest. Fifteen tracks, not quite all of a piece but certainly sharing a general mode of attack: clouds of synth--hazy, ringing, growling--, darkly melodic cello lines, ethereal vocals hovering. Dark, intricate gauze, but gauze all the same. At its harshest (cuts like "23"), the pair approximates a pretty tame Galas. Rhythms surface intermittently, but never with any interest. Not my cuppa by any means.

Dave Phillips/Hiroshi Hasegawa - Insect Apocalypse (Monotype)

Six tracks from Phillips (field recordings from various jungles) and Hasegawa (filters, effects). I haven't been all that crazy about what (little) I've heard from Phillips in the past and I'm not sure if this isn't my first exposure to Hasegawa. Perhaps it's in relation to the previous releases in this review (with the exception of the excellent Costa Monteiro), but the music herein struck these ears as positively refreshing in context. The tapes are wielded imaginatively and with some degree of abandon, the interactions occurring in unexpected sequences, the noises themselves of reasonable interest. The insectile and other sources can be discerned lurking though they're all but buried in the dusty swirl. Pulses emerge now and then but don't overwhelm, approaches vary from engagingly assaultive to eerily subdued. A nice job finessing the field recording/soundscape divide, with less harshness than I might have expected but a lot of finely sifted grit. Worth hearing.


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