Saturday, July 14, 2018


Antoine Beuger/Dante Boon/Taylan Susam - beuger.boon.susam (Edition Wandelweiser)

I've had the very good fortune, twice, to attend solo piano recitals by Dante Boon, once several years ago in Amsterdam and more recently in Brooklyn. Each occasion was and extremely special, highly rewarding event, Boon playing works from Wandelweiser composers, transforming the space into a ind of temple. After the Amsterdam concert, I wondered if ever two hours of music had contained so few notes, yet so much beauty.

This recording is very similar to a Boon recital, consisting of a long work from Antoine Beuger, two shorter ones by Boon himself and a piece by Taylan Susam, each just so impressive, so thoughtful, so human. How to describe Beuger's 'pour être seul(e), sans réserve' (2009)? The softest of notes, high on the keyboard, individual, barely struck, more like caressed, open the work, isolated, glimmering. Some eight minutes in, simple chords, slightly bitter, more "aware", occur in sets of three, high-low-high, again hanging in small clusters, their beads reflecting something of the confusion of the earth below. It expands from there, shifting patterns, seemingly based purely on intuition rather than any system, always maintaining that ineffable delicacy that somehow remains grounded in the world. The music returns to single notes, eventually shading somewhat lower, slowly wafting to ground. Such deep, probing work, both in conception and execution.

Boon's 'years, numbers' (2012) uses a set of four tones, structured A-B-B-A where one note is constant, while another is added (or not), the duration of each varied with immense subtlety throughout (and interrupted midway through by a sequence of two-chord patterns). The combination of simplicity and slight variation works wonderfully as do the pitch choices made, imparting a melancholic, perhaps nostalgic air, as if the composer is thinking of a past bittersweet event, playing it back in his head, subjecting it to different possibilities, ways things might have gone. The brief 'nov. (piano)' (2011) contains calm sets of chords, a gentle promenade, ambling downhill, very lovely.

Susam's 'tombeau' (2014) begins with sets of four descending chords and, similar to the first Boon piece, retains the basic chord while augmenting the surrounding tones, then varies that a little, allowing the sounds to blossom like slow motion footage of a blooming flower, the pattern of petals offering regularity while the time sequence of their unfurling flows from regular to slightly less so. The basic downward trajectory is maintained for the most part, as befits a tombeau. Glints of other alternatives appear momentarily before the descent continues, no enhanced with lusher swaddling, some chords so lovely they cause one to shiver. A superb piece.

And a superb album altogether, as rewarding as those recitals I've witnessed. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Edition Wandelweiser

I wanted to also mention three other releases in the current batch from EW, which I just don't have the time to write about at length (apologies!), but which all deserve to be heard:

Marianne Schuppe - nosongs; a set of works for voice and lute (the latter enhanced with uber-bows) that dwell in the territory explored by Morton Feldman in his extraordinary composition, "Only".

Toshi Ichiyanagi - sapporo; The 1963 piece performed here by eleven Seattle-area musicians (including our old buddy Robert J. Kirkpatrick) in 2010. Very quiet and filled with eerie, enchanting glissandi and rousing percussion.

Sergio Merce - three dimensions of the spirit; Further delving into his microtonal saxophone as well as a prepared tenor, all of them probing and fascinating. Some of the most intriguing saxophonics I've heard in years.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018



Johan Lindvall - giraffe (Edition Wandelweiser)

An enchanting set of fourteen pieces for guitar and occasional voice, performed by Fredrik Rasten.

It's always difficult, for me, to write about music "like" this, work that's at once spare, seemingly simple and very affecting. The choices made to arrive at that apparent simplicity are hard to determine, easy to appreciate. Apart from a set of five short works for voice and guitar, utilizing words from Marianne Moore, the music by and large consists of single notes or small, tonal chords suspended in space, allowed to glisten there momentarily, followed by another, forming a thin, transparent sheet which air surrounds and light permeates. Calling it calm or contemplative, while accurate, doesn't do the music justice; as with much of Antoine Beuger's music, there's an intimacy that's almost uncomfortable. One almost feels as though intruding on a private session, though it's plenty warm and welcoming enough to dispel the notion. It's all lovingly played by Rasten, whose approach almost necessarily recalls that of Cristián Alvear; if you've enjoyed the recordings from Alvear, you'll enjoy this.

The song suite stands apart, haunting and riveting. Softly sung, with sparse accompaniment, I was reminded a little bit of David Grubbs with the Gastr del Sol of some 20 years ago, a similar hesitant delicacy. As much as I enjoy the entire release, these five works are my favorite--a wonderful approach to song-form, a direction I'd love to hear pursued.

Very fine work overall, highly recommended.

Edition Wandelweiser

Monday, July 09, 2018


Cyril Bondi/d'Incise - kirari-kirari (Edition Wandelweiser)

Two works, each almost 20 minutes long, co-composed by Bondi and d'Incise (who are often, though not here, known as Diatribes, for a sextet made up of Bondi (vibraphone), d'Incise (metallic objects), Magnus Granberg (piano), Anna Lindal (Baroque violin), Anna-Kaisa Meklin (viola de gamba) and Christoph Schiller (spinet).

Each work is similarly structured: single notes in a regular rhythm, played roughly every four seconds. Some have rapid decays, others linger. They go in and out of strict unison, forming slightly staggered figures which coalesce now and then. Some instruments, I think, disappear for a few measures then resurface. I believe that a single pitch is maintained throughout each work, though there may be minor fluctuations and there are certainly differing techniques employed.

That's it--very little, in a sense, but it kept this listener rapt and enthralled. By isolating each set of tones within that four-second space, they're able to be "examined", sort of rolled around in one's palm, considered in and of themselves and in relation to what preceded and ensued. The combination of these particular instruments is quite...delectable. I sometimes have the impression of a string of beads, not jewels but rougher, only partially polished bits of stone and shell. The mix of contemplativeness and periodicity is very appealing, very thoughtful and thought-provoking. Another fine work from this pair.

Edition Wandelweiser


Tuesday, July 03, 2018



Matt Sargent - Ghost Music (Weighter Recordings) 

'Ghost Music' is a work for solo percussion, lasting about an hour, performed by Bill Solomon. Though not listed on the release or elsewhere that I could find, for the first half of the work, Solomon is playing an instrument that gives forth high, metallic sounds--I take it a celesta or glockenspiel, something in that family. It's largely struck (with what sounds like thin rods or sticks) but there's also sustained tones that sometimes sound bowed.

That first 30-odd minutes is comprised of sets of struck tones, often in small groups, with patterns like 3-3-5-5 or 2-2-6-5, later in short melodic sequences. I've no idea whether it's score or intuitive. The tonality at the start reminds me very much of that used  by Karl Berger (on vibes) on Don Cherry's 'Eternal Rhythm', which I believe was based on Balinese or Javanese intervals. Whatever, it's dreamlike, unearthly and gorgeous, the tones themselves silvery and ephemeral, their lingering hums...well, ghostly. There's something of a Feldmanesque irregularity in play, patterns that seem to form only to dissolve before apprehension. I also get a time-stretch effect; I think I've been listening an hour and it's only 20 minutes. This is a good thing.

About halfway through the work the sound-world shifts rather abruptly, announced by a steady rhythm of slightly deeper-pitched metals augmented by the odd single strike. Whereas earlier, the arrangement of patterns occupied a reasonably defined area, Sargent (or Solomon? not sure how much, if any, leeway is provided) now presents multiple episodes of varied approaches and attacks, often using metals of a less precisely defined pitch, perhaps bells of different types. There's more open space, more tone range, many different attacks in general, though everything remains embedded in that large space of the contemplative and observant. It'd every bit as fascinating as the first half even if (or because) the listener's footing is less assured. 'Ghost Music' closes with a return to the original instrument, now heard in a steady rhythm with accent strikes here and there and ultimately a quicker, lighter beat atop.

