Thursday, December 29, 2011

Antoine Beuger - un lieu pour être deux (Copy for Your Records)

As performed by Barry Chabala (guitar) and Ben Owen (synthesized tones, field recordings)...and gorgeously so. I haven't seen the score and I must say, a part of me would rather not, preferring to wallow in it and contemplate why on earth this gossamer construction seems to hold together so well, what the structure could possibly be that makes it seem as solid as any more densely populated piece of (fine) music. The field recordings are a constant, though at a fairly low volume level--urban, with car sounds and kids playing, but often at a distance as though heard from a high story of a building (other times voices in a large enclosed space). Chabala's guitar and, I suppose, Owen's tones appear at intervals, relatively strong, sometimes surprisingly so, though never (of course!) strident and varying in their attack. Here, it seems to strive to blend into the city sounds, there it stands apart. A place to be two. I read it as a weaving in and out, the street sounds always there, if only hovering faintly, the guitar passing now and then. Yet there's a tensile feel to it as though there's a grid underpinning everything, but difficult to perceive.

Wonderful, in any case, easily listenable again and again, totally natural, highly recommended.

Copy for Your Records

Lucio Capece/Radu Malfatti - Explorational (b-boim)

I think my natural tendency, perhaps not uncommon, when approaching a new release involving Malfatti, is to think compositionally, in Wandelweiser terms. Obviously a wrong tack in an improv session like this one. But listening to it as such is tough in one sense, though immensely rewarding--it does indeed challenge one's notions of free improvisation. There have been many comments, of course, about it's severely quiet nature and yes, it's a recording that begs to be heard in a pristine environment. The heating unit for our apartment is outside my room and, it being winter, when it activates, there's no way I hear the music. My window fronts on the street which, though reasonably quiet, is populated by vehicles whose engine hum is uncannily close to the pitch of the bass clarinet and trombone being ever so subtly wielded here. So one does the best one can's enough.

It's an extraordinary performance in ways I imagine I'll still be delving into years from now, two sets of faint, hazy (though precisely limned) lines in space that occasionally intersect, balanced beautifully. More than most, one would wish to have been there and, happily, there's a video available of the first 23 (out of 40) minutes of the set:

Going on about the control, sound placement, quietude, etc. seems silly. It's an improv, that's what I love about it. I love that Radu waits about 6 1/2 minutes before making his first sound. I love the sound of the paired horns when they coincide but also love that this happens only rarely.

Wonderful, wonderful music and ideas.


both available from erstdist

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

mpld - one more episode in between recollection and amnesia (unframed)

Six pieces from 2006 re-released (as also the one below) from an original edition of 10 via mpld (Gill Arno), most involving prepared slide projectors. After a brief, evocative inside-piano track, the projectors take over, casting an eerie kind of spell, somehow allowing for sound types that, in this world where you think you've heard everything, strike me as unusual. There's a range, to be sure, sometimes enhanced electronically (though perhaps always), tending toward a kind of rubbed hard rubber area amidst the metallic taps, maybe rubber-coated metal, the shell providing resonance, being ground against one another with serious pressure. Sometimes the projector as such exposes itself in fluttery, humming fashion--quite lovely and forceful. The 20 minute "four flashbacks" is especially evocative, helicoptering through the mist and smoke and dust. Very nice. A closing field recording merges seamlessly with the piece, drifting off. Beautiful cover image as well, culled from his live projector set-up.

Gill Arno - Nervatura (unframed)

For "Nervatura", Arno, on a visit to Chicago, drew on a map, following railway lines and traveled that route, recording along the way as well as picking up scraps of metal which he later heated and then placed on thermal-sensitive paper, one of the lovely results becoming the fold-out sleeve for this disc. Three pieces, each designated by map coordinates, which gain in strength over the course of the recording. Om the first, railway sounds predominate with trans on track and station bells, children's chatter mixed in. The second dwells in crowd noise, nicely immersive. It's the in the third that things really gel, become rather epic. Hollow sounds, water again, engines...a boat engine, I think. But then a hum enters the picture and just transforms things, elevates them. Not sure of the source, though they're reminiscent of ringing metal wires but whatever their origin, they perfectly glue together the engine thrums and distant metallic clanks. And at 19 minutes, it lasts precisely the right length.

Fine effort.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Michel Doneda/Jonas Kocher/Tao G. Urhovec Sambolec/Tomaž Grom/Giuseppe Ielasi - Udarnik (l'Innomable)

Four pieces by the first four names above and a fifth constructed from that material by Ielasi. An oddly structured recording, at least to my ears. The live quartet dates (soprano, accordion, computer, contrabass) are ok but rather routine, the kind of breathy/scratchy/rubbing improv that one expects from Doneda and with which his companions seem comfortable. For myself, there was nothing particularly special about it. But Ielasi's recombination of the material (not certain if he confined himself to the substance of these tracks or had other options) is superb, a fantastic dense, rolling nine-minute piece that has all the vigor and robustness lacking in the originals. As I said, an odd choice to stand this work on its own when it clearly outshadows its forebears. Worth it for the Ielasi alone.

Ferran Fages - Llavi vell (l'innomable)

You're never sure quite what to expect with Fages though most recently (of what I've heard), he's gone bk and forth between noisy improv and calmer, lovely acoustic work. This one's different. Essentially a long, continuous,fairly complex drone derived, one suspects, from a contact-mic'd guitar, possibly augmented by simultaneous transmission via speakers into the room. The overall effect is one of a ringing, dulcimer-like quality. It's attractive enough but, somehow, I didn't find over the course of its 44 minutes enough to sustain my interest. I suspect this is partly due to the simple fact of its being a recording, that were I to experience it as a sound installation, to be immersed in it, things might be different. As is, it's not unpleasing but ultimately unsatisfying.

Leo Alves Vieira & Pangea - Post-Sleep Paths (Marmorno)

Vierea on Bb Clarinet, flute, acoustic guitar and electro-acoustics, Pangea (Juan Antonio Nieto) on sound treatments, with additional string work. The five pieces take existing sound, often music (is that Don Cherry on track 3?) or spoken word, and alter them in a manner reminiscent of concrete and tape assemblage work from the 60s, albeit with a greater amount of ancillary sound and a subtler approach. There is indeed a sense of dream-logic in play, a misty surreality about the music. This is most finely wrought on the aforementioned third track where that sped-up trumpet flits in and out of guitar chords, masses of static and dynamic displacement; a dizzying and very enjoyable journey. I found the dis as a whole a bit inconsistent but when it gels, things are quite fascinating. Worth checking out.



