Saturday, March 30, 2019

Cristián Alvear - Pieza para Guitarra Afinada (Pilgrim Talk)

A 90-minute piece for solo guitar available as a cassette or download file. The model here is Stie's 'Vexations'. Generally, Alvear plays single note or spare chords at a fairly regular, slow interval, one every four or five seconds, allowing the sound to decay, generating overtones and distortion buzzes along the way. Sometimes there are short, four- or five-note sequences, kind of arpeggios. He'll stick with one more or less similar approach for a good while, i.e., the "same" chord played in the same manner for several minutes on end, though there's always a certain amount of fluctuation in the tone hanging and decaying in space. Recorded in  one take, it's an exercise in concentration and determination on the part of both performer and listener. Alvear allows how pure replication of portions of the score as written is impossible and that's part of the piece's character. It's also a large part of the fascination as listener, noting the variations, the slightly altered tinges from one iteration to the next. A lovely and oddly strong piece, its stubbornness becoming a means to unlock aural pleasures that would otherwise remain unheard.

Pilgrim Talk

Jon Heilbron - pieces for chord organ (Intonema)

A set of lovely cover images surrounds a set of wonderful music. Heilbron, a bassist by trade, plays two Bontempi chord organs. What's a chord organ? This is.. Basically a small electric organ not terribly dissimilar to an accordion. Heilbron plays two at once, as can be seen in this promotional video from Intonema: 

Amusingly, the first sounds one hears on each of the two pieces is the organs being switched on with a sharp click and the onset of, I take it, the noise from the interior fan. He'll often play the same single note on the two instruments, the inherent small differences setting up beats and fluctuations. The notes are held at length, added to to create thick chords, subtracted from to get back to single lines. A kind of drone, but with a grating aspect, a certain welcome harshness imposed by the sound of the machines. In overall tonality, it reminded me a bit of parts of Terry Riley's 'Shri Camel' (1975), though far more concerned with pitch relationships for their own sake. These chords, from two slightly conflicting sources, create absolutely rich and complex sound pools in which to bathe. A very unique sound and a very rewarding one--highly recommended.


Catherine Lamb - Atmospheres Transparent/Opaque (New World)

It's great to see Lamb getting more and more exposure, one of the finest younger composers working in this area, imho. The main piece on this disc is her 'Prisma Interius IX' (2018), a 53-minute work. This is followed by seven 'Overlays Transparent/Opaque', each lasting between one and two and a half minutes. The works are performed by Ensemble Dedalus, here consisting of Didier Aschour (electric guitar, director), Amélie Berson (wood and metal flutes), Cyprien Busolini (viola), Yannick Guédon (voice, treble viola da gamba), Thierry Madiot (trombone), Pierre-Stéphane Meugé (saxophone, synthesizer), Christian Pruvost (trumpet), Silvia Tarozzi (violin) and Deborah Walker (cello, voice).

Rebecca Lane's excellent and extensive liner notes go into great depth on both the music's structure and the experience of performing it and offer better insights and descriptions than I could possibly do. I'll just say that 'Prisma Interius IX' goes through eight sections, beginning with strings of varying pitch, expanding and contracting with more or fewer instruments, eventually ending with the entire ensemble. The notes tend to be long-held, though when they end, cut off quickly. There's indeed a kind of prismatic effect, of subtle patterns being projected. Through much of the work, use is made of the Secondary Rainbow Synthesizer, the instrument designed by Lamb's partner, Bryan Eubanks, which was heard on the 2018 Another Timbre release, 'Viola Torros', bringing in sounds from outside the performance space, though subtly enough one doesn't always realize it's there.. The blend of acoustic and electronic instruments with voice is also quite thrilling, creating separate lamina that flow alongside one another, melding just enough but keeping their own personalities (as ever, Dedalus handles the music with wonderful sensitivity). There seem to be ghostly references to pre-Baroque music as well. A fine work, as incisive as it is dreamy.

The seven "overlays" are not mere miniatures but careful studies in which instrumentalists are asked to proceed "from transparency to opaqueness"; each feels as though it could be expanded upon substantially.

Lamb has become one of my very favorite contemporary composers. This release is yet another fine addition to what's developing into an extremely impressive canon.