A wonderful work and one of the more substantive pieces for solo percussion I've heard in ages.

Prune Bécheau - Stries ton, tripes et poils (Weighter Recordings)

Like the above, also a solo recording, this time on Baroque violin, an instrument which differs from a standard violin in certain ways far over my pay grade to comprehend (but see here to understand more), played by the French violinist Prune Bécheau. Admittedly, coming into this recording (as with many solo ventures on "classic" instruments), I was hoping for any innovation, should it occur, to be more structural than having to do with extended techniques. Well, there's a bit of both here.

There are eight pieces and each demonstrates a different instrumental attack. The first, "introduction", probably carries the greatest allusion to a "traditional" sound, as a kind of melody--very lovely--circles around some grainy overtones. I should mention that the disc's title translates into "tone streaks, guts and hair, so you have a good picture of what's coming. In 'tlelel etl', Bécheau circles, arco, around a high pitch, generating a mosquito-like whine which she rapidly elaborates on within fairly narrow parameters, forming an impressive web that retains a plaintive air. Sometimes, as in "geqze tulilu", she manages to elicit a breathy sound more saxophonic than violin; if heard "blindfolded" I might have guess Michel Doneda. As mentioned earlier, part of me would like to hear this kind of approach used in service of a larger form, a more overall idea, but it's quite impressive on its own. Four shorter pieces investigate overtone manipulation that reminds me of some forms of Central African singing, a jaunty venture on a (near) single tone, a harsher, rubbery melodic line put through the wringer and a finely worried low string summoning images of North Africa. Bécheau concludes with the most complex work, 'zzffk zzffk', a swirling piece with buzzes, clicks, a certain rubbed attack that almost sounds like a chicken cluck and much more. It's an intense work, one I'd love to see performed live. As is, there's an abundance of fine material and deep, concentrated thought on display here. It's my first time hearing her work and eagerly look forward to more.

Weighter Recordings

Thursday, June 28, 2018




Alan Braufman - Valley of Search (Valley of Search)

This is a reissue (vinyl) of a recording that originally appeared on India Navigation in 1975, a quintet led by alto saxophonist/flutist Braufman with Gene Ashton (piano, dulcimer), Cecil McBee (bass), David Lee (drums) and Ralph Williams (percussion). Ashton would soon change his name to Cooper-Moore and this, in fact, Cooper-Moore's first recording.

As one might gather from the song titles ('Love Is for Real', 'Ark of Salvation', 'Destiny', etc.) this falls squarely in what one might think of as "Spiritual Jazz", following a path laid out by Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders and others. That said, it's a very strong example of the genre. The rhythm section keeps things boiling (McBee, not surprisingly, is a huge help and has a lovely solo feature on 'Miracles'), referring to Central African music in a piece like 'Thankfulness', anticipating similar approaches a few years on from groups like Bengt Berger's Bitter Funeral Band. Braufman himself is quite a powerful player, notably on the aforementioned 'Love Is for Real'--think of a more visceral Arthur Blythe. A very fine recording, really not a weak moment to be found and an exemplary session from New York in the mid-70s, very much in the spirit of the times. I missed it the first time around, very happy to have it available once again.

Braufman on bandcamp





Stephen Cornford - Electrocardiographs of a Cathode Ray Tube (A Wave Press)

A 7" vinyl single which offers two tracks derived from the CRT of an old TV set. Without that information, I might have guessed the sounds to be coming from the jostling around of a jack in its socket, a series of sharp clicks and staticky hums. At first gloss it seems that that's "all" there is, but these are fascinating pieces. The more one listens, the more shades of color one hears, the more pattern relationships are discerned. Though both tracks are severe and reside in similar territory, there are differences, the second pitched somewhat lower and, for me, carrying a greater amount of regularity in its (quasi) rhythmic sequence, an underlying dark hum with sputters atop that erupt in a high squeak. The first has its own rhythm as well, but the texture is gnarlier. Again, listening multiple times (easier, give the brevity of the release), one parses out layer after layer of variation within a very confined stratum. This won't be everyone's cuppa by any means, but I got very much into it.

A Wave Press





Jacque Demierre - Abécédaire/AB C Book (Lenka Lente)

The folks at Lenka Lente produce releases like no other publisher I know, generally integrating text and sound in some manner. 

This one combines essays by pianist Demierre, arranged alphabetically by title, utilizing most of the alphabet. The texts are offered in both French and English, are generally a page or two in length and cover a range of subjects of interest to Demierre, including performance strategies (solo and in ensembles in which he participates, including LDP with Urs Leimgruber and Barre Philips, and DDK, with Axel Dörner and Jonas Kocher), thoughts on listening, on philosophy and its intersection with music and much more. 

The CD is something else again. Demierre's piece, 'Ritournelle' is spoken word, in a sense, the words derived from Wilhelm Müller and Franz Schubert's 'Winterreise', specifically the final song, 'Der Leiermann' ('The Organ Grinder'). Demierre extracts certain words, mostly (though not all) one syllable in length and breathlessly recites them in a fast, regular rhythm, repeating a given word numerous times before passing to the next, gulping for air on occasion. The insistency of the text, which is printed in the middle of the book, makes for extreme variations in tone as breath gives out, spittle intrudes and, one imagines, an amount of exhaustion sets in. It's mesmerizing, like a rough, raspy drone. After a while, you (maybe) stop hearing the voice/words and just let the odd sounds march by. I can't say I love it, but it's certainly intriguing.

Lenka Lente





Wednesday, June 27, 2018



I always forget that there might well be readers here who abjure facebook, so I should mention, a day late, that the Rowe biography is now officially available. People seem to like it. So give it a try. There's an Amazon link below but if you'd rather not give Amazon any business, it can be found elsewhere by googling my name and Keith's.

thanks!

Amazon


Tuesday, June 26, 2018



Trio Sowari - Third Issue (Mikroton)

The title doesn't lie--this is the third release from this fine trio, the first since 2008. I'm not sure if the gap is intentional or not, but they sound as fine as ever. Phil Durrant (modular and software synthesizers), Bertrand Denzler (tenor saxophone) and Burkhard Beins (percussion and objects) carve out a very unique sound area in the world of free improvisation, one that's quite full and colorful while avoiding over-satiation.

The opener, "Gravitation" lurches right into things--heavy synth, deep, clucking tenor and a range of brushes and bangs hurtle the listener into an active sound-world, filled with movement but also with significant space between objects. Denzler has never shied away from the saxophone-ness of his tenor, managing the difficult feat of incorporating it into a free-improv context without toting much unnecessary and distracting jazz baggage. He tends to keep his tomes low (by no means always) and balances reedy passages with extended techniques. More importantly, in music like this where "quiet" isn't as much an issue as elsewhere, he chooses his moments expertly. As do the others. Beins has long been a master at this and his brilliance is clearly in evidence. Durrant might be more the wild card; his subtlety is such that the non-concentrating listener might bypass him entirely, though his sounds are often the true glue binding matters. "Suspension" is about the drone, beginning with a wonderful low tone (Durrant, I think), soon joined by Denzler approximating the tone, generating flutters of interference. Eventually, Beins adds some slow, regular cymbal taps that are as perfectly appropriate as they are unexpected. This is followed by a brief palate cleanser of sorts, "Exploration", a set of almost discontinuous attacks that nonetheless manages to cohere quite well. "Levitation", the closer, tries to bring these disparate approaches into a single 9-minute pieces, utilizing drones (here, bowed metal), fluctuating tenor, and higher pitched synthesized hums. There's great elasticity here, a stretching and warping of fabric, the cloth smooth here, gnarly there. Billowing waves emanate outwards, blanketing one's ears--an excellent end to another fine, fine release from this under-recorded trio.