Sunday, December 25, 2011

Graham Lambkin - Amateur Doubles (Kye)

I first encountered Lambkin's work, as did many, I imagine, with the brilliant "Salmon Run" several years back, never having experienced his tenure with Shadow Ring. Subsequent efforts with Jason Lescalleet, on his own and in the three or four times I've had the pleasure of experiencing his live performance, he's pretty well cemented, in my head, himself as one of the more unique musicians around. And, of course, the term "musician" is highly suspect as Lambkin certainly pushes the boundaries of what one considers musicianship. Live, it's sometimes difficult to discern exactly what it is he's contributing while on record, his use of previously existing music, often to brilliant effect, raises questions of authorship that can be prickly. I suppose that's never been more so the case than with "Amateur Doubles". Which I love.

One opens the gatefold LP sleeve to a photo of the Lambkin family seen through the window of their car, apparently a Honda Civic. Graham is fiddling with something beneath he dashboard, his wife Adris Hoyos behind the wheel, a son in the back seat. This was the recording studio. Atop the dashboard are the two CDs that make up much of the sound source for the disc: "Pôle" by Philippe Besombes and Jean-Louis Rizet and "300 Miles Away" by Philippe Grancher, both Tangerine Dream-y, fusion-y 70s discs with mucho synth/electric piano action. What seems to have occurred is that Lambkin extracted some quite evocative and lovely nuggets from what I'm given to understand are otherwise unexceptional recordings and constructed a melange of sorts (on tape? you hear what sounds like cassette insertion at several points)) which he proceeded to play and record inside the car.

It sounds almost hilarious in one sense but, dammit, it works beautifully. The recordings dominate the soundscape (bracketed by a few moments of something else, including some flute practice at the beginning of Side One--though maybe that's also part of the source recording?) though they're clearly embedded within this somewhat claustrophobic environment, this small "room". Apart from the general ambiance of the space, you hear other elements including the chatter of children, presumably Graham's and Adris', some amount of exterior sound (though I daresay the windows were closed during this operation), various clicks and tappings and what sounds to me like Lambkin's low, muttering voice.

And it somehow all works, works pretty wonderfully. As with field recordings, I have to think it all revolves around choices made and how those choices synch up to the listener's taste, sense of structure, etc. Lambkin manages to rescue these pieces, on their own perhaps a bit sappy, by fixing them in this very real setting, by imbuing them with enough grain and grit so as to make them palatable, no mean feat. I can put this on and listen all day, dwelling on the multiple possible meaning of the term, "amateur doubles".

Incidentally, I'm not sure if this isn't a feature common to all clear vinyl, but there's a very cool optical occurrence one encounters when looking down at the spinning disc, the grooves appearing to go both "forwards" and "backwards" on the turntable. Trippy!

Highly recommended...

Available via erstdist

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Patrick Farmer - Like falling out of trees into collectors' albums (Consumer Waste)

The title poses a kind of question, or observation, that I imagine often crosses the mind of those who deal in field recordings: to what extent they're "merely" the recipients of sounds that happen to fall their way. How much of themselves ends up in the recording? Does it matter? Farmer perhaps touches on this in a short essay included here when he writes "that there is everything and nothing to record, to notice, to document".

As ever, with releases as (apparently) "pure" in their substance as this one, that is, bearing little seeming enhancement on the part of, in this case, Farmer, qualitative judgment is something of a fool's errand except insofar as to simply state whether or not the sounds moved me, placed me in a different psychological space, or not. Well, these do. Three recordings: a pond's slowly melting surface--soft water sounds augmented by the occasional airplane; aower lines recorded via mic placement on a wire fence--a beautiful, oddly hollow but complex sound in which you can imagine infinite levels of detail just outside the range of your hearing; a wasp paring away layer of a bamboo cane, the subtlest of the trio and, on disc, almost as fascinating as it might have been to be inside that tube, which is to say, very.

An excellent recording, highly recommended for those with any interest at all in this area.

Jack Harris/Samuel Rodgers - What's that for, mate? (Consumer Waste)

Fine laptop/electronics session, two longish works, each traversing substantial territory in a calm and inquisitive manner. Generally quiet but with a few laser blasts and, better, some unexpected encounters in the form of voices and brief rhythmic patterns. There's an impressive intensity to the calmness, a highly tuned consideration of sounds and sequencing, and a good balance of the gentle and the severe. This grew on me each successive time I listened, a very enjoyable amble indeed.

Ben Gwilliam/Hainer Woermann - cardtape drafts (Consumer Waste)

I believe (I'll doubtless be proved wrong) that this is my first exposure to Gwilliam (tape, magnetics, amplified processes) and Woermann (amplified cardboard, preparations), hopefully not the last.

Yes, amplified cardboard. Excellent.

Four tracks, unhurried but not unbusy, carrying a strong sense of the space in which they were constructed, scurryings, tappings and rubbings buffeting against one another, almost as though blown into contact by a strong breeze. Great balance between liquid sounds and dry ones, the latter most often brought to us via the cardboard, if I'm not mistaken. Not that I expect to see such in everyone's arsenal soon, but Woermann wields it quite ably here. Dynamics are worked wonderfully, elements expand out of the room, into the open, still abristle, ebb to a rumble, wax again toward the end, everything buzzing.

Strong recording; need to hear more from them...

consumer waste

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hong Chulki/Jin Sangtae/Kevin Parks - 音影 (Celadon)

Perhaps the translation as "chiaroscuro" is the most fitting; one of the immediately apparent aspects of this very fine recording, for those who have experienced the music of the Seoul-based musicians only on disc, is the transitioning between the harsh, more abrupt sound-word they've tended to inhabit and a smoother one, one in which long, semi-pure tones are not uncommon. It's a fantastic mix. I'm guessing the latter is largely the result of Parks' presence here; not that his own out put has been so streamlined, but that the longer tones seem more often than not to be introduced and elaborated on by the guitar, picked up by others in the ensuing minutes.

That's the impression which permeates the disc: a delicate, lovely balance between the rough and tumble of Hong Chulki's turntables (which, surprisingly in this day and age, are occasionally the brief source of some identifiable music) and Jin Sangtae's hard drives and Parks' guitar and electronics, the former seeming to adapt themselves a tad or two to the relatively clearer tones and hums of the latter. It's bby no means a complete accession and that's much of the beauty, that tension and elasticity that forms in between. As implied above, it's entirely possible that this particular area is more routinely heard at performances in Seoul than have been documented on disc (at least within my hearing), but to this listener, the music comes as a refreshing variation to what's appeared before on Manual, Balloon and Needle, etc. Parks' oyster shells to Hong's and Jin's cigarette butts? The fifth of five tracks achieves a special kind of synthesis, really beautiful.