New World Records

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Michael Pisaro - Nature Denatured and Found Again (Gravity Wave)

Generally speaking it's tough enough, for me, to begin to attempt to encapsulate in words a "standard" recording from Michael Pisaro, much less something like this one, a five-disc re-imagining and restructuring of a five-year long, extremely complex project. First, the basics:

In 2011, Pisaro was invited by Joachim Eckl to design a project to take place in Neufelden, Austria, a charming looking village bordered by the Große Mühl River. He chose to organize two-hour walks along the river that would occur each weekday at 3PM. During the course of their walk, participants would encounter six bench/shelters in which a musician would be dwelling. They would stop and listen for 12 minutes, then continue on, hopefully incorporating the surrounding sounds into those produced by the musicians. The players were: Antoine Beuger (flute), Jürg Frey (clarinet), Marcus Kaiser (cello), Radu Malfatti (trombone), André Möller (electric guitar), Kathryn Gleasman Pisaro (oboe, english horn). I pause to mention that, when I become king, each town in my domain will be required to have Radu Malfatti sitting on a bench, playing, for a certain amount of time per day. Of course, as is generally the case with Pisaro's music, it was more complicated than that, with differing situations taking place each day, but all of this is covered in the extensive notes. Pisaro staged this event once a year for five years, 2011 - 2015. Well, almost, but more on that later.

For this release, Pisaro has, for the most part, taken material from each year and reworked it into a kind of simulacrum of the original experience, sourced from there, conveying something of the original feeling, but resulting in an entirely new and vast work. Each disc is 48-minutes long, divided into four 12-minute tracks (if one possesses five CD-players, you could play them simultaneously). Each "year" comes with a score  or site photo, a recording date breakdown and a listing of which musician(s) is/are heard on which track.

2011 begins with rain. Other sounds overlap (traffic, etc.) but essentially it's rain, threaded through with discreet sine tones. The sound isn't steady but rather comes and goes in irregular segments and contains varied intensities and fluctuations. The raindrops often have the character of small electrical explosions. The second track is titled, 'Still Life with Cicadas, Waterfall and Radu'. As with the prior cut, Pisaro doesn't simply overlay the collected sound but sculpts them, interpolating sine tones, breaking the sounds into chunks, some overlapping, some finding themselves "alone", dream-like in an unsettling (but very satisfying) way. Again, this oversimplifies things. I'll quote from Pisaro;'s notes just this once (similar ones are provided for each track), to give the reader at least a glimpse of what's going on: 

This piece is based on four recordings on the banks of the Große Mühl close to The Station, from four days of the installation in 2011. The grasses hosted many cicadas, including the Cicadetta petryl heard here. (On the second day I played the recording from the first day back, and one could hear the cicadas tune and time their song to the volley of cicada singing emanating from the speakers.) There are many splits, cuts, and repetitions in the piece, along with various frequency shelves, to reveal the anatomy of the many-layered situation.
Next is a gorgeous section featuring Beuger's flute, a very "natural" sounding stretch, though it too has been augmented and adjusted and begins to fragment some five minutes in. Here, as elsewhere, Pisaro manages to convey more than the imitation of having been there--there's a psychological representation of one of many possible reactions one may have had, in a very human way of paying attention, being distracted, shifting one's focus, etc. Very difficult to describe but marvelous to experience once one submits to the procedure. The final track on Disc One, 'Langhalsen' is a different creature again, beginning with very up front electronic bleeps and burbles, segueing to an interplay between Kaiser's cello, a waterfall and overhead airplanes. The shifts here are more drastic, falling into unexpected mini-worlds, including a chilly one, like an old cistern, with Frey's clarinet seeking to provide some warmth, ultimately returning to the surface (birds and children heard, and oboe).

Attempting to describe each disc would be pointless, so just some things that stood out: Frey's clarinet, playing a single tone, turned into a canon and weaving through a waterfall; the sumptuous sine tones ending 2.3; the incredible, unaugmented but amazingly teased apart and reconstructed natural sounds that make up the third disc, 'landscape in black and grey'; Disc Four's imagined year [the event was unable to be held that year, so Pisaro re-imagined the situation with sine tones], layered with an extraordinary range of sines and noise; the unexpected and glorious bursts of melody (and birdsong) that emerge in the final disc, especially Gleasman Pisaro's ravishing oboe.

So much material, so dense, so intricately and airily constructed--a work that will repay listen upon listen for a long time to come.