Mikroton



Bertrand Denzler/Félicie Bazelaire - basse seule (Confront)

What an amazing, impressive surprise.

While living in Paris, I was able to see Denzler a number of times in various contexts, always a joy. I was also able to hear and see Bazelaire on several occasions--I'd never heard of her before--and each time came away very impressed. Denzler's set of pieces for solo bass, with Bazelaire at the helm, is extraordinary.

There are nine tracks, seven of them "études" (numbered 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 3 and 17) plus two works titles "3D4" and "3D1". The first five are all played arco and all occupy the nether depths of the bass. I'm not quite sure if the technical term is correct, but I'm thinking "wolf tones". Whatever, the sound is amazing. Even as the territory covered is similar, there's an enormous amount of variation and sheer gorgeousness in the sonorities. Long, low growls, endlessly rich and complex; I could wallow here forever. If you were knocked out, live or on recording, by Charles Curtis performing Éliane Radigue's 'Naldjorlak I', you need to hear this. The approach is severe, the results anything but. Be warned: your speakers may vibrate off their stands. The sixth track, 'étude 3', is pizzicato, but remains low, Bazelaire slowly, intently, strumming the depths; patient and lovely. Arco returns on the two non-étude works, but the structure and range of the bass is different. The lines are shorter, more overtly rhythmic, and the pitch range is greater, resulting in works that are perhaps more in the ballpark of solo music one may have heard in modern conservatories over recent decades, but with a roughness and rigor that remains rare. "3D1" and 'étude 17' depart even more from the previous pieces, both in the amount of open space and in the higher pitches negotiated (arco). The final work wanders into a dreamy and fine area, an almost sing-songy back and forth, very plaintive and, again, not without grit and grain.

A truly exceptional release, very refreshing and imaginative.

Confront




Friday, June 22, 2018

Catching up on the passel of things that have reached my doorstep over the past two months. Apologies for the brevity.



Jameson Feakes - ...until... (Tone List)

Five works performed by Feakes on electric guitar, composed by Clarence Barlow, Eva-Maria Houben (two pieces), Josten Myburgh and James Bradbury. Barlow's '...until...' is a delicately shifting set of ringing tones with a bit of reverb, gently wafting over and past one another. I'm reminded of gliding, circling hawks--very lovely. Houben's pieces, 'XII' and 'IX' are short, crystalline works for acoustic guitar, as thoughtful and deep as is all of her music, sensitively performed. 'A Window in Sicily' (with Myburgh contributing electronics) shifts gears a bit, beginning with recordings of male voices in some outdoor situation, presumably in Sicily, before subsiding into faint wisps of long, electric tones. These, in turn, evolve into a landscape of windy rushes over which pure sequences of single notes, very tonal, are plucked. It continues to morph over its 28 or so minutes, incorporating crowd noises (a beach?), voices in a market (?) and reverting to hums; delightful. Bradbury's 'Traced Over' (with the composer also on electronics), while pleasant enough, is the only track I didn't find so engaging: a set of echoey slides and burbling scrapes that's a bit too easily digestible, offering more effects than substance.

A very good recording overall, though, and well worth hearing for listeners of a Wandelweiserian bent.

Tone List



Slobodan Kajkut - Darkroom (God Records)

A single piece stretching over two sides of an LP from Kajkut, label owner of the fine God Records imprint, with the composer on electronics and programming, Dejan Trkulja on clarinet and Christian Pollheimer on vibraphone.

Side One begins with spare, dark electronics, an inviting, ominous gray tone. Soon, clarinet and vibes enter, playing more or less repeating lines of differing, slow rhythms so as to create many melodic  combinations, augmented by mysterious raps in the background, the electronics fluttering. It achieves a fine balance between static and active, melodic and non-. Eventually, some 35 minutes in, the work settles into an agitated drone with a long-held, deep clarinet tone swirled around by (think) a bowed vibes approach, though the latter has a jangly aspect to it. It ultimately returns to a variation on the earlier theme, this time with perhaps a more overt Feldman aspect.

Very calm/troubled (a nice combo), very solid and absorbing throughout--a good one.

God Records


Sam Weinberg - A/V/E (Anticausal Systems)

Weinberg is more generally known as a saxophonist, somewhat out of the Braxton/Mitchell tradition from what I can discern, but here he devotes his efforts toward a kind of electronic collage set of compositions using recordings apparently culled from his immediate surroundings and meshed together with an attractively rough-hewn, lo-fi aesthetic. The works are dense and crackling, motoring along under their own self-combustibility, with occasional buried loops to help propel them. Descriptors are difficult to come by, though I found myself thinking of a nest of Brillo pads more than once, with all the moist harshness that implies. The dynamics and density levels are consistent enough that I found myself wanting a greater degree of variation, which was provided in eighth of nine tracks, 'photophoric', my favorite of the bunch, where Weinberg ranges widely and extremely effectively. An interesting approach, which you can hear for yourself on his bandcamp page linked to below.

Sam Weinberg

Anticausal Systems





Wednesday, June 06, 2018


Cyril Bondi/Pierre-Yves Martel/Christoph Schiller - tse (Another Timbre)

It's probably fair to say that we all have our instrumental prejudices, silly as those undoubtably are. I know people who don't like flutes or  violins, baffling as those attitudes are to me. But I have to admit that it takes extra concentration on my part to get past the essential sound of a harpsichord. I do think that this is more an issue on recordings than live as just last year I attended a home concert by the very excellent local harpsichordist Andrew Appel and enjoyed it without reservation. Maybe it has something to do with childhood encounters with the keyboard in schmaltzy horror movies or as backdrop to any number of faux esthete contexts. But that jangly sound, the lack of sustain....something makes it tough for me.

The spinet is essentially a small harpsichord and Christoph Schiller, to the best of my knowledge, pretty much confines his playing to to it. Here, he's joined by Cyril Bondi (Indian harmonium, pitch pipe, objects) and Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba, pitch pipes, harmonica) on five improvised tracks (I - V). On the first, the trio circumvents any foolish objections on my part as Bondi and Martel lay down long, smooth lines onto which Schiller sprinkles slivers of spinet, glinting amongst the hums. Those drones are beautifully constructed themselves, a lovely combination of timbres, and the spinet adds a wonderful texture. By the way, I'm guessing that Schiller applies some extended techniques now and then (perhaps bowing the spinet's interior or otherwise directly manipulating the strings?), though I'm not at all sure. 'II' is similar, though generally pitched higher and with somme separation between phrases. There's a stretched feeling, a bit more astringency that's piquant, a nice shift from the prior track. In fact, the variation is subtle on each of the five pieces. Given the drone0like nature of the harmoniums, harmonicas and pitch pipes and virtually the opposite aspect of the spinet, that's not so surprising; only the viola da gamba might go "both ways", though Martel seems to switch between arco and pizzicato now and then. Another predilection of mine is, with regard to anything more or less in a drone style, toward the low and grainy, so I found 'IV' especially appealing, a really delicious, calm sequence of lines, rich and complex, with deep tones from (I think) the pitch pipe. 'V' offers slightly more aggression from the spinet, at higher pitch levels and with somewhat sourer harmonies and, again, heard in the context of this "suite", works perfectly well. In fact, listening to 'tse' as a suite, and a very ably constructed one, seems to be the way to go, at least for me. Spinets be damned, it's an engaging and discreetly demanding listen; good work.