It's quite active overall but feels entirely unforced, a very natural flow in effect, the bleats and screeches blending wonderfully with the more mellifluous tones. I don't want to suggest it's all that smooth, btw, just a more finely grained sandpaper than one might expect. Not sure what else to say except that if you enjoyed the Parks/Foster "Acts Have Consequences" release (and, really, who didn't), you love this one. Highly recommended.


Hong Chulki/Ryu Hankil/Choi Joonyong - Inferior Sounds (Balloon and Needle)

Album title of the year? Though closer in character to previous work out of Seoul, this too strikes me as having moved toward a fuller, somehow more accommodating sound. There's a kind of surge in effect throughout much of the disc's two almost half-hour tracks; one pictures a large mass of all these thorny, harsh elements "balled up" into a larger form that steadily oozes along. As in the Celadon release, the aural landscape is active, silences rare to non-existent. It's more than harsh enough for your average passer-by but less so than I might have expected, given past music.

So in many ways, including the coincidence of their fairly close release dates, I think of these as a kind of diptych. And it's just as hard to parse on some ways. Knowing the instruments involved are typewriters, turntables, CD-players and a snare drum gives one an idea and if you know earlier work from these musicians, you'll have an inkling, but there's less overt aggression than encountered in the past. I'm of course reluctant to conclude anything of a general nature from only two examples but I'm naturally curious to find out if this represents anything of a recent tendency there. Whatever the case, this adjustment, if it is such, suits really well with me, nudging the music just a hair toward a more user-friendly sound. It will still easily drive any adjacent acquaintance from the room, don't misunderstand, but the music feels more solid and focused than ever. Excellent work. (and a wonderful packaging idea)

Balloon & Needle

Both available stateside via Erstdist

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ben Owen - Birds and Water, 1 (Notice Recordings)

I wish I could figure out exactly what it is that I routinely enjoy about Ben Owen's work that differentiates it from others plowing roughly the same territory. As before, the best I can do is posit that it revolves around choices made and that those choices, in one sense or another, coincide with my taste, with what I would do or, more likely, what I wouldn't do but would look back and think I should have done. This cassette release (which I heard on disc) contains two substantial sides, over 47 minutes each, both realized at the Experimental Television Center in Owega, NY in 2010, using A system developed by David Jones (presumably not our David Jones) in 1974 that includes sequencers, oscillators and image processors. Side A shifts from area to area, some intense and full, some all but silent, the latter often redolent, on closer examination, with hums and wooly static, here smooth, there very, very rough. What to say except that both the selection of sounds as well as their duration/sequencing sit perfectly, keeping one rapt and delighted.

Side B is a bit of a tougher go only because it's essentially a single drone, kind of a thicker variant of a Sachiko M piece. There are striations, though, and they're apparent on reasonably close listen even before the ocarina-like, wavering tones appear. The long hum. I haven't had the opportunity to really lay this out loud, though I imagine it would sound great. I enjoy it as is even if I somehow find it missing that extraordinary level of attention that Sachiko manifest. Still and all, very fine.

A strong, absorbing recording, well worth seeking out.

notice recordings

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Steve Beresford/Stephen Flinn/Dave Tucker - Ink Room (Creative Sources)

Nice title. Electronics/percussion/guitar. I haven't kept track of Beresford at all over the years, though I recall enjoying his more straightforward efforts (Signals for Tea, the film disc on Tzadik) more than his free work and this, more or less and example of the latter, confirms my prejudices. It's less Beresford that's the problem than Tucker, whose rock-referential, harsher-than Frisell (which is to say, not very), gentler than Bailey approach wears thin quickly. Combined, the trio churns out something resembling a random, less than inspired set of music that wouldn't have been out of place in downtown NYC circa 1990. Retro-efi? Not for me.

Heddy Boubaker/Ernesto Rodrigues/Abdul Moimeme - Le Beau Deviant (Creative Sources)

Now this is more like it. Six pretty incisive, thoughtfully considered improvs from Boubaker (alto and bass saxes), Rodrigues (viola) and Moimeme (prepared electric guitar). Not earthsaking but solid. Most things I've heard involving Boubaker over the past several years have shown well-learned lessons from AMM without descending into slavish imitation and this is another. The pieces are quiet and spacious, relaxed but concise. Boubaker manages to avoid both saxophonics and post-Butcher tropes, really just disappearing into the mix, no mean feat. All contribute at moments and with sounds that tend to feel exactly right at that time. Just a good, strong session, very enjoyable.

Erik Carlsson - The Bird and the Giant (Creative Sources)

Solo percussion and not bad at all. He sticks mostly to metals and bells, sometimes sounding a bit like certain prepared piano set-ups, keeps things calm but percolating, well-paced and, by virtue of the elements employed, very soothing on the ear. As with the trio release above, I can't say there's anything startling or "new", but no matter. It's an exceedingly pleasant recording, absolutely fine for creating a bubbly, meditational atmosphere. Also appreciate the more sandpapery final two tracks, nicely offsetting the prior sounds. Good work.

Marjolane Charbin/Frans van Isacker - Kryscraft (Creative Sources)

Piano and alto saxophone; don't believe I've heard either musician before. This is one of those recordings where I can't say there's anything particularly wrong but it doesn't quite grab me. Fairly quiet (aide from an annoying sax explosion toward the end), making use of plenty of extended technique, inside-piano, etc. Perfectly competent and sometimes charming, though more so the "straighter" it gets (an all-too common phenomenon in my experience; I can't begin to count the number of musicians I think would be better served to be less "avant"). Were I attending a live event and this was presented, I'd be satisfied but I'm afraid I'd forget it within hours. It's fine, just more or less indistinguishable from many.