Gravity Wave

Also available via Erst Dist


Monday, March 18, 2019

Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Not Knowing (Moving Furniture)

Two improvisations on accordion (possibly with other enhancements) by Costa Monteiro. He mentions in his notes that, while this is his fifth solo accordion recording, it's the first to treat the instrument "as an object in space". I take it this has to do with the physical location in which he's playing--perhaps moving?--though admittedly, it's tough to tell. The first track features more extreme techniques, often high-pitched to the point of squeals, less overtly bellows-driven than (again, guessing) bowed or otherwise attacked. It's pretty strong. The second work, however, takes more more recognizably accordion-esque sounds, but extends and layers them, somehow embedding them in a vaguely "other" surrounding aura (maybe this is the space...), producing a really rich, somewhat eerie effect--you want to place it within a traditional framework of some kind but you can't quite do so. I've heard and enjoyed Costa Monteiro's work since 2001's 'Paper'--this is one of my favorites.

NbN - Trios (no label) 

NbN is a new trio with Nora Barton on cello, Billie Howard on violin and Nomi Epstein, with whose work with the ensemble a•pe•ri•od•ic I'm familiar, on piano (they also each perform on "auxiliary instruments). It's an improvising trio and music on their first release is very promising. On the one hand, there's a dryness to the general sound but not of any academic sort--sereness might be a better term, but with a strong underlying sense of melody, of water running deep beneath sandy soil. Maybe think of an improvised variant on George Crumb. I enjoyed the two longest pieces, 'path' and 'ash' the most, feeling the the trio was really able to stretch out and investigate each interesting byway, generating a lovely atmosphere, though the final work, 'bonus', with it's bumpy, jangly tangle of sounds points at further avenues ot explore. Looking forward to hearing more. 

Tim Olive/Yan Jun - Brother of Divinity (845 Audio)

Tim Olive/Cal Lyall - Lowering (845 Audio)

Olive can always be depended on for an aggressive and imaginative improvisatory use of electronics and in Yan Jun, he's found an excellent collaborator. 'Brother of Divinity' is a single, 26-minute track of high intensity, bristling and sizzling electronic mayhem with a huge range from spiky highs to molten lows, managing to create a fine sense of elasticity between. A kind of kitchen sink approach except without any sense of crowding, more a funneling of a vast stream of sound into a (semi) coherent flow, bumpy and sharp, acidic and likely painful to the touch, but very alive. Even when it quiets down some, the splintered, muted guitar and radio grabs carry substantial sting. Excellent work.

I think I'd only heard Lyall a tiny bit on one of those Improvised Music from Japan collections a long while back. Here, he's credited with hydrophone and electronics and the resulting collaboration, while just as aggressive as the above, does seem to contain a more liquid aspect, a friction-filled, granular flow, viscous. There's a great grind in play during the first half of the piece, though the interplay grows somewhat disjointed later on, even somewhat spacey. By the work's end, it's evolved into a wonderful, rich, swampy stew, entirely immersive. More fine work.

IKB - Chelonoidis Nigra (Creative Sources)

IKB (Ives Klein Blue) is a large improvising ensemble based in Lisbon that has released seven albums, all on Creative Sources, of which I've heard four. The creature in the title, as one might guess from it silhouette, is the Galápagos tortoise and I guess it's not too far a stretch to relate it to the music which is comfortably soft and quiet. An issue with larger groups (there are sixteen members for this recording including Ernesto Rodrigues, Miguel Mira, Eduardo Chagas, and Abdul Moimême, just to name several I'm very familiar with) is the tendency towards loudness and muddiness, a problem that IKB skirts very efficiently, somewhat int he manner of another sizable group, The Splitter Orchestra. The single, 47-minute track is both subdued and active throughout, the musicians skittering and burbling, maybe more like sand crabs than tortoises, contributing modestly but tactfully, withdrawing for a bit while someone else comes forward. Perhaps one of those ventures that's more rewarding to perform than to experience as a listener, though it's fine in that regard as well, no particular false steps but treading a fairly well-worn path. A nice introduction to the general area for a curious listener.

Creative Sources

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Gil Sansón/Lance Austin Olsen - Works on Paper (elsewhere)

Last year, Another Timbre released a superb collection of pieces from Olsen, 'Dark Heart', which included an amazing work based on a graphic score of Sansón's called, ' Meditation on the History of Painting'. This two-disc set is a kind of extention of the process begun there and it's just as rewarding.

To get the technical details out of the way, Sansón and Olsen prepared graphic scores. Olsen is an accomplished painter and, to some extent, treats his visual work as a kind of potential musical score so in his case, it was "simply" (nothing simple about it) one of his works. I think--I could be wrong--Sansón's was constructed with the idea of aural realization in mind. In any case, the scores were sent to each other, Sansón residing in the troubled city of Caracas, Venezuela, Olsen in Victoria, British Columbia, and they each produced the two renderings we have here.

Where to begin to describe these complex, dense but transparent works? One thing that struck me over the course of both of these disc is each musician's astounding sense of sound, of how crisp, lucid and three-dimensional everything sounded. There were times when I felt one could almost disregard the context and simply wallow in the gorgeousity of the sound world. The sets were mastered by Taku Unami; I imagine he deserves some credit here. Each offers two interpretations of the other's score. Sansón's 'Pra Mim #2 - Works on Paper', begins with a fine example of the sonic vividness I was referring to, a range of prickly raindrops (?) over a background hum, great separation, before we hear text read by Al Jones. This text is curious. No reference is given and it sounds somewhat fragmented (it resurfaces throughout the piece, with iterations of the odd phrase, "sailing on concrete"). I get the sense of a son's remembrances of his veteran dad, a difficult person, whose prejudices and life-views have been to some extent transmitted to his son (the section on "Rhodesia, or whatever the fuck it's called now that the Mau Mau have taken over") It's spoken deadpan, largely uninflected, a counterweight to the vibrant soundscape surrounding it, which also includes other works by Sansón, for instance a lovely piano piece played by Dante Boon. The music just flows past, the text eventually lapping itself. The music maintains consistency while constantly expanding and exploring new byways. The second version has some threads attached back to the first, including "sailing on concrete", this time sung, as it were, in ghostly fashion. Sansón limits his resources here, concentrating on guitar, melodica and field recordings, creating a slightly less dense, though still rich and active sound-world. I should mention how much of an affinity I find between the music in both of these pieces and the Olsen painting, which is reproduced inside the CD sleeve; impossible to pinpoint, but the feeling is there. 'Pra Mim #1 - Fail Better' is dreamier, still gritty but wafting more than flowing, smoky, a perfect offset to its companion piece.

The Sansón score with which Olsen works, reproduced on the cover and interior, looks to be a collage with multi-colored plastic material text and ink marks. On 'Meditations #3', we first hear a distorted recording of a Baroque (?) choral work, possibly a mass? This segues into a haze of electronics in which we encounter what will be a repeated refrain, a man saying, "Hold me. Don't hit me.", imparting a tragic air--one immediately thinks of current church-related scandals, especially given the opening sounds. Olsen creates a swirling vortex around this poor creature, with echoes of the chorus, harsh shards of guitar, shruti box and any number of amplified objects, again an example of the enormous, transparent/granular depth achieved. There's an ebb and flow here, the sounds attenuating into icy slivers, a lone, ambivalent guitar chord like an alarm, then a complete cessation. When the music returns, we're still in a church atmosphere, but more warped, even subtly nightmarish, with twisted voices, errant bells and sinister, crunches like footsteps on gravel. The sense of foreboding continues, siren-like wails and dire hums coursing through the grimy clatter and wraith-like voices. 'Meditations #2' is chillier still, with odd ray-gun, zapping effects scattered over a low, ominous throb. The drone of either the sampled organ (played by Debora Alanna from another of Olsen's works, 'Craig's Stroke') or the shruti box becomes prominent, creating a huge space between it and a series of sharp clicks, as of glass marbles against a ceramic surface. The piece kind of splays out from here, as though released out of the confines of the crypt into the town outside, rustling separating from hyper-low thrums, bell-tones from soft pops from guitar strums, each meandering off, the zaps heard behind, still menacing but slightly less so.

A marvelous set, four extremely strong, well-conceived and imaginative works. Highly recommended.


Monday, March 11, 2019

Eva-Maria Houben/Ernesto Rodrigues - Layering Time (Creative Sources)

Eva-Maria Houben/Ernesto Rodrigues/Guilherme Rodrigues - The Haecceity of Things  (Creative Sources)

These two very fine recordings form a pair, each constructed (as far as I can tell) in somewhat similar fashion: Houben creating music in one place, Ernesto Rodrigues (and his son Guilherme on the second disc) adding to it at another and mixing the results. On 'The Haecceity of Things', the dates indicate Houben provided the seed while on 'Layering Time', the music was more simultaneously created. "Haecceity", by the way, means "the property of being a unique and individual thing" though Jesse Goin, in his liner notes, defines it more succinctly as "thisness". No matter, really, how they were put together, the results are quite wonderful.

On 'Layering Time', an excerpt of Houben's work 'gestures' (for piano) is played by the composer; she also contributes recordings of ravens. Rodrigues adds his viola. In fact, one first hears what sounds like a family in a park, traffic and sirens in the distance, interrupted by high, clear, widely separated piano chords, soon growing thicker and deeper, with intervening, simple lines, weaving among pigeons and, I take it, ravens. Extremely beautiful, very "Houben". Some five minutes in, a sandy kind of wash appears briefly, presumably Rodrigues drawing something across his viola. It re-emerges with slightly greater force and variety, gaining equal footing with the piano and the ravens (who have now taken over the external soundscape). This is pretty much the tack taken for the piece's 48-minute duration. Other sounds, like church bells, enter in, Rodrigues occasionally strokes some richer string tones, but essentially we're in this wonderful stasis, a floating environment of consistent careful and imaginative placement of notes and sounds, just this side of regularity, circulating amidst the unanticipated noises from outside, all elements equal. Just a gorgeous work.

For 'The Haecceity of Things', Houben is on a church organ, recorded some three months prior to Rodrigues' viola as well as his son Guilherme's viola d'amore and field recordings. Houben does amazing things with organs and here begins with a grainy, quiet tone (an interesting beat in the background), offset with subtle ambient recordings bearing a hiss and faint passing traffic along with distant plane engines. Again, it's near the five-minute mark that one of the strings (I can't tell which) enters, paralleling the organ line but richer, soon occupying the piece on its own, calmly sawing back and forth. A cricket appears, then is heard solo. :-) Perhaps in accordance with the title, there's more of a sequencing of sounds, with some overlap to be sure, rather than the steady-state heard in the prior release (the younger Rodrigues did the mix; I assume that's responsible). Though when both strings are present, undergirded by some hyper-deep organ, the effect is magnificent. An extended silence more than halfway through the hour or so, then astringent strings, soon buttressed by dim, low organ. It's a different feel; the first section seemed, dark and damp as well as episodic. Now things open up into a dry, hot realm, more consistently of a piece. It's a more complex structure than 'Layering Time' and equally as beguiling.

Houben's body of work is among the strongest of which I'm aware and these two items, enormously assisted by the contributions of Rodrigues father and son, extend that legacy. Deep music.

Creative Sources

Friday, March 08, 2019

Joseph Clayton Mills - The Widow (Suppedaneum)

The widow in question is Mary Todd Lincoln and for this recording, Mills visited the site of her tomb, which also houses the remains of her noted husband and three of her sons. He recorded sounds in the tomb and surrounding area--tour guides, everyday conversations, the general ambiance, all low-key--and added to it contributions of his own from various sources, again rather discreet, including recordings of a song from the period, "Old Rosin the Beau", played on piano by Michael Burns.

Suppedaneum releases are as much about the score as the resultant music. Here, Mills' score is presented on a large card enclosed in a gold-trimmed, black folder that reminded me of the kind of brochure one might see at a memorial service. It's in text, in brief lines that take the shape of a poem and which, I imagine, could be realized in any manner of ways. Mills has created four tracks, 'Summer', 'Autumn', 'Winter' and 'Spring'. The first thing we hear is a tour guide saying, "How are you folks today? Welcome to the tomb." Visitors shuffle around, speak to each other quietly. If Mills is adding anything here, he's quite prudent. One hears faint hums, possibly sine tones, but it's tough to say for sure. The group (or the recordist) moves outside and we hear footsteps on gravel, a woolier sonic texture, possibly of vehicular engines--a wonderful sense if volume. 'Autumn' remains out of doors, in a denser more active environment, many sound layers overlapping. This is where the piano first appears, emerging from the heady ambiance, the slammed car doors and birds, distant and wraithlike, gradually coalescing into the song, alongside what seems to be a fife and drum recording of another piece. The piano song acquires greater form and presence, the ambiance taking on more of an accompanying role, swathing and buffeting it--it's an entirely wonderful moment. 'Winter' returns us inside, the crowd still making its way through the exhibits. The salient feature on this track is a fine, billowy hum, as from a heating unit or other air handling device--fitting for the season, if so. With the onset of 'Spring', the piano returns, buried and only barely discernible beneath rain (?), birds, footsteps and engines but remaining steady and stalwart. Train whistles appear, muffled and slowed down (I think), a fantastic and ghostly effect, as the disc closes.

A great piece--subtly eerie, moving and beautifully restrained throughout.

Carol Genetti/Gwyneth Zeleny Anderson - Chyme (Suppedaneum)

Let it be stated and understood herewith that your humble scribe has a genetic predisposition that tends to engender some degree of difficulty in appreciating "free" vocalists. Exceptions abound, of course, though I find myself more drawn to those who inhabit one of two extremes: either those who are (often) ultra-restrained (say, Ami Yoshida or Christian Kesten) or those who give free rein to a more traditionally emotive aspect, even at the risk of some corniness (say, Diamanda Galás or...maybe Phil Minton singing "The Cutty Wren"). Just to give an idea where I'm coming from.

Again, this is a Suppedaneum release, so music is just one part, here especially so. The release arrives in an off-white vinyl pouch and, apart from the CD with Genetti's music, contains four pieces of artwork/text from Anderson, "listening scores". These are printed on accordioned paper, each bearing abstract visual patterns, text and clock timings that match with the disc tracks so one can, if so inclined, "follow along", appreciating the artwork and considering, or acting upon, the text which largely involves things one might do with their body or parts thereof. These begin innocently enough ("Can you open your mouth?", "Can you create saliva?") but progress to instructions that, speaking personally, I'd have a hard time obeying, even if they're fun to think about ("Contract your liver into the shape of a diamond", "Lengthen your pancreas into your bladder"). The level of difficulty eases in the fourth series.

The first track is quite gripping, in fact, as Genetti whisper-sings into, I'm guessing, a flute or other metal tube, soon overdubbed and accompanied by resonant thuds and low growls, effectively evoking some of the texts ("Can you feel the separation of your teeth with your tongue?"). An electronic ambiance (possibly sourced from Genetti's voice?) is introduced on "Transference", again effectively handled, before a large boom announces her voice proper, operating in what I always think of as the "low ratchet zone". There's a Galás-like aura here near the beginning and it's fine enough though, to these ears, there's not either the remove I want to hear on the one hand or the leap into pathos on the other--listeners' mileage may vastly differ. The last couple of tracks include ferociously sputtered and plosive bursts into, I think, the body of a piano and an extended glottal croaking, all of which are handled very well (and excellently recorded), but it's simply a neck of the woods with which I have trouble connecting. The final several minutes, though, revisit the area explored at the start, combining it with other things found along the way and I found this massing to work quite well. I'm sure there are other aspects I'm simply missing. The recording did grow a bit on me over the course of a number of listens; others, no doubt, will find it more immediately appealing on all counts. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Mattin - Songbook #7 (Munster Records)

With Mattin, the political is always primary, sometimes overtly, sometimes implicit. How this "works" might well be of secondary importance to Mattin and, occasionally, with the audience but more often there's great tension in effect, an abiding interest in confrontation and the creation of (necessary) discomfort in complacent listeners. Unsurprisingly, this results in a full gamut of reactions from full immersion to repellence. Whatever one's previous reactions, 'Songbook #7' is, to these ears, the most successful and bracing example to date of Mattin's melding of the sonic and the political.

This is a live performance (on vinyl) from 2017, with a septet consisting of Lucio Capece (bass clarinet, sampler), Marcel Dickhage (voice, sampler, German texts), Colin Hacklander (drums), Farahanz Hatam (computer), Mattin (voice, English texts), Moor Mother (electronics) and Cathleen Schuster (voice, sampler, German texts). I pause to mention that, if nothing else, I'm very happy to have been introduced to the work of Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa) whose own work is fantastic and highly recommended. The performance is organized into seven "songs", titled January through July. The text includes multiple historical allusions to the Russian Revolution and Germaine Berton's (pictured) assassination of the rightist Marius Plateau, mixing in contemporary references (including "Bannon the lenninist [sic]", Dick Cheney, audience targeting and a semi-satirical (?) re-imagining of Lenin's ten theses). These are most often voiced (mumbled, garbled, screamed) by Mattin with some amount of electronic distortion. All of this, however, is largely subsumed in a mightily impressive vortex of sound provided by all the electronics and, importantly, Capece's wonderful bass clarinet and Hacklander's throbbing drums. There's a great sense of chaos, briefly emerging order--or violence--and subsidence back into seething chaos; very hard to describe except to remark on its fascinating combination of density and clarity. On a purely aural level, portions of 'Songbook #7' are as exciting as anything I've ever heard from Mattin, a striking blend of text and sound, strident, paranoiac and explosive.

Mattin's performances have often been concerned with audience involvement, sometimes forcible, and an interesting thing occurs a bit into Side B--remember, this is a live show, though I have the impression that Mattin may have deconstructed and reconstructed the performance after the fact. The music ceases and the musicians begin to talk. Quietly, slowly, one at a time, discussing contemporary alienation, noise-making, the contradiction between art-making and civil disobedience, power and more. A female voice (audience member?) poses questions to which people--I recognize Mattin's voice, but others as well--offer hesitant responses. From here, we descend back into shuddering chaos.

A great recording, strong on its own and quite different from anything else out there.

Munster Records

Karl Fousek - In the Forest (Second Editions)

A 12" 45rpm electronic soundtrack to the film, five tracks. I'm unfamiliar with Fousek's prior work so I don't know if this fits in, but the music here is very clean, very pure layered drones. Fousek discusses the technical ins and outs of his process here. The film documents an abandoned housing project begun in Puerto Rico in 1967 that has long since been retaken by the encroaching jungle. As soundtrack, one can imagine the smooth, rather complex tones working very well, accompanying, say, the decaying structures now overrun by vines, being broken apart little by little. As music on its own, I think the appreciation will depend greatly on what the listener brings into it. As mentioned, the drones are deeply layered and swirling, though I have the sense of very discreet lines--there's little apparent chaotic interaction, though there's a nice play of interference patterns here and there. This makes for a reverberant "spaciness" and cleanliness of sound that I'm not so partial to but one that others will certainly dig. The purely sonic aspect is impressively deep and resonant. The fourth piece, opening Side B, gets somewhat grainier and more dense and the third and fifth tracks move to irregular electronic pings, clearly evoking dripping water, hazily approaching a melody, very effective. 

Second Editions

IQ+1 - Conversaphone Plus (Mappa Editions)

This LP is the third recording by this Prague-based ensemble, the second I've heard. The personnel for this excursion is Georg Bagdasarov (vintage turntable, FX, baritone sax), Veronika Hladká (violin), Jana Kneschke (violin), Jaroslav Tarnovski (synths, electronics, percussion, field recordings), Petr Vrba (clarinet, trumpet, electronics), Michal Zbořil (analog synths, electronics, Indian harmonium) and Kateřina Bilejová (body weather--which I take to be body percussion). The music is free-improvised but the results aren't post-AMM. As in the previous release I'd heard, they tend to coalesce around certain areas contingent with various jazz forms. On that prior release, I picked up Bitches Brew-era Miles, early Art Ensemble and others. Here, the referents aren't so clear, which is a good thing. On the first couple of tracks, perhaps one picks up some Don Cherry circa 'Relativity Suite' (the swirling violins) or some Jon Hassell (the rhythms and enhanced trumpet), but basically IQ+1 is out in its own space. The synths and electronics provide a consistent, undulating bed that throbs like a miasmic swamp, bubbling, lapping and bursting. On Side two, the ensemble almost settles into agitated drone territory, with loopy synth strands, stretched baritone and percolating electronics accompanied by texts, in English, listing times of the day and various everyday objects--the first five track titles are, 'House', 'Thermometer', 'Light Switch', 'Sofa' and 'Dustbin'. One does begin to pick up the sense of some strange household, some quasi-Lynchian vibe. The final cut, 'It's Twenty Minutes to Twelve', attains a fine, gritty, bubbly propulsiveness, sirening off into the echoey, pounding night.  A very enjoyable record from a band with a unique sound.>mappa editions

Friday, March 01, 2019

There used to be a feature in Cadence magazine called 'Hodgepodge and Shorties', iirc, where reviewers provided extremely brief synopses and opinions about new recordings. I always disliked that, thinking it gave overly short shrift to the music. I still dislike the idea but, dammit, there are simply too many things demanding attention here for me to give anywhere near the appropriate amount of time and space--if I want to have anything else of a life, that is, which I do--so I'm just going to give my own listing and short descriptors of items sent my way over the past couple of months, almost all via download. Apologies for the brevity.

Jakob Heinemann - Latticework (Scripts)

(Can't locate an image of the cover, sorry). Four solo acoustic bass improvisations, tough, blistery and imaginative, very much out of the free jazz tradition (I pick up strong--welcome--hints of Malachi Favors). The final track, 'Filaments', extends intriguingly into more abstract realms before settling into a thoughtful near-dirge and arco keening. Strong work, hoping to hear more.


(Various) - Free Percussion (tsss tapes)

A cassette release containing twelve short solo pieces by twelve percussionists, with the exception of a handful (Will Guthrie, Rie Nakajima, Tim Daisy, Chris Dadge) previously unknown to me. The works are largely out of a free-jazz, kitchen sink approach, generally skillfully deployed. While I would often have preferred a less frenetic attack, what they do they do quite imaginatively, with clarity and precision, Nakajima's careful work is a welcome exception to this more active approach as is the delicate dance of cymbals bells and bowed metals by João Lobo that concludes the album. An interesting array, overall.

tsss  tapes on bandcamp

Eli Wallace - Barriers (Eschatology)

An invigorating, wide-ranging solo piano performance, mostly involving preparations and inside-the-piano work. The playing is active and abstract, but with a good sense of spatial volume--active but not over-busy, leavened with fine, darker ruminations in the lower registers. There are traces of Cecil Taylor in play, especially in the "unprepared" portions, but that's pretty much unavoidable in this neck of the improv woods and Wallace does a really interesting job of extending matters in rewarding directions. Good work.


Bent Duo/Casey Anderson - ghostses (a wave press)

A fascinating suite of short pieces by Anderson using extracts of text from W.R. Sewald ('The Rings of Saturn') performed by Bent Duo (David Friend and Bill Solomon). In addition to each reading portions of the text, the pair play (simultaneously, I think) largely on percussion--mostly bell-like items, light and bright, and fluttering wood-based devices, in addition to radio. The instrumental passages reflect the sounds of the text to a degree, loosely echoing the rhythms. The words, though fractured from their original mooring, are spoken clearly and just flat enough to meld finely with the accompanying sounds, not standing out too much, not being subsumed. Really excellent, one of the finest text/sound works I've heard in a good while.

a wave press

Gonçalo Almeida/Yedo Gibson/Vasco Furtado - Multiverse (Multikulti Project)

Powerful, driving acoustic jazz from Almeida (bass), Gibson (soprano saxophone) and Furtado (drums). Gibson is sometimes somewhere between Coltrane and Kirk, other times adjacent to Evan Parker or Sam Rivers, but always hyper-focussed and intense. Almeida's sound is deep, rich and expansive, perhaps on the Haden/Favors axis, while Furtado is light and wonderfully propulsive. Solid, enjoyable work--jazz fans should take note.

Multikulti Project

Axel Dörner/Augustí Fernández/Ramon Prats - Venusik (Multikulti)

Anoher trio from the same label as above, here with Dörner (trumpet), Fernández (piano) and Prats (percussion), but much more on the Euro free improv rather than jazz side of things. Five cuts, from quiet to raucous, Dörner having a great deal of swaggering fun on the latter. There are several exciting moments, including Prats' playing on 'Suparco' and Dörner and Fernández on much of the final track but, overall, the session feels a little routine, with too few meaty ideas. Not bad, not so necessary.

Multikulti Project

The Robadors Quartet  - 19:30 (Multikulti Project)

The third item from Multikulti is about midway between the prior two re: jazziness vs. free improv, maybe a bit closer to jazz. The quartet consists of Tom Chant (saxophones), Marco Mezquida (piano), Johannes Nästesjö (bass) and, once again, Ramon Prats (drums). Prats stands out once again and, indeed, the quartet plays well as a whole, integrated and cohesive. Once again, though, to these ears the general conception feels too obvious, following too well-trodden a path (FMP, Incus, etc.). Oddly, of the three Multikulti releases here, the more overtly jazzish one, the Almeida, works the best for me, feels the most vibrant. But the Robadors will certainly satisfy may listeners, very ably handled.

Multikulti Project