Another Timbre



Saturday, June 02, 2018

Brief words on four new or newish releases from Rhizome.s + 1. As the covers are all text, thought I'd save space and not include 'em.

Sarah Hennies/Tim Feeney - Nests (Rhizome.s)

An hour-long, co-composed work for two wood block players arranged in sections of sounds/silence that last a varying number of minutes. Often one player holds a steady (slow) rhythm while the other enters with what seems to be a more intuitive pattern, close to his/her partner but with some latitude for variation. The timbre, intensity of strike and resonance of the blocks shifts ever so slightly over the piece's duration and, several times, just when you think you've established that a given player is the "steady" one, that changes as well. The resonance of the space is pretty huge and there's also an ambience of crickets, airplane engines and what seems to be general human activity outside the performance area. The play of regularity/irregularity, together with the other subtle, varying factors, makes for an entirely absorbing and immersive experience, spare though the elements be, summoning images of rain patter, cave drips and other quasi-rhythmic ephemera. Great stuff.

Dante Boon - Düsseldorf recital (Rhizome.s)

I've been very fortunate to catch two of Boon's solo recitals, one in Amsterdam, one in New York City, where he's played pieces by composers generally associated with the Wandelweiser collective. Here he offers six works by Coleman Zurkowski, Gil Sansón, Anastassia Philippakopolos, Eva-Maria Houben, Assaf Gidron and Jack Callahan. I'm not at all sure if the works were chosen for their conduciveness to the notion, but they're presented contiguously, each merging with the next, almost indistinguishably. There is also a great deal of ambient noise including what I gather are piano-body sounds but also a background noise rather like soft drum brushes being swirled around inside a heavy metal container. I don't mind these at all, but others may be put off. The compositions do vary, of course, largely in their degree of overt tonality and relative repetition of patterns (notably Gidron's). All, however, are slow and quiet, serene or roiled to small, varying extents, all calmly searching. If none stand out so much, it's only because they're part of a unified whole and that whole is very thoughtful and insightful. Fine work from all involved.

Gaudenz Badrutt/Ilia Belorukov/Alexander Markvart, Quentin Conrate/Matthieu Lebrun/Anne-Laure Pudbut/Frédéric Tentelier - affinités sélectives, volume 1 (Rhizome.s)

A trio and a quartet sharing a disc, with no clear relationship that I can discern. As it's designated, "volume 1", perhaps we'll see a pattern emerging in the future.

Two very different approaches as well. The trio of Badrutt (acoustic sound sources, live sampling), Belorukov (alto saxophone, electronics, field recordings, samples) and Markvart (prepared acoustic guitar, guitar combo, objects) create a jagged, splintery body of sounds spread across four tracks, recalling the cracked electronics of musicians like Bonnie Jones, Richard Kamerman, etc, from some years back while also, occasionally, incorporating rhythmic patterns á la Voice Crack, etc. For me, nothing quite coheres (that may well not have been the objective) and it strikes me as an apposition of quieter but crinkly sections with violent and raucous effects for their own sake, jolting but ultimately without too much depth.

The quartet (Conrate, percussion; Lebrun, alto saxophone, electronics; Pudbut [surely a nom de musique?], tapes, electroacoustic devices; Tentelier, organ, electroacoustic devices), apparently comprised of musicians from around the Lille area, is very different. A churning stew of sound, heavy on organ and organ-like sounds but with a manner of things poking their heads through--light metals, indistinct voices, ringing high tones, radios. It's not the kind of thing that hasn't been done before but these four handle it extremely well, submerging the listener into the maelstrom, buffeting him/her amidst the swirl. It's steady-state in that sense, the same general context throughout with the details varying minimally but, as Partch said of his Bloboy, "It does exactly one thing, but that one thing it does superbly."

Morgan Evans-Weiler - iterations & environments

Two works, 'iterations' for overdubbed violins and 'environments III' for piano and electronics. 'iterations' is in three 11-minute sections with two minute-long pauses. The music, which is absolutely fascinating, falls into what you might call a "sandy drone" territory. While all three portions are similar in general nature, the overall pitch (comprised of, I think, three or four violin lines, all payed by Evans-Weiler) shifts slightly from, let's say, medium to high to lower, though the various lines range in pitch and timbre. The approach isn't necessarily new but the performance is sensitive and exacting, the minute fluctuations acquiring almost a monumental character. Really excellent.

The second work finds Evans-Weiler on electronics with Emilio Carlos Gonzalez on piano (prepared somewhat). The electronics also form a drone, at least dual-layered with a deep, smooth hum under a soft, static wash and the sounds of, perhaps, a highway. Atop this, the piano is heard offering single notes, often pitched low and clouded by the preparation. The music flows darkly, the electronics shifting subtly, incorporating other elements (the high, faint chirp of birds, natural or otherwise, maybe even a very distant dog), the piano maintaining its persistent, dour commentary until, some 15 minutes in, a brighter sequence appears briefly. Excellent.

Rhizome.s


Francisco Meirino/Bruno Duplant - Dedans/Dehors (Moving Furniture)

Three pieces sourced from field recordings, beginning inside (dedans), gradually heading outdoors (dehors). Luc Ferrari is cited in the notes with regard to the listener constructing a narrative based on the sounds heard, which are of an augmented everyday reality. "Augmented" in the sense of having waves of electronics coursing through the quotidian events. The "dedans" section begins among snores but becomes pretty raucous as it progresses, very enveloping and (pleasantly) uncomfortable. The "interstice" begins softly with whispers and bells but soon ramps up into a similar level of intensity. "dehors" leaps right in with pipe organ (Bach, I believe) before rushing out the door into the world where a heavy throb, bells, bangs and assorted noises descend. There's fine depth in all the sounds and it works very effectively overall, Ferrari's spirit glinting through thick, pulsing scrim of electronics. Well worth a listen.

Moving Furniture








I guess I should post this here as well--the bio is out, sort of. It's generally available via Amazon (June 26th), Erst distribution (now) and I have copies as well if you'd like to stop by.

powerHouse




Tuesday, May 29, 2018



Anne Guthrie - Brass Orchids (Students of Decay)

Long one of my favorite NYC-based musicians, Guthrie has released another in a string of very strong recordings, despite having relocated to the nether coast. Largely sourced from field recordings but also personal ones including her grandfather's piano, some tap dancing and, I imagine, others less clear. Her French horn, always a welcome sound, only appears on the final track (and maybe the third?). Before then, we hear unsettling, often dreamy sounds--in 'Bellona', echoey scrapes, odd burbles, voices far away and underground, a hiss/sizzle. 'SERIOUS WATER' [sic] is similar, bit with a greater resonance, a metallic howling and, soon, more vigorous scrapes, a voice describing a Tibetan prayer wheel and its usage and the aforementioned piano; altogether transporting. Each piece expands the sound-world a bit, incorporating recorded messages, hornlike moans (on 'Red Wolf'--those are the sounds that might be Guthrie on the horn), various urban atmospheres, billiard-like clicks, much more. 'Spider', the fourth of five works, stands somewhat apart, consisting of much harsher and abstract tones, high squeaks and sharp percussives and a staticky sequence that sounds as though its ultimate source might have been a voice. That electric field, hovering and pulsing over barely heard sounds of, maybe parents and children playing in a park, creates a superbly Lynchian aura. The album (this is a vinyl release, by the way) closes with 'Glass', Guthrie's poignant horn singing over a high electric pulse. It grows into a wonderfully rich and mysterious form, the horn becoming submerged in a gaseous atmosphere full of mirroring glitches, very kaleidoscopic, ending with a street violinist performing 'Autumn Leaves'.