Boris Hauf/Steven Hess/Keefe Jackson/Juun - Proxemics (Creative Sources)

The pick of this particular litter, to these ears. I hadn't heard Hauf in quite some time, though I have fond memories of the discs he used to send out, willy-nilly, about ten years ago. He's added sines and harmonium to his tenor and soprano, teaming hear with Hess (drums, electronics), Jackson (contrabass clarinet, tenor) and Juun (piano) for three lush, deep probes. Interesting how well the two reeds work in this context. While they make free use of what has come to be heard as "traditional" breath tones, they freely drift into standard sounds and even, as heard some 15 minutes into the opening track, a kind of mournful melodic line that wouldn't have been so out of place in the Garbarek of "Afric Pepperbird" (1970). And it works. The shortish second cut is even, to my ears, more directly referential to that once-fine Norwegian, sounding like it could have been an outtake from "Tryptikon"--very tasty, too, I have to say. Surprising they could still manage to make something viable from this material, at this date, though it's Juun's prepared piano, an element not heard in those early ECM days, that proves to be the winning ingredient. The harmonium appears on the final piece, a soft, semi-droning work that shifts every few minutes, from low throbs to hollow winds back to harmonium drones with semi-rhythmic, light percussion. The horns return, undisguised and again, manage not only not to irritate but to gibe before the wheezy drone returns to take things out. Excellent recording.

David Chiesa/Jean Sebastien Mariage - Oort (Creative Sources)

Double bass and electric guitar, doing a reasonable rendition of the cloud of debris between Mars and Jupiter. Spacious, and scrape-filled (much arco bass and, I suspect, bowed guitar)--I would have thought I'd like it more than I do. Something is lacking for this listener, however and I'm guessing that, however extenuated the sounds, they seem to relate back to the kind of post-serial gesturalism that often makes me itch. Less a concern with pure sound than with flourishes of extended technique, that is. Not bad but not enough air for me.

Abdul Moimeme/Ricardo Guerreiro - Knettanu (Creative Sources)

For two simultaneously played, prepared electric guitars and "interactive computing platform". Not sure what the latter does, though I assume it's something along the lines of regurgitating Moimeme's guitar as the music carries that tonality pretty much throughout. It's echoey, spacey; reminds me somewhat of Laswell's 90s explorations which....isn't a great thing to remind me of. Much resonant scraping, ringing tones, darkness. Better than that, with some welcome harshness tossed in here and there but overall, far too meandering and, well, spacey, for my taste.

[Writer's note: Last week my pc was the recipient of some malware, so I'd been working on Linda's laptop, where I did the above. When my pc was apparently fixed, I used it to write the remaining four reviews of the Creative Sources discs. Unfortunately, fixed it wasn't and none of them were saved. I just don't have the heart or time to rewrite them and, since I didn't happen to find those four discs very much to my liking, I'll let them drop. Apologies, Ernesto. The four were:

Matthias Muche/Philip Zoubek/Achim Tang - excerpts from anything
Alon Nechushtan - Dark Forces
Olaf Rapp/Joe Williamson/Tony Buck - Weird Weapons
Joe Williamson - Hoard ]

Creative Sources

Friday, December 02, 2011

Haptic - Scilens (Entr'acte/Flingco)

The band that refuses to disappoint.

As ever, tough to encapsulate short of mere descriptives. They're careful and quiet, yes, with something of a dronish character lurking about, though not so insistent as to make it a very conscious apprehension. It more involves the materials they choose to use in constructing these hums, rubbings, vibrations and how (for example, in the luscious opening track) they deposit small helpings of beautiful, clear piano, augmented by rougher, less clear string abrasion. On first blush, you (I) don't realize how much variation there is--a sign of great work: apparent simplicity made up of enormous complexity.

The fifth track gets rudely percussive for a bit, surging then receding then coming back again, before settling down. But it's a fine jostle amidst the general, wonderful haze. A "hidden" sixth cut zones out spectacularly, just a languorous throb amidst crickets and ice crystals.

Hear this.

Pali Meursault - Without the wolves (Entr'acte)

A really fascinating recording with an interesting arc. At the beginning of the first track, we hear a soft but quite detailed range of dripping sounds, reasonably dense but clear, augmented by similarly pitched glitches and cracks, with the odd metallic bang. It's very much of a piece and, in its fashion, rather steady state. I liked it very much and admired Mearsault's sticking to it for quite some time, allowing variations to creep in that didn't disturb the flow but rather focused the listener's attention here and there within the stream. Some 15 minutes in, however, it began to pall a bit. Something, something hard to pinpoint, was no longer clicking. A certain range of drops vanished, perhaps that was it, and I found it disquieting.

But this shift, relatively abrupt though it was, began to open up adjacent areas that, while quite different and becoming more so as the piece wore on, seemed somehow appropriate when the opening was reconsidered in hindsight. Bits of radio, whirring buzzes and all manner of detritus appear, eventually evanescing into the dark. Nice.

Second and third tracks have more of a field recording feel, from breathing and talking around a fire (?) with what sounds like a good bit of trudging around, to wind-whipped howls and dog yips, all, eventually fanning out into an ethereal ringing, quite beautiful.

I got pretty lost in this and enjoyed it a bunch.

Nick Storring - Rife (Entr'acte)

Storring is a Toronto-based cellist and electronicist and I think this is my first encounter with his music. It's a reasonably juicy one. The music also diverges from what might expect after the first few moments, when I was guessing at a post-modern cello set augmented by electronics, but occupying a fairly abstract area. Not so. Quite quickly, the kitchen sink is duly thrown in and the subsequent music incorporates eastern tropes, zither, lush electronica, beats and much else. If I had to make a single comparison, it would be to Fennesz, whose influence looms large, especially insofar as general tone, but Storring, in these ten tracks (which I read as a suite) is even less constrained, seemingly willing to drift wherever the "moment" takes him. This has its pluses and minuses. I find myself enjoying it in large part even as I question how much depth is there. It's sonic candy to an extent, tasty and easily digested if, perhaps, lacking in required vitamin department.

Still, well worth a listen and one of those discs that could provide a gentle avenue into deeper realms for innocent ears.



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just a note on this marvelous release, otherwise unrelated to the usual stuff here.

Steve Roden, who, I guess, is actually a bit related to the aforementioned usual stuff, apparently spends a good deal of his spare time trawling thrift shops in search of, among other things, ancient, obscure vinyl and old photographs. He's collected two CDs worth of the former and a bookload of the latter, all consisting of music-related subject matter, in this fantastic volume.

The music dates from the '20s to '40s, the photos from the mid 1800's through maybe the 30s (? not sure, don't have it at hand). There are blues, hymns, folk songs, pop tunes, most of them by people you've never heard of, many of them just gorgeous. Highlights include Nick Lucas (a central inspiration for Tiny Tim! and who appeared on the Tonight Show wedding of same) crooning, "If you Hadn't Gone Away", Eva Parker's stirring rendition of "I Seen My Pretty Papa Standing on a Hill" ("He looked just like a ten-thousand dollar bill") and an awesome jew's harp performance of "The Old Grey Horse" by Obed Pickard.

