Sunday, October 27, 2019

Nick Storring - Qualms  (Never Anything Records)

A wildly entertaining if difficult to pin down solo venture from Storring. 'Qualms' is a single piece, spanning both sides of the cassette, on which Storring wields cello (electric and acoustic), other strings including guitar, keyboards, a vast array of percussion and more. The music has one foot in a kind of post-In C minimalism--there are moments that almost sound like they might have been lifted from a variant In C performance, in fact--and several others  (it's at least insectile, if not centipedal) in adjacent areas including one that owes something to Southeast Asian traditions. The generally shimmering percussion, all light bells and transparent wooden tappings, rolls over liquid, string-generated drones, nodding in passing to Balinese and Javanese music, even evoking Laotian mouth organ music at one point, but joyfully moving to its own rhythms and harmonies. On the one hand, it's kind of steady-state but within 'Qualms' are any number of sections and shifts, fades and re-emergences, dreamlike. There's generally a pulse (the piece was written to accompany choreography for Yvonne Ng), at least implied when slowed to a breathing pace, but often enough up front, always airy and fluttering, never remotely leaden; this is particularly the case on Side B, during the episode that's most reminiscent of the Riley opus.

Overall, 'Qualms' is an intoxicating pleasure, offering both a surface beauty and a wealth of fascinating details to investigate. Well worth hearing.

Never Anything Records

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Fergus Kelly - Gleaming Seams (Room Temperature)

I've been listening to Fergus Kelly's music for about a decade now and have found it consistently rewarding, his dark percussion/tape studies always very immersive, rich and unique to his sensibility. 'Gleaming Seams' might be my favorite yet. Centered around percussion (drums, metals, plastics, gongs and more), the ten pieces are embedded--sometimes thoroughly,  sometimes more gently and subtly--into webs of field recordings taking various forms, exterior (trams, skateboard park, random conversations) and interior (ATM machines, computer drives, etc.). As well, there are samples from other musics, including brass and orchestras, that glimmer through the dim, roiling haze.

The softly clanging metals that open 'Numb Burn' draw you in immediately. Just as you're settling in, things shift to a more irregular, quasi-rhythm, the drums attempting to stay afloat amidst backward tape and brass flourishes, buzzing electronics and more, a shifting mirror-like construction that leaves the listener at once disoriented and oddly satisfied. Kelly applies variations to this approach throughout, allowing the percussion to form a kind of core, the ancillary sounds swirling around at some points, adhering and forming their own new structures at others. Now and then, the electronics drift into quiet pulses, creating an almost unnoticed thread, loosely tying together the disparate sound worlds, occasionally bearing the slightest Balinese tinge. The balance between the acoustic and electronic, including the field recordings, is perfect; Kelly achieves a unity that's pretty rare. Each of the ten tracks works extremely well on its own and the whole leaves one sated and even a little moved, the darkness of the evoked soundscapes paradoxically offering some degree of nostalgia. A complicated, brilliantly conceived sound-world. Highly recommended.

Room Temperature @ bandcamp