A beautiful, knotty, absorbing release, another in an increasingly and hopefully unending line from Guthrie.

Students of Decay


Sunday, May 27, 2018



Ghost Ensemble - We Who Walk Again (Indexical)

This is the debut recording (LP) of the New York-based chamber group founded in 2012. The ensemble, more or less headed by accordionist Ben Richter, oboist Sky Macklay and keyboardist Andrew C. Smith, has seven or so core members plus others in its ambit. For this recording the line-up includes, in addition to Richter and Macklay, Alice Jones (flute), Chris Nappi (percussion), Lucia Helen Stavros (harp), Hannah Levinson (viola), Maria Hadge (cello), James Ilgenfritz (bass), Rebekah Griffin Green (bass), Damon Loren Baker (percussion) and, on two piece, Carl Bettendorf (conductor). They perform Macklay's '60 Degree Mirrors', Pauline Oliveros' 'Angels and Demons' and Richter's 'Wind People'.

The Macklay piece, inspired by kaleidoscope patterns, oscillates between brief, rhythmically oriented kernels and somewhat stretched-out sequences, the tones in the latter engagingly sour, especially the multiphonics and microtones from the oboe. There's a certain wry playfulness to it--at times it reminded me of a calliope--and an interesting mix of modern techniques within a structure that retains an amount of classicalness. It might fit comfortably into a Bang On a Can program, but it's better than that. Olivero's 'Angels & Demons' is a text score, asking the ensemble to evoke "collective guardian spirits' (angels) and "individual spirits of creative genius" (demons). At a concert venue, I'd likely begin twitching uncomfortably in my seat upon reading this, but the members of Ghost Ensemble pull it off without any undue new-age-ishness. Low, growling bass attacks help ground the long, floating lines above; soil and mist. Very fine ensemble playing--excellent listening to one another.

The Richter work occupies Side B. A cloudy, mysterious and dark opening, low rumbles and moans with the odd sharp glint through the shadows. It throbs, pulsates, moves inch by inch, Beckettian in its slow spread. Some wonderful tonalities are generated in the shifting lines of varying lengths, the interplay of those deep tones with the soft plucking of the harp and an occasional hesitant but steady, dull beat of a drum. Matters begin to coalesce toward the end, dense lines forming, surging off into the hazy dark, perhaps offering just a bit more direction than was apparent at the start; not a light at the end of a tunnel, but maybe the faintest of glimmers. A very strong piece, my favorite on this recoding.

Very good work all around, certainly a group to keep an eye on.

Indexical


Wednesday, May 23, 2018



Philip Samartzis/Daniela d'Arielli - A Futurist's Cookbook (Galaverna)

I'd always greatly enjoyed Samartzis' music since first hearing him, if I recall correctly, on the duo recording with Sachiko M, 'Artefact', released in 2002. But I was only able to meet him and hear his work live (that is, on tape) several years ago in Paris at IRCAM. My experiences with the French academic electro-acoustic world wasn't so great--the programs and synthesized sounds tended to resemble a musical version of Photoshop as far as I was concerned, projecting a kind of sheen over almost all compositions that I found unappetizing. At the event in question, however, two pieces stood out: those of Giuseppe Ielasi  and Samartzis, which featured sounds that were very alive, very sharp and full of grain.



This recording is very much in that lineage. It was recorded during a residency in Abruzzi, Italy, Samartzis accompanied to various locations by d'Arielli, who contributes 24 photographs that arrive with the download, in addition to an essay by Samartzis on Futurism, Marinetti and the dynamism of the sounds heard in the countryside and urban settings. Seven tracks, the title of each indicating either a place or condition (each prefaced and occasionally interrupted by a female voice, presumably d'Arielli's, offering a one-word description on Italian). As with the work I heard at IRCAM, which involved sounds recorded on a ship near Antarctica, Samartzis seems to allow the sounds to speak for themselves: cowbells, wheat fields in the wind, threshing machines, grain processing, insects, water dripping, pasta being formed and cut, planes in the night, etc. (most of these documented in the photos). But I'm reasonably sure that all this hyper-verisimilitude was arrived at via ultra-subtle and careful manipulation of his initial recordings. That they appear so enveloping and of the place, unladen with any over-obvious irony or or other artifice is fine testimony to Samartzis' vision and abilities. How an Italian meal arrives at the table Excellent, discreetly imaginative and engaging work.


Galaverna



Monday, May 21, 2018



Cristián Alvear/Santiago Astaburuaga - capas de un tapiz (Marginal Frequency)

Two fascinating and compelling compositions performed by the Chilean duo of Alvear (guitar, transducers, small amplifiers, recordings) and Astaburuaga (bass, transducers, small amplifiers, recordings. The label site notes that the pair use "physical objects and in situ cues through photography and video to realize complex scores".  I've no certain idea how this eventuates, but the results are excellent.

Rolando Hernandez' 'topializ' begins with a sequence of simple, if slightly harsh, guitar chords, regularly spaced, imparting a misleading sense of clarity. After a minute, a counter-pattern, possibly from a prepared bass, emerges--again a regular rhythm, quicker than the first and composed of gnarlier material. The piece is episodic, though the sections function within a roughly similar dynamic and textural range, offering a kind of continuity. The second area is grainier, with electronic scrapes and whines splayed over a calmly repeating tone that evokes sonar, perhaps, or even a busy signal. Regular pulses of one sort or another underlie much of the piece, steadfastly wending their way through various forms of detritus. Though the work is much "noisier" than what I normally associate with Alvear, there's a kind of serenity that pervades. An extremely bracing piece.

"sin título #21", by Nicolas Carrasco also proceeds by discreet episodes, though each section is quite brief and, initially, separated by short silences. Soon, however, a thick braid of metallics takes over, perhaps generated by guitar and bass manipulations and enhancements, that churns and writhes, surging in a dense and complex wave--absorbing. About halfway through, the music reduces to a hum and a wooden click, almost metronomic. A piece of metal, perhaps a heavy key, is dropped on the floor, and will be again. Isolated guitar chords and faint squeaks, then a cessation of the knocking. Those guitar strums become the dominant element, steering a slow and steady course among gradually increasing rumbles, hisses and dull metals. The metronome returns, to close matters with some degree of balefulness and inevitability.

I've listened to these pieces ten or twelve times--each experience has revealed different structures and relationships. Wonderfully complicated, extremely enjoyable. Check it out.

Marginal Frequency



Sunday, May 20, 2018



Asher Tuil - Multiplicities
Asher Tuil - Reduplications

As near as I can tell, Asher's been releasing music more or less exclusively on-line since around 2014. The above two are the first I've heard of his music since 2009, so I'm guessing approaches heard herein have evolved over that period but I was somewhat surprised at the nature of what's here. There's much more structure in play, though it's a clear and even simple sort, none of the smoky, ghostly atmosphere of work like that heard in 'Miniatures', 'Graceful Degradation' and the like. 'Multiplicities' consists of almost an hour of small, electronic melodic patterns, each only several seconds long, repeated in sets of, I don't know, 10 to 30 times each. The patterns are relatively similar, containing two or three layers of smooth, synth-like tones, generally offset with a sandier or more staticky one (or two), very reminiscent of aspects of 90s glitch-prov. It's neither flowing nor fragmented, straddling both notions. I find it reasonably interesting to listen to intently, more so to have on as ambient music.

