The Dogmatics - Chop Off the Tops (self-released)
An LP release with four entrancing pieces, all improvisations, from the duo of Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet) and Chris Abrahams (piano), recorded in 2013. It opens with the contemplative (deep breath), 'It Never Yielded Results Which They Had Failed to Discover by Other Means', Abrahams casting slow, tonal arpeggios, accented by occasional deep, soft, single notes, Fagaschinski blowing airily, softly atop and through, with the odd subtly sour overtone creeping in. 'I Am Now Wearing Surgical Gloves' (the titles are nothing if not entertaining) is darker, hollower, the piano tones suspended and uncertain, the clarinet quavering and searching, though both remain quiet--a sense of feeling one's way in the dark. The third track, 'Nobody Knew Their Reasons' is darker still, with heavy strikes at the body of the piano and balloon-like squeals and sputter from Fagaschinski. Finally, the lengthiest cut, 'Death Is Now Your Friend', which is also the most extreme musically. Abrahams restlessly probes the piano strings, banging into adjacent points unconcernedly before retreating to the keyboard, constructing a gorgeous series of hanging notes, mid-range--Feldmanesque, yes, but with a unique sense of wonder. Fagaschinski, meanwhile, has been rasping, then subtly gurgling, just tingeing the atmosphere. About midway through, he begins yelping plaintively, very high-pitched and with a painful aspect. Disquieting and impressive, as is the whole album
Julian Abraham 'Togar' - Acoustic Analog Digitally Composed (Hasana Editions)
An intriguing offering from the Indonesian Hasana Editions label. On Side One, Abraham uses acoustic percussion to fashion rhythms that clearly owe a debt to traditional music from the area, but the sounds are more concise and clipped, seeming almost to have been carved out from their source and reconfigured. There's an odd sense of being somewhere between an exotic typewriter and Cage's early works for prepared piano (the Dances, specifically). Sometimes simpler, sometimes quite complex, always intricate and enjoyable. On Side Two, he more or less attempts to duplicate the music electronically, using magnetic solenoids. There's perhaps more of a roundedness, a sonically "cleaner" effect, but it's pretty close and every bit as engaging.
Nursalim Yadi Anugerah - Selected Pieces from HNNUNG (Hasana Editions)
These are selections from a "chamber opera" by Anugerah based on tales from Kayaan culture, a people from Borneo. There's a mix of both approach and instrumentation (including voices) between Western and Southeast Asian traditions. I found it to be an odd mixture. At times recalling Western art music of the 50s, sometimes (in a kind of odd, reverse inference) Harry Partch coming to mind, as well as embedded traditional musics featured in a way that reminded me of the filipino composer, Jose Maceda. That said, the music stands on its own quite well--some tracks, like the slow 'Ha' Liling Mataando' are quite beautiful--and I'm sure I'm missing a vital component insofar as not seeing the stagecraft. Interesting work, well wroth checking out.