I've posted a couple of selections on facebook to deafening silence from the eai community (:-)) but what the's great music.

Oh, and their Fahey set contains its share of gems as well.

Dust to Digital

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Greg Kelley/Olivia Block - Resolution (Erstwhile)

Jérôme Noetinger/Will Guthrie - Face Off (Erstwhile)

The two new Erstwhile releases stand in something of a contrast to recent albums on the label, being (to my ears), less strictly idea-oriented and more concerned with pure sonic attributes. In some ways, I here them as similar to recordings like "eh" and "Lidingo", which is all well and good.

Olivia Block makes her label debut, paired with Greg Kelley in his first appearance on Erstwhile since "Forlorn Green", although the overall cast of the session seems more firmly located in her neck of the woods, which is to say very thick and richly layered, possessing a massiveness and spatial volume. She plays a bit of piano here and there (once unfurling a couple of strikingly Tilbury-esque arpeggios, elsewhere within the piano's string-bed) but it's her electronics that predominate, finely integrated with Kelley's trumpet, enough so that it's often difficult to pick out the horn from the diverse soundscape.

Though the five pieces have enormous dynamic range, there's never a sense of sparseness; even at its quietest, you get the impression that even the gossamer strands that are barely discernible are tightly connected and possess great tensile strength. And when things get churning--or tumbling--look out. The sheer sound is marvelous through most of the set, especially those moments, beloved of Block, wherein one experiences loud but slightly dulled bangs, like crates being jostled in the hold of a cavernous ship, similar to the ambiance of her "Heave To" but here augmented by Kelley's ferocious rushes of wind power and tin plate-induced buzz. The fourth cut, "some old slapstick routine" is almost bravura in its deployment of crashes, wheezes, bangs and piano, a marvelous explosion of densities, colors and plasticity.

It's interesting re: the title, "Resolution" that had we read this in 1970, wed likely think of "moral determination" whereas today, I daresay, we think in terms of sensual acuity. In any case, I hear this as quite a sensual release, and a very good one.

There's a somewhat similar feel, at least to these ears, with the Noetinger/Guthrie recording, not in actual sound but in the sense of being immersed in a purely sensual world, here defined by electronics and percussion. It's a more prickly clime, more spittle and nails, but contains the same kind of richness and viscosity.

Twelve cuts that, though often differentiated by a brief gap, read decently enough as a continuous suite. There are different tensions in play here: a bit of a musique concrète resonance via Noetinger and the slightest of free jazz allusions on the part of Guthrie, who's been investigating that territory in recent years.

Difficult to know what to say apart from simple descriptives; for all its grit, there's a certain airiness at hand, the whirs of the tape decks seeming at some physical distance from Guthrie's clatter. Perhaps that's one aspect, that there's a strong feeling of twoness here whereas "Resolution" has a kind of unity that, had I not known otherwise, might have made it difficult to ascertain the number of people involved. "Face Off" (and perhaps this is apropos given the filmic reference of the title) strikes me as more of a dialogue, even (heaven forfend!) a conversation. Whatever, it maintains interest absolutely throughout. Listeners aware of the prior work of both will have a reasonable idea of what to expect, though it's less monolithic that some of Guthrie's electronic work from recent years.

One tends to consider new Erstwhiles in the context of its impressive catalog. While these may not have the conceptual depth of Rowe/Malfatti (not that much does, imho) or the sheer, aggressive innovation of a Taku Unami project, they're each entirely winning baths of sound from two pairs of fine and fascinating musicians. Recommended.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Two LPs by Mattin that were apparently released in early 2010 but showed up on my doorstep only recently. The first deals, more or less traditionally, with music, the second not so much. Mattin will be appearing (what that entails, who knows? or even if he'll appear) along with Jarred Fowler and Rind on Tuesday, 11/22 at 208 Bowery, 2nd Floor at 8PM.

Loy Fankbonner/Margarida Garcia/Kevin Failure/Mattin - Exquisite Corpse (w.m.o/r - Azul Discografica - Ozono Kids)

The idea is simple enough: four parts of each of ten songs recorded independently, with only the lyrics serving as "graphic score" of a kind, limiting the length to standard pop's three minutes, layering the results without discrimination. MIMEO's "Sight" was a far deeper exploration along tangential lines, including as it did the advice to think in terms of the communality of the ensemble despite being geographically isolated. Perhaps the same idea was at play here or the members thought of it themselves. I also found myself recalling Gavin Bryars' wonderful "1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4" on that mid-70s Obscure disc, wherein the group member recorded simultaneously but outside the range of hearing each other, beginning a written piece together (in this case a loungy jazz number) but gradually, inevitably, drifting apart.

In any event, we *are* presented with a commodity here, another in a long string of seemingly contradictory product emanating from Mattin who might just as likely sit and stare at his performing partner for the duration of the set, recording what transpires, playing it back immediately, or not show up, or interrogate the audience. Not sure if this is the "last" item which presents a fairly traditional musical approach (in ultimate outcome, if not in means of production). If I attempt to describe what it sounds like...oh, a bit of Boredoms, maybe some DNA, any number of groups straddling the noise/rock divide. At times, rather amusingly, it brings back memories of Last Exit or Arcana. It's perfectly listenable, very loose, Failure's guitar chiming, Fankbonner's drums supple and varied and, probably (not surprisingly) Garcia's bass, rough-hewn and uncompromising, supplying the most material of lasting interest. Mattin's vocals are suitably disjointed and glossolaliac.

Listen here (w.m.o/r)

Mattin - Object of Thought (Presto!?)

When I opened the package in which these LPs arrived, the knife I used left an incision directly across the black circle that occupies most of the back cover of this release. Seemed appropriate, somehow.

I find this one a good bit more interesting, ultimately, than the Exquisite Corpse album, largely due to its fine juxtaposition of the abstract and concrete, the latter consisting of the spoken words of Mattin, recording his thoughts on (I take it) a range of subjects, which he then distorts, cuts and otherwise manhandles, removing any real vestige of meaning with the exception, possibly, of tone of voice. In this sense, one recalls Lucier's "I Am Sitting in a Room", though the end result falls in territory adjacent to Ashley's "Automatic Writing". Not to make a qualitative comparison, just an elemental one.