'Reduplications' also involves repetition, though over a much slower scale. Eight tracks ranging from 16 - 19 minutes, to the casual listener the music might sound very much in line with classic Eno of the 'On Land' or 'Apollo' period: resonant, slowly undulating and intertwining drones leavened with the odd, echoey bass droplet or electric piano bell-tone, all over a scratchy field that varies in intensity. Again, it's a little odd to listen to closely and individually as the pieces, despite some textural difference, at such a length begin to blend together. But as subtle accompaniment to one's environs, the mix of sandy washes and mellow tonality works very well.

You can listen for yourself to this and other recent work from Asher at his bandcamp site:

here

Wednesday, May 16, 2018



Grisha Shakhnes - The Distance Between a Word and a Deed (Disappearing Records)

Sounds recorded in Stockholm and transfigured by Shakhnes. True to form, the resultant sounds on the first of two tracks on this cassette are rough, rumbling, dark and gravelly, surging along line a mudslide bearing multitudes of rocks, trees, metallic items. Or like standing in a near-abandoned area at night, watching an enormous, mysterious, loud machine slowly--very slowly--make its way down the street, disappearing around a corner. The second is more open, though just as eerie, the sounds occurring in a larger space perhaps, less concentrated but, as a consequence, more clearly heard. A threatening quaver or two and banging/clinking metals take up most of the area. Various groans, squeaks, horns and buzzes seep in before spiraling away into night.

That's on the cassette. If you order the download, you get for more tracks, over an hour, "Stockholm Variations #'s 2, 2.5, 3 and 4". They're in similar territory, with a few different tacks taken (especially the last, a ratcheting, cyclic sequence) and are just as enjoyable.






Grisha Shakhnes - ARCS (Marginal Frequency)

Somewhat less grainy than the above release, inhabiting an adjacent but slightly cleaner world, still dark, still uncertain but a place where the metal-to-metal sounds are drier, the surrounding accompaniment crisper. Shakhnes' music often has an undercurrent of rotation, of tight iterations of layer upon layer of sequences. I think I've written before that I'm reminded of Jason Lescalleet's experiments with crumples loops strung between several old tape players. It's industrial, all turbines and generators, evoking the sensation of wandering through (and leaning against) vast machines operating on auto, at night, the factory deserted. Some vaguely animal-like sounds emerge on the second track, "at least as alive as the vulgar', the whole thing like a half-received radio transmission, staticking in and out of clarity. Wooly, uncomfortable and absorbing, beginning to end.




Monday, May 14, 2018

some all too brief reviews of things that have recently arrived. Apologies to the musicians for the brevity but time's been scarce.


Pascal Battus/Bertrand Gauguet/Eric La Casa - Chantier 4 (Swarming)

When I was in Paris 2013 - 2015, the second apartment in which I stayed was on Rue Adolphe Mille, which more or less ran along the western border of the Parc de la Villette in the 19th Arrondissement. On the opposite side of the park, the new Philharmonie de Paris, designed by Jean Nouvel, was nearing its long-delayed completion. Eric La Casa, a master of in situ field recording/performance, lived just up the street as well and, in 2013, ventured into the site with percussionist and objectiste Pascal Battus and alto saxophonist Bertrand Gauguet. Their sounds largely blend into those produced by the environment, which include the general, wooly urban hum, the percussive noises of construction work and the voices of the workers themselves among many others. You can pick out likely contributions from Battus (though I'm sure some I think are his, aren't and vice versa) and the occasional reed flutter or thin keening of the sax, but all is pretty much of a piece. The recordings, as always captured superbly by La Casa, were then reworked, remodeled and collaged by Battus and Gauguet. The result is a soundscape at one hyper-real and phantasmagoric, rich, deeply plied, and absorbing, densely filled with sounds both recognizable and obscure, entrenched in the city yet isolated from it. Excellent work, among the best I've heard from all three of the musicians.

Swarming


Matthew Świeżyński - The One Who Modifies Time and Light (Invisible Birds)

Two tracks, each over a half hour in length, "meditations" on Satyajit Ray's wonderful Apu Trilogy, occupying that zone between drones and field recordings, summoning images of nocturnal harbors and shadowed sylvan pathways. A subtle bell tone underlies the beginning of 'The Bird Represents Phases of Work' over which layers of voices and sounds I hear as dockside percolate. These are replaces by distant, hazy horns, perhaps made from those of yaks or other large cattle, fierce winds, low, rocky rumbles. 'Reduction, the Transmission of Light' starts with multiple ringing tones over what seems like urban sounds fading in and out, sitars from adjoining buildings. It's a bit more steady-state than the prior track, remaining in the same area while adding many varied textures, closing with a return of the horns from the first cut. The album is entirely immersive, easy to get pleasurably lost in. Good work.

Invisible Birds</>


Adrian Dziewanski - The Trail Loops Back (The Alcohol Seed/Invisible Birds)

Two pieces based on field recordings in Vancouver and Hawaii with added guitar loops and effects. In "A Common Dust", bird calls, spring peepers and an odd crackling sound that morphs into something like footsteps are heard over a thick, throbbing, fairly tonal drone, the elements mixing taffy-like, receding and emerging. When the drone half-disappears then goes away entirely, there's the wonderful sensation of the ambient sounds being released to float aboveground. The drones return with an added ringing and hints of low strings; the piece ends. 'Root Tendrils' is darker, as befits its subject, though the basic elements are similar to the first piece--insectile or amphibious trills, obscure metallic knocks, steps through dry grass, all over a swirling, creamy drone. Depending how one listens, the track arguably goes on longer than it merits but, on, the other hand, there's no real problem wallowing in it and coming out refreshed. Good, healthy dronage.

The Alcohol Seed

Invisible Birds


Thursday, May 10, 2018




John Cage - Two2  (Another Timbre)

Of Cage's so-called "Number Pieces", works composed late in his life, 'Two2' (1989) seems to be one of the least frequently recorded. It was written for the piano duo Double Edge (Edmund Niemann and Nurit Tilles) though it appears that the premiere was performed in May 1990 by Rob Haskins and Louis Goldstein; it's available to be heard on YouTube. That performance lasts just over an hour and twenty-five minutes and the two others I can locate, by Josef Christof/Stefan Schleiermacher (released on MDG in 2000, as part of the 'Complete Piano Music', volume 5) and a live video by Beata Pincetic and Christos Sakellaridis last just over 46 and 36 minutes respectively. 

On the johncage.org website, the piece is described as follows:

This is one of Cage’s few “number” pieces that does not utilize time-brackets. Being inspired by  a remark of Sofia Gubaidulina, i.e. "There is an inner clock," Cage created a composition consisting of 36 lines of music, each containing 5 measures. Within each line, 31 events occur: 5+7+5+7+7, as in Japanese Renga poetry. The pianists play a measure in their own tempo, but the next measure may only be played when both have completed the previous.

Philip Thomas, in an interview published on the Another Timbre site and partially reproduced in the sleeve of this release, mentions having heard the piece both in live performance and on recording, remarking, "...it just didn't draw me in in the way that most of Cage's number pieces do. To my ears there were too many notes, too much material in the piece such that I quickly lost interest." But reading the score himself and calculating what he thought was an appropriate amount of time to spend on each measure, he arrived at a potential duration of around two and a half hours. The current recording clocks in at just short of two hours and eight minutes. Thomas remarks, "There are no instructions about duration, so any and all durations are possible and valid, but I think that taking it at the pace we do at least brings a different perspective to it, and reveals other things about the piece that I'd not heard before".



