Friday, May 17, 2019
A.F. Jones - Bourdon du Kinzie (Unfathomless)
A.F. Jones - For Eschrichtiidae (Omniana) (Taâlem)
Having known Al Jones and his history so well over the past almost two decades, it's always difficult--impossible, really--to listen to his sound constructions without performing an image overlay with his long career in the navy, especially his subsurface activity with sonar while spending extended periods of time on a submarine. Listening to the opening few minutes of 'Bourdon du Kinzie' (Battery Kinzie, in Port Townsend, Washington was the source site for the sounds here), one can quite easily imaging oneself submerging, the aural activity of the upper world being washed out in deep gurgles, swamped by tones of water, rendering all sounds strangely and aqueously refracted. The environment soon turns cavernous, stone walls vibrating with energy from hidden turbines; a photo shows Jones pressing a mic against one such old, stained wall. This seemingly distant activity buffets against bangs and dull scrapes right next to one's ears--eerie and very effective. The piece lingers in this general area for a good while, expanding into adjacent zones filled with sandy rubbings, deep, heady thrums and more. It blurs out a bit, echoes of watery voices offset by indecipherable much closer utterances. Just as the listener is settling into a kind of edgy comfort zone, a few minutes from the disc's conclusion, there's an enormous, deafening series of bangs and groans, as though the hide of a battleship is being rent (there's even a Godzilla-sounding moan or two). A dramatic and thrilling climax to a very fine release.
The title of the single track on the 3" disc 'For Eschrichtiidae (Omniana)' is '48°06'48"N 122°45'19"W', also an area somewhere in northwest Washington state, while Eschrichtiidae is a gray whale (baleen). There's water to be heard, but here in the form of rain falling heavily on a hard surface, perhaps metal. A bit before the halfway mark, the precipitation ceases and one hears a haze of machinery, maybe HVAC units or heating generators. A harsh kind of crackling takes over, difficult to ascertain the source (I thought briefly of the clicks made by whales, though that doesn't seem likely). A gradual diminution of sound begins, as of some smoothly whirring motor very slowly disappearing into fog, interrupted by soft splashes of water. It's very obscure, mysterious and disappears abruptly before the listener can pin down any definitive meaning. Fascinating and oddly provocative.
Taâlem @ bandcamp
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Endlessness (anòmia)
The concluding segment of Costa Monteiro's trilogy for electric organ, this LP presents two works. Both are steady-state, drone-like pieces, both deeply layered. The dominant sound is in the higher registers, warbling slightly and even a bit shrill, but there are so many things going on below and around it. Swells appear, attain some prominence, submerge again. Almost like focussing your depth of vision, you can almost choose to hear certain strands at the "expense" of others--it sometimes seems like you can will things into existence. I'm not sure if this is possible to perform live but, if so, it's tantalizing to imagine these sounds swirling around and through one's membranes.
Yet another strong work in the extraordinary catalog of Costa Monteiro.
anòmia at bandcamp
Mariska Baars/Rutger Zuydervelt - eau (Machinefabriek)
A dreamy half-hour spent floating with Baars and Zuydervelt. Baars' lovely voice is overlaid, enhanced and manipulated in, I imagine, many ways--though never losing its essential "song" sound--sometimes seeming to be singing in some imaginary language and woven among (appropriately) liquid electronic textures, what sounds like backward guitars and doubtless much more. Given the title and cover image, the result is almost a kind of program music, as one easily imagines diaphanous water spirits wafting through the azure, drifting slowly down into the ever-darkening blue. A few surprising and mysteriously sharp clicks transpire later in the piece--sonar pings, perhaps. Distant voices? Boat motors? Hard to tell as one's senses have numbed somewhat. Ambient done right, well worth a listen.
Machinefabriek at bandcamp
Tarab - Housekeeping (sonic rubbish)
Tarab (Eamon Sprod) has always been a unique organizer of found sound and field recordings, back as far as his first recording, 'Surfacedrift' (2004). 'Housekeeping' continues down that path, this time employing, as one might surmise from the cover image, numerous items accumulated in his home over the years. Sometimes the sounds are more or less recognizable--the clatter of smallish, thin metallic items such as silverware--often they are not. The cascade of noise that greets the ear on the first track is wondrous, especially when experienced at high volume. Tarab manages to attain extreme degrees of depth and transparency while maintaining sonic richness--a seriously impressive range of timbres. It's kind of thrilling, in fact, not an adjective normally applied to field recording collages, but this has the hurtling excitement of a dangerous amusement park ride (alternatively, like running with scissors). The second track contains a greater ration of hums and deep rumbles, sourced from who knows where. The edits throughout are excellently chosen, suddenly shifting to blurred conversation, back into a hyperactive and explosive kitchen, back into billowy, dark clouds; the disc ends in a buzzsaw--or a blender. Excellent work.