Side A is quiet, Side B, less so. Sometimes the words are intelligible, more often not, slowed to an indistinct mumble. Electronics interfere like a mal-tuned analog radio. Sonically, it works quite well, balanced, slithery, interruptive. That's part of the irony, I suppose, that one is unable *not* to listen (at least, that's the case with me) without making assessments that are more aesthetic than political. One can expand upon the attempted portrayal (and understanding) of ideas made impossible by the corporate chaos around us, though that's not a particularly deep thought, both obvious and subvertable. So one listens to it as sound, contravening what I imagine Mattin's preference would be. And it works quite well, though my favorite aspect might still be the knife cut I made in the sleeve.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sean Baxter - Solo Drumkit Improvisations (Bocian)

Bocian had preciously released a couple of Baxter solos on 45rpm vinyl; sometimes I thought it worked well in that format at that length, other times I wanted to hear the music more expanded. Well, got my wish on the latter here, with a 35-minute LP, eight tracks of varied percussion. It's all quite full and active on Side One, but at the same time, there's not much of a sense of fussiness or bravura playing. Things grow quiet on the flip side, much crinkling of material at first, then a flurry of toms and light metallic clatter. Echoes of Le Quan Ninh perhaps, maybe a hint of Beins as well.

Good recording, worth checking out.

James Rushford/Joe Talia - Paper Fault Line (Bocian)

New names to me (though Anthony Pateras also appears), Rushford on viola, piano, synth, organ and many percussive objects, Talia wielding mostly percussion (also an LP).

How to describe? Side One is a fine welter of noise, with tones of percussion that tends towards the mid-range and higher pitched end of things, with electronics weaving in and out, the whole thing surging and ebbing. Like the Baxter above, very busy but without a feeling of fussiness, advancing with fervor, then retreating to bubble about and reconsider. The organ is surprising when it enters at the side's conclusion, tonal and church-like (or, at least, funereal).

The obverse side has more of a concrète feel at the beginning, but once again the organ appears, this time more deeply ethereal, with a faint choral aspect. The music continues in a slightly spooky vein, with glass-like tinkling and high keening provided by bowed material. There's an abrupt stoppage (no cuts are listed, so I'm reading this as a continuous work), followed by isolated electro-percussive tones, reminds me of something...Jarrett/DeJohnette from Ruta & Daitya? not sure. In any case, quite enjoyable and I'm interested in hearing more from this pair.


"Blue" Gene Tyranny - Detours (Unseen Worlds)

Tyranny has always been something of a puzzle for me. First hearing him as part of Robert Ashley's ensemble, I took his keyboard work to be rather tongue-in-cheek, the flashiness and obvious technical prowess a kind of commentary on same, similar to the horror/enticement of the cocktail lounge-ish music, expertly done but quease-inducing. But on his solo piece on the brilliant "New Music from Antarctica" compilation, the modestly titled, "The World's Greatest Piano Player", he really seemed to revel in the raucous honky-tonkin' and I thought, hmmm, maybe this is really where his head is at. Subsequent music has more or less steered me in that direction, though I always retain an itch that has me wondering if I shouldn't be taking the music at face value, if, somewhere down there, Tyranny is chuckling...

In any case, I'm choosing to take this recording as it comes. Four works, delicate and tonal, sometimes possessing a Satie tinge, more often carrying more than a whiff of Jarrett at his soloing best (without the pomp or angst). There's a gentle country aura in "13 Detours"; one can picture a house pianist in a rural bar, by himself around 3AM, ambling about the keyboard, trying out arcane variations on what he'd played earlier. "George Fox Searches" is both the most overtly Jarrettian (though much better) as well as the most effective piece, though Tyranny cites a Quaker hymn as a source. It's a quite beautiful, sprawling 19 minutes, always interesting, often achingly lovely.

The other two compositions use electronics and tape. "She Wore Red Shoes" has a touch of the Ashley-era throb with a clipped rhythm embellished by florid pianistics, pleasant enough. "Intuition" is dreamy, with held notes and taped sounds of fireworks and maybe a calliope?

Nice work. Does a part of me desire more meat? Yes, but it's a reasonable enough dish as is, occasionally wuite piquant! :-)

unseen worlds

Yannick Franck - Memorabilia (Silken Tofu)

Six tracks of heavy, dark, slowly pulsing dronage. I'm afraid there's not too much else. Well-constructed and rich enough, but the kind of amorphous, throbbing mass that just can't hold my interest. Some annoying, if softly spoken vocal on the fifth track don't help. Nothing wrong with this, and of interest to those who really get into this area, but too indistinguishable from similar work by others and not nearly enough grit for yours truly.

Silken Tofu

Christian Wolff - Kompositionen 1950-1972 (Edition RZ)

Wolff occupies a rather unique position in my evaluative process, always has. There's something about his music, generally, that I deeply love and admire but I'll be damned if I can routinely pick out what that something is and, in the meantime, I find his work very, very difficult. This is made all the more problematic by its seeming (on the surface) simplicity and often relative tonality. There's a slipperiness to it, a conflict between the "should be graspable" and "leaking through my fingers" that persistently baffles me. Which all goes to its beauty, I imagine.

Coincidentally, shortly after writing the above, I saw an exchange with Michael Pisaro and Jon Abbey on facebook in which the former complained about the blandness in most of the performances on Disc One here. Now, I take for granted that Michael knows vastly more about Wolff and has far more experience with his music than I do, so I place substantial trust in his opinions. That's part of the reason that makes me reluctant to critically comment on certain areas of music, and Wolff is often one. Because I simply don't have the breadth of listening experience to differentiate at that level. I listen to the first piece here, "Duo for Violinist and Pianist, 1961", performed by Cardew and János Négyesy, and it sounds fine to me, difficult to grasp in the manner I mentioned above, but very enjoyable. I'm sure I'm missing something, perhaps as simple as having four or five other renditions at my disposal and the time to compare.

In any case, this 2-disc set presents performances of a range of early Wolff pieces realized from 1956 to 2011. Several stellar performers including Cardew, Tudor, Nelly Boyd, Rzewski and Rowe. I imagine there are differing opinions as to Rzewski's pianistic gifts, some finding him too steely, but I've always loved his attack and he does wonderfully here on four pieces, three recorded in 1963 (I think the earliest I've heard Rzewski), one in 1971, spare and delicate. There are two versions of "Edges", the first by Gentle Fire (Richard Bernas, Hugh Davies, Graham Hearn, Stuart Jones and Michael Robinson) from 1974, which elicited especial condemnation on that interchange cited above. I can see the point a bit; there's a kind of narrative aspect that seems out of place. It's certainly rough and, to my ears, doesn't hold a candle to the Rowe, but I can't quite hear it as utterly offensive, the overall sound closer to what you might have heard from Davies' Music Improvisation Company from around the same time. But Rowe's version is stunning. Hyper-quiet, with a restraint that's almost painful, small shimmers, clicks, flutters, radio...truly, the "edges" of sound. Worth the price for this alone.