Having listened to the three other versions, online, I have to say that, as generally enjoyable as those are to my ears, Thomas' intuition is exactly correct. The sense of pace is almost viscous without any connotations of stickiness or anything syrupy. If you can imagine very slowly flowing water, that's close. Maybe cold lava. Notes suspend in the air for a few moments, then softly fall and disappear. My impression is that there's more in the mid- and mid-low range of the piano than elsewhere, a real roundness in the tonality, a thickness. The sequences have something of a darkly Romantic character, as though extracted from a larger work, slowed way down, carefully examined and considered. As in Feldman, there's somehow a sense of forward progression though never the slightest indication of a goal. For what it's worth, I never get the impression of two pianists, just one strong, coursing river of music. It's 128 minutes of pure, thought-compelling, perception-enhancing, down to earth bliss. Can't ask for more. 

A major achievement.



Monday, May 07, 2018



Christian Wolff/Antoine Beuger - Where Are We Going Today (Erstwhile)

I've little doubt that were one to come upon this music knowing absolutely nothing about the two participants, the affection, respect, understanding and love shared between them would be overwhelmingly clear. In fact, though they met in 1991, they've only physically encountered each other a handful of times over the years, generally when one or the other was invited to an event in Europe or North America by the other. And indeed, this recording was created by each composer individually, two months apart: Beuger in Haan, Germany and Wolff on his farm in Royalton, Vermont, US. Beuger, over a period of about a month, spent 10 or 15 minutes each day thinking about Wolff, compiling a list of words and phrases he either associated with the other composer or which, somehow, embodied his feelings towards him and his music. He then put together a 70-minute recording of himself speaking some of these words, situated like islands in a vast pool, interspersed with soft whistling (one immediately recalls his superb collection, 'Keine Fernen Mehr') and the discreet replaying, never really foregrounded, of the Wandelweiser recording of Wolff's 'Stones' from 1996. Beuger sent the result to Wolff, who compiled five 10-15 minutes sessions, thinking of his collaborator (there's a wonderful moment, some 50 minutes in, when you hear the older composer, almost as though startled from a dream, say, "Antoine!"), performing on piano, objects, charango (an Andean guitar) and flute. Melodica, though not listed, is also clearly heard.  I'm not sure whether or not Wolff constructed his music so as to specifically fit in with Beuger's, but I suspect not. More likely, it seems to me (I could be wrong), he "simply" attempted to arrive at a similar emotional and fraternal territory, trusting serendipity to align things. The two recordings were mixed by Taku Unami.

The resultant music is spare but gentle; not even so much gentle as relaxed and confident enough in each others' personalities that small eruptions, generally from Wolff's piano, can occur without provoking unease. Which isn't to say that it flows, though it does, but more simply occurs. One recalls the Rowe/MIMEO project, 'sight', wherein the listen constructs many of the patterns insofar as they're perceived. Beuger's voice, calm, emerges throughout, widely spaced, beginning with, "Say, where are we going? Where?" (though, intriguingly, the discs title excludes the interrogatory) which ably frames one aspect of Wolff's work: the unforeseen or in fact unknown destination of a given piece. Wolff's melodica seems to respond, easily adopting a voice-like character for this listener. "After. Afterwards. After words", Beuger says, Wolff replying with a low piano chuckle. It's all so intimate, almost uncomfortably so (like the aforementioned 'Keine Fernan Mehr'; one feels as though eavesdropping on a quiet, private conversation, the pair perhaps lying in a field, watching the sky, talking freely, softly, only when necessary. "We have to go now", Beuger says a couple of times near the end. "As if their dialogue had never ended." One gets the sense it hasn't, yet, and that's such a good thing.

An extraordinary recording, so personal, so different, so wonderful.

Erstwhile






Monday, April 30, 2018



Kim Myhr - You | Me (Hubro)

I've been aware of Myhr's music since about 2010 though, to be sure, not in its entirety, so I've little idea how much if any this recording is a departure, but it was certainly a surprise--and an exhilarating one--to me.

Performed by a quartet made up of Myhr (electric and acoustic guitars), Tony Buck (percussion), Ingar Zach (snares, percussion, electronics) and Hans Hulbækmo (hand percussion), the first track begins in a floating, nebulous zone, all dust and water droplets suspended in air,  but after about four minutes, a strummed, rhythmic guitar figures enters the scene and we get to the meat of the matter. I have to say that, inevitably, one recalls Rhys Chatham's majestic 'Guitar Trio' with the propulsive, more or less single pitch maintained throughout, accompanied by surging percussion. It's gentler than 'Guitar Trio', possessing kind of a skimming the surface quality, very attractive, like a bird flying low over the waves on the cover image. The second track (listed as simply 'A' and 'B', but hard not to think of as 'You' and 'Me', running about 18 and 20 minutes, respectively) starts right in with that lilting groove, this time with Myhr's acoustic guitar up front. The pitches used are expanded somewhat but still lie within a smallish range, but there's more going on in the bass (however generated, but including bass drum) imparting a slight Canterbury feeling. It shifts about midway through into a quavering, bell-filled area, foggy but tingling. An enjoyable and approachable release



Michael Pisaro - Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones (Hubro)

I'd heard the one other recording of this Pisaro piece, by Barry Chabala and Katie Porter (with organ and other sound samples from Eva-Maria Houben, André O. Möller and Burkhard Schlothauer), released on Gravity Wave in 2011. It's a stunning work, as is this performance by Håkon Stene (Godin and Moog electric guitars, bowed piano, field recordings) and Kristine Tjøgersen (bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet), for which Pisaro adapted the original score.

Though divided into 17 relatively brief tracks--unlike the earlier version, which was presented s a 63-minute whole--the piece is contiguous enough, with shifts on focus gliding from one to the next. Pisaro has apparently written eight "sleep" compositions, based around the idea of both continuing to hear events from the conscious world as well as developing our own during dreamtime. Here, he works with sounds from the street, "pipes" in various aspects (from waterworks to subways) and, more generally, tones consisting of musician-generated sounds as well field recordings and, I gather, radio captures. It opens immediately on a kind of white noise that has hollow, tubular overtones. It quickly fades then recurs, the iteration giving it something of the character of a steam horn. For the next hour, we traverse any number of sound fields that pierce the oneiric calm. It's pointless to try to describe them all, just to say that as varied as the elements are, even while noting standout moments like the luscious deep clarinets, the infiltration of choirs and a surprising "organ" section--pipes!--, the work flows beautifully, with its own internal dream logic. A fabulous realization and right up there with my favorite recordings of Pisaro's work.

Hubro


Friday, April 27, 2018



Bruno Duplant - Chamber and Field Works (2015 - 2017) Another Timbre

A very enjoyable 2-disc set of works by Duplant performed by Taku Sugimoto and the Suidobashi Chamber Ensemble. Disc One is given over to three pieces with the group, a sextet and two quintets (Aya Naito, bassoon & voice; Hikaru Yamada, electronics; Masahiko Okura, soprano & contrabass clarinet; Sugimoto, electric guitar, bow, e-bow & bowed mandolin; Wakana Ikeda, flute, harmonica; and Yoko Ikeda, violin & viola). Surely a great deal of the successful realization of these works is due to the ensemble, which plays with wonderful sensitivity and awareness of subtle modulations. The pieces share certain characteristics, most clearly slowness, quietness and long tone duration. 'all that I learned and then forgot' (2015) has slowly descending tones, bending ever so slightly downward, delicately layered and sequenced. The second track, 'where our dreams get lost' (2017) is one where I suspect that the ensemble is doing the heavy lifting. I have no idea what the score for any of the pieces is like (save for the one on Disc Two), but here the long lines are single notes fairly close together; the concept sounds simple. But the performance is so flowing, so clear and, dare I say, heartfelt, that the emergent beauty more than belies the surface simplicity. There's a shift in textural content on 'a place of possibilities' (2017), a harsher violin, a voice, the winds sounding somewhat more agitated. The long tones are retained, but the atmosphere is more doubtful, an appropriate and effective tonic for the previous two compositions.

'lEttEr to tAku (field music for guitar)', which occupies the second disc, is a different story, the "score" being a letter sent by Dupont to Sugimoto. It's a solo piece for Sugimoto (guitar, small amplifier, bow, park) performed and recorded at Hanegi Park in Tokyo. He's made recordings in a similar vein before (I'm thinking of 'Live in Australia' and others) where he's played so sparingly that it's often difficult to discern his presence. Here, his sound is clear, foregrounded from the environment yet attached to it. Children, planes, cicadas and other sounds envelop the single guitar notes, sometimes short, more often allowed to hover. Somewhere after the midway point, Sugimoto briefly switches to the bow, creating sharp but gentle slivers of sound, slicing through the park, recalling Michael Pisaro's sine waves in his 'Transparent Cities' projects. Toward the end, the notes seem to come more often, small clusters, like leaves. A lovely performance, beautifully recorded.

An excellent release all around, possibly my favorite thing heard from Duplant thus far.

Another Timbre


Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Taku Sugimoto - h (Another Timbre)

Sugimoto's winning project with singer Minami Saeki, Songs, is the source for this lovely, oddly static work, performed in tandem by the composer and guitarist Cristián Alvear. While those piece were generally short (song length), here Sugimoto takes one, 'h', and elaborates on it for more than 42 minutes. "Elaborates", however, in his own idiosyncratic style.

It's a live recording, from a concert at Ftarri in November 2017, and there's an immediate and welcome sense of the music being embedded in the local atmosphere. The notes come slowly, softly, very songlike, a gentle unhurried cascade of single notes, each player (one presumes) playing the melody at his own pace, allowing new patterns to emerge. That said, there's a kind of hovering stasis in effect, a circulation and rotation around one small but beautiful set of notes, the music never traveling very far at all, but simply observing what can occur given two extremely sensitive instrumentalists approaching the score with high regard.

It's been fascinating to hear Sugimoto's migration from the minimal but "tuneful" music first heard, by me, on 'Opposite' from 1998 to the extraordinarily spare recordings from the mid-2000s (like 'Live in Australia) to the more severe composed pieces from recent years to these current variations, which perhaps harken back to 'Opposite' but with much knowledge gathered int he interim. Not too much more I can say about it in terms of descriptives, only to strongly advise, if you've any interest at all in Sugimoto's music (and Alvear's brilliant playing) to hear this one. Very special.

Another Timbre-




Monday, April 23, 2018


Clara de Asís - Do Nothing (Another Timbre)

This is the third release I've heard from de Asís, including 'Uno Todo Tres' (Éditions Piednu) and her collaboration with Bruno Duplant, 'L'inertie' (Marginal Frequency) and each has been a delight.

Six pieces with de Asís playing guitar and percussion, titularly organized around the idea of nothing, each with a different approach. The works are very intimate, even very precise within the parameters she's apparently assigned, like carefully limned drawings where the beauty is in the close attention to detail and where the complexity emerges from seemingly simple objects like stones and twigs. The title track offsets clear, ringing notes from the guitar, sometimes doubled, with the eventual introduction of a resonant, struck object, perhaps a bell. The two sounds, plus an alternate, slightly buzzing guitar tone, share the space, exerting a subtle gravitational pull on one another, their hanging tones causing ripples of interference. Meditative, alive, shifting and lovely. 'Know Nothing' changes locale drastically, plunging into a tiny world of skittering sounds that resemble, small sewing machines or teletypes, rapid-fire but soft, something like typewriters. There are two takes of 'Nothing Lasts', I and II. The first involves sliding, metallic objects, a kind of sound that I can listen to pretty much forever, while the second uses a similar structure but with what sounds like multiple gentle attacks on a drum head, perhaps even rain--entirely absorbing. Sandwiched between those two tracks is 'Say Nothing', repeated, deep guitar tones, regularly spaced, embedded in some amount of room tone, joined after several minutes by (guessing) bowed, large bells. It's a darker variation on the first track, the bowing fairly harsh, the guitar less glowing. The final piece, 'Be Nothing', is built around what I think is bowed metal, though maybe a guitar is in play. It begins a swirl with overtones, slightly strident, the purer tones playing off the grainier ones, then slowly subsides, damping down the volume, becoming nothing.

A very impressive offering from de Asís; can't wait to hear more.

Another Timbre




Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ensemble Grizzana, here consisting of six core members (Jürg Frey, clarinet; Philip Thomas, piano; Mira Benjamin, violin; Angharad Davies, violin; Anton Lukoszevieze, cello; and Dominic Lash, double bass) performs two long works: Magnus Granberg's 'How Vain Are All Our Frail Delights' and Frey's 'Late Silence'.

On the former, the sextet is joined by Granberg (celesta), Simon Allen (dulcimer and glass harp), Richard Craig (alto flute and electronics), John Lely (electronics) and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither and electronics). The starting points for each piece are from Johannes Ockeghem's (1410/25 - 1497) 'Déploration sur la mort de Binchois' and William Byrd's (1538 - 1623) 'O Lord, How Vain'.  Granberg's piece is cloudy, amorphous. I'm not at all sure how he made use of the source material--perhaps extracting small bits and elaborating on them juxtaposing them--but having spent a few hours listening to versions of both the Ockeghem and the Byrd, I can't say that I hear much reference, direct or otherwise. Which is fine, of course. The floating aspect can work and, for me, it sometimes does here but .more so when there's at least a hint of an anchor, as when, periodically, a deep bass note is struck and slowly repeated, kind of an attenuated continuo where one can imagine a dreamy evocation of one of the earlier works. In these moments, I get a slightly Robert Ashley effect which is very attractive. Over its almost 42 minutes, though, I found my attention wandering. Granberg's music has always been a little difficult for me, for one reason or another--my lack, I'm sure.

The Frey work is very different and is yet another addition to his astonishing canon. It's much more constrained and, in a sense, linear. Single, clear lines from piano, dulcimer and strings perform a calm dance, evoking early music without by any means aping it. There's a somberness befitting Ockeghem's subject, tempered by extreme tenderness. The wonderful sound of sliding stones enters beneath the spare, solitary, grainy lines. As with much of Frey's music, the sounds themselves are transparent and "simple" but their placement and their extraordinarily subtle placement provides endless fascination. When other elements are added, harmonica and clarinet in one section, for instance, there's no feeling of overcrowdedness; they slip into the stream, enriching the sound field but never obscuring their cohorts. There are sudden shifts, as when the ensemble gives way to solo piano about 21 minutes in; one has forgotten how full the music had become. The mix of instruments shifts as the piece progresses (harmonica and flute are introduced), always retaining a strong connection to an ancient sensibility, slowed, parsed, and re-examined. 'Late Silence' fits right in to the recent run of gorgeous music by Frey, utterly enthralling.

A fine set. I'll keep working on Granberg, but in the meantime, must hearing for the Frey.

Another Timbre