Friday, May 03, 2019
Eva-Maria Houben - Erwartung 1 und 2 (Second Editions)
A wonderful LP containing a work by Houben (English translation: Expectation), performed by the composer once on piano, once on organ.
The music is pretty much impossible for me to describe--so serene, so bare-bones, the notes so perfectly chosen and placed, the touch so precise. The piece is based on a chord from Schönberg's piece of the same name, Houben unraveling it like a thread. The piano version, 'Erwartung 1' is more austere, beginning with two clearly struck high notes followed by a low one, soon answered by two in the mid-range, the notes held, the sustained tones mingling with each other and the audible ambiance of the room. It proceeds like a slow, contemplative walk, step by considerate step, observing. That might be the overwhelming sense I get from the piece, one of close, silent observance. The organ (at Thomas Morus Kirche in Krefeld) provides several additional layers and, as ever, Houben shows her mastery at eliciting timbres and combinations of timbres that are utterly gorgeous and mysterious. The tones are so tactile, so full of detail and activity even though you know they're "only" a single note--really amazing, I could wallow here forever. Haunting, ethereal and earthly at once with subtly new experiences from beginning to end. This might be my favorite organ work from Houben thus far.
As I said, difficult to do justice to this music in words, but if you're at all a fan of her work, this is an absolute must. And if you're new to it, not a bad place to dip your toes.
Wednesday, May 01, 2019
Pareidolia - Selon le Vent (JACC)
Pareidolia: The tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image or pattern in a random or ambiguous visual or sound image. Good word, glad to know it and, clearly, a meaningful one in this neck of the woods. This Pareidolia, however, is a trio comprised of Joāo Camões (viola), Gabriel Lemaire (alto and baritone saxophones, alto clarinet) and Yves Arques (piano, prepared piano) with Alvaro Rosso (double bass) on the second of two works.
The first track, 'Himmelskino', is a fine mix of free playing and vague nods to tradition, especially from the viola. Lemaire's saxophonics are discreet, burbling and obligingly grimy and the trio creates an invigorating space that, while relatively active, feels uncrowded. Arques' piano is also a highlight, with very well deployed, resonant bell tones appearing near the end. A very satisfying work. The other piece, 'Herzkino', at first strays a bit far, for these ears, into that busier strain of improv where things become somewhat fussy, though Camōes gets into some strong playing that evokes Leroy Jenkins. Eventually, it settles into a calm, steady flow, calm enough that I'm reminded of, perhaps, late 70s Garbarek. An odd direction to take, one that doesn't quite do it for me, but the trio (and quartet) is intriguing enough to warrant a listen and to keep an eye on.
JACC at bandcamp
Anne F. Jacques/Ryoko Akama/Takamitsu Ohta - The Magic City (Hasana Editions)
Given the title, I thought this might be a Sun Ra tribute but, in fact, the two pieces were performed shortly after the death of Takehisa Kosugi in October, 2018 and dedicated to his memory. The trio use an array of small, everyday objects, a melodica and some electronics to fashion bustling, mini-landscapes. I wasn't familiar with Ohta's work, but from what I'd heard of Jacques', the resultant sounds seem midway between her usual approach (relatively dense and noisy) and Akama's (sparse and serene). 'Chris in the magic city' is like lifting a stone and watching an ant's nest. Quiet scurrying, a general overall pattern or set of sequences but varying immensely within that. Rattles, clicks, scrapes, the odd melodica passage, all unforced, as easily listened to intently as allowed to become part of one's environment. The general approach of 'Holly in the city magic' is more or less similar though the palette has changed to include lightly popping sounds, some slight whoosh in the background and an essentially more up front feeling--not aggressive but brighter, even a bit acid. If the previous track was formic, this one's like a hive of iridescent beetles. Fine, subtly unusual work.
Will Guthrie - Some Nasty (Hasana Editions)
As nasty as he wants to be, I suppose, but not nearly as much so as I expected. Guthrie's more than capable of laying down extremely nasty (not to say, brutal) drumming but actually reins himself in quite a bit here. His vaunted precision is still in effect but he shows a much lighter touch than, say, with Ames Room or on several solo projects. Two side-long tracks (though fairly brief, at 13-14 minutes each) which are more or less suites, with Guthrie utilizing a substantial amount of electronics, field recordings and various gamelan-related percussion in addition to his drum set. Side A begins with some rapid fire electronica, bells and sizzling drum work. This ceases abruptly and we're suddenly in a steamy Javanese environment, all soft, hazy bells and background hiss and grumble. Possibly the nastiest part occurs next, Guthrie (?) reciting some text in a strangulated, distorted matter followed by abused metal and harsh ripping, tearing noises and more. Side B begins with cloudy gongs, bells, light drums and electronics, growing progressively denser and denser before moving into a little bit of straight up funk, then settling down again into Southeast Asia with beautiful wood blocks sounding over LP scratching and other shards of percussion and finally a great section for drums with gamelan. Good work, unexpected and invigorating.