Other pieces I especially enjoyed included the strong, droney "Duo for Violins" played by Daniella Strasvogel and Biliana Voutchkova; "Stones" is almost always delightful and is so here; the four pieces played by Tudor ("For Pianist 1959", "For 1, 2 or 3 People, 1964", For Piano I, 1952" and "Suite (I)"), each managing to be incredibly incisive in such a free-flowing world; and the lovely "Drinks", for glasses and liquids.

There may be justified carps for more experienced Wolffians than I, but I found this a very fine exposition of a segment of his work and highly recommend it.

Volker Heyn - Sirènes (Edition RZ)

Heyn is new to me. My first impression, on the opening track, "K'TEN" (2005), was something out of the Louis Andriessen mold; specifically it sounded very similar to the early work of Andriessen disciple Michael Gordon (not the highest praise in my book). The second piece, "Sirènes", is an intense string quartet that reminded me of Lachenmann, though again, my knowledge of the latter is pretty minimal. After the third cut, "Prelude zu Ferro Canto #1", for tape and orchestra, I gave up having any stylistic expectations, especially seeing that the next work was titled, "Blues in B-flat" for solo cello (and a very excellent one, at that).

The overall tenor of Heyn's work, if this can be considered a representative sampling, is rather harsh and aggressive, with slashing strings, jangling, grinding percussion and a lot of fff-ery. That fullness--one is tempted to say overstuffedness--can be bracing at times but over the long haul, is a bit exhausting in the sense of having received the ideas only to have them driven home once again. This is fine, I suppose, and Heyn is adept at it. It's a case where one's love of the music may come down to one's appreciation of the kind of character the music evokes. Personally, I opt for the more reticent (as in Wolff, above) but others may well be swept away by the vehemence and violence evinced herein.

Edition RZ

available stateside from erst dist

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Echtzeitmusik Berlin - Self-Defining a Scene

Burkhard Beins, Christian Kesten, Gisela Nauck, Andrea Neumann - Editors


If one was going to choose a city for which to extensively document the recent history of what's come to be known in these parts as electro-acoustic improvisation, my first pick might be Tokyo, but Berlin would certainly be up there. This handsome book goes a long way toward providing a history (not the history, as the editors are the first to say) of the Echtzeitmusik ("real-time music") scene from the early 90s through 2010.

The first section of the book deals with memories of the specific locations wherein echtzeitmusik flowered. It's likely the least interesting portion, being more a rundown of venues, how they became such, how long they lasted etc., combined with certain memories of same. One does have the impression that it was much more of a squatter situation in many case than it is/was in, say, New York. I sort of picture a number of ABC No Rio-like rooms...The exception to this run of relative dryness, oddly enough, is non-Berliner Rhodri Davies' warm and beautiful recollection of his years in the city, from 1997 to 1999.

The remaining portions are devoted to discussions of ideas, ranging from the specifically musical to the social and elsewhere. [I beg for forgiveness on the perfunctory nature of the capsulization that follows, but I just don't have the time to go into each area in detail] Much of it will be generally familiar to those readers who have spent a good deal of time in conversation with musicians in this neck of the woods (and/or who are musicians themselves); most of the issues are those that routinely surface. This isn't to say the discourses are of no value--they often are and, at the end of the day, it's good to have them assembled in printed form in at least one place--just that expectations for discovering new, crucial insights should be kept at a minimum. Diego Chamy's piece, "The Interaktion Festival: A Critical Defense" stood out, to me, for its fine questioning of premises, something that's always of great value. As is often the case, he'll aggravate many, but I imagine he'd consider it a failure if he didn't.

If I have a complaint, it's that some of the pieces, not unexpectedly given the number of contributors, are a little humdrum while others, in the context of purportedly discussing the scene and interesting aspects thereof, end up being little more than a rundown of what that individual has been doing recently.

But overall, Echtzeitmusik is a solid enough job and certainly a valuable attempt at, at the least, beginning to describe and document this area of the music. Well worth reading for almost anyone involved.

Wolke Verlag

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Tomek Chołoniewski - Un (Mathka)

Percussionist Chołoniewski presents five solo pieces. My first exposure to his work, I believe, and the initial piece raised my hopes, a soft, thoughtful exposition on muted bells. From the second track on, though, we're very much in Andrew Cyrille/Milford Graves territory, almost as though their "Dialogue of the Drums" had been seared into his memory. Not a bad source, of course, not at all, and Chołoniewski delivers a soulful, rich and energetic set. He tones things down for a couple of cuts, some bowing involved, before closing with a more forceful variation on the struck metal theme, evoking a mixture of gamelan and free jazz (heavy on the floor toms) that's very appealing. Good record, one of the better solo percussion things I've heard lately and, at a mere 18 1/2 minutes, a nice length as well.


The Limbo Ensemble - Plebiscitu (Audio Tong)

The brainchild of Portuguese reed player/electronicist Paulo Chagas, who solicited contributions from nine musicians scattered around the globe (including our own Massimo Magee as well as cellist Travis Johnson and bassist/percussionist Bruno Duplant), parsed through them choosing two to four selections per tracks, then added in himself. That last causes some problems though, to these ears, the whole notion doesn't quite gel here. The "solos" themselves are hit and miss though it's pointless to really criticize or praise them as all that matters is how they're used by Chagas and, generally, I find that effort to be uninspiring. THere are numerous times when I'd rather Chagas sat himself out as, for example in the third track (with Magee, Johnson and guitarist Thomas Olsson), things seem to be preceding along just fine without him. That "vanity project" aspect intrudes fairly often. Things coalesce a bit more on the final two tracks but, all in all, not very memorable.

Niski Szum - Songs from the Woods (Audio Tong)

Not often one hears Robert Frost lines around here...Niski Szum (gotta love that nom) is Marcin Dymiter (vocals, guitar) and on two of the four tracks here, he breaks out that old warhorse, "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening". The opener, "Blues from the Green Hills", has something of a Frithian air to it, an attractive, propelled piece of overlaid guitars, loping along pleasantly enough. "The Woods, Part 1" brings in the Frost. There's kind of a moody, folk aspect, Dymiter's Polish-accented English charming, softly sung over a shimmering backdrop. "The River" is the longest track, something of a drone with maybe a bit much fuzz; there's a smoothness overall to Dymiter's work here that strains my interest, needs a bit more bite. The final track is a recapitulation of the second with a bit more instrumental time. As said, pleasant enough but in the end, one-dimensional.

Zero Centigrade - Unknown Distances (Audio Tong)

Tonino Taiuti (acoustic guitar) & Vincenzo De Luca (trumpet)

The first, warped guitar notes instantly recall Partch's stringed instruments, a reference that will always warm this heart. It's a nice contrast, the resonant guitar with occasional, very deep strums offset by the squeezed, breathy trumpet. Guitar/trumpet isn't the most easily integrated combo one can imagine but Taiuti (who, btw, is credited with "composition" here; it seems pretty loose, generally, though some pieces have a clear dramatic structure) and De Luca do a good job, the former tending toward the clear, rich and ringing, the latter more strangulated and extreme. Perhaps a bit of sameness settles in over the course of the disc, but the pair is consistently imaginative enough to make it a worthwhile journey.

DMP Trio - Insular Dwarfism (Audio Tong)

Pawel Dziadur (electronics),Slawomir Maler (alto and tenor saxophone), Philip Palmer (alto saxophone, objects)

Kinda gabby and noisy--think Brotzmann and Zorn with Thomas Lehn at his most active. The sax playing, for all it's "freedom", is bland, sounding like any random efi session from 1985 or so, the improvisations are formless as well, containing no surprise, intriguing textures, etc., and the electronics are pretty basic. Nothing special here, keep moving.

audio tong

Monday, October 31, 2011

mites - something to ponder upon for a restless soul like you (Mystery Sea)

mites - it's something but it's not tomorrow (CDR)

Trying to quantify what it is about the music of Grisha Shakhnes (mites) that's so fundamentally appealing, I hit upon a number of things, to be sure, but foremost is usually the sense of commitment I get, of having a strong basic idea and seeing it through, for exactly the length of time it requires. Shakhnes uses field recordings pretty much but with such a deft hand and ear. As is often the case, print descriptions are pretty valueless; suffice it to say that he tends toward the grainy and sooty but with great depth and a wonderful knack for opposing and mixing textures. Every track in each disc is strong, all of them capable of being listened to and examined numerous times with new detail and structural relationships emerging on each occasion. Ont he Mystery Sea disc, they linger at mid-volume level save for the "climax", as it were, in the penultimate cut when the dynamics surge; it's a drama that feels well earned.

The CDr, which incidentally arrives in a magnetized rubber case, suitable for sticking up on your refrigerator, the shifts in loudness are more abrupt and differing sound sources appear, including bell-like tones. But even in the relatively plentiful variation, there's a unity about the pieces, a sense of purpose. There's also, as late int he second piece here, a wonderful naturalness in the sound, particularly, for me, the irregular rhythm heard when (it seems) something--a cord, perhaps?--is being wind-buffeted against a metal surface. Such a fine quasi-rhythm! The last, very quiet track is especially impressive, a fantastic series of low rumbles and tones of other sounds, pitched low, leading after 20 or so minutes to an Arabic voice (intoning a prayer) and a muffled female voice (not sure of the language) and a Western orchestra bled in alongside. It works beautifully.

Don't let these slip through--really excellent work.

Mystery Sea

Cdr available from Erst Dist

Scott Smallwood/Sawako/Seth Cluett/Ben Owen/Civylu Kkliu - Phonography Meeting 070823 (Winds Measure)

Five recordings as presented live at Issue Project Room in 2007, all based around field recordings, bleeding from one to the other. The creators provide "notes" for each, ranging from proper note to six photos (Owen) to a set of three and four letter words (Kkliu).

Smallwood's piece mixes more or less "traditional" sounds--wind, water, chimes, birds--but it has an appealing thickness to it, a density often missed in such works. It's in episodes, like a series of snapshots, drifting into a fine deep drone that ushers in a welter of urban sounds, a large, populated interior space. Actually, I'm never quite sure when one person's music ends and another begins. I'm thinking that the children partying are within Sawako's contribution, but who knows? Doesn't matter too much...It progresses through wooly buffeting with crunchy...footsteps? (perhaps Cluett's portion)...abstract crackles, indecipherable sounds (Owen?), very intense, like hyper-magnified quiet noises...a buzzing hum, very long held, a household device, perhaps, listened to from a fly's closeness. FIne journey, wish I'd been there.

Winds Measure also sent along two cassettes which, as I've mentioned, I'm only able to listen to in the car, not the ideal place for anything possessing a smidgen of delicacy which both of these recordings do. They each sounded interesting: Taku Unami/Stefan Thut on one and Unami with Angharad Davies on the other, but more than that I'd be reluctant to say. OK, there's clapping. But, hell, take a chance!

winds measure

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Robert Schumann - Dichterliebe (Bôłt)

I should say up front that, although I've heard Dichterliebe on any number of occasions in the past on radio, I'm not very conversant with it nor do I know it intimately. When I've heard it, I'm sure most of the time it was the Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau/Vladimir Horowitz rendition. So if I may assume that's the benchmark for this piece, it's clear that Bernhard Schütz (voice) and Reinhold Friedl (piano) have chosen to interpret the (exceedingly beautiful) songs in a manner much more reminiscent of Brecht/Weill and, to these ears, it's a perfect choice. If you know any of the songs at all, it's likely the first one, "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai", with its heartrendingly gorgeous melody and wrenching sense of a missing line. Well, it's the showstopper here too, with Schütz (who is known as an actor in Germany, though I've no idea if he's previously lent his talents to a musical venture) delivering the words in a breathy, burred voice that only just makes it to the end of the line, a stirring effect as the final syllables are gasped. Friedl also elasticizes the music, injecting some Satie and even Feldman into the rolling phrases, allowing them to linger for split seconds before continuing the cascade. Absolutely beautiful. If that's the high point, there are several other fantastic performances among the sixteen lieder, some quite raucous (shouted vocals here and there), others intensely brooding.

Can't recommend this one highly enough.

Mauricio Kagel - Ludwig van (Bôłt)

Ashamedly, I'm not so familiar with Kagel's "Ludwig van" either though, again, I've heard it now and again over the years. But I'm much less able to evaluate the performance by Frédéric Blondy (piano) and DJ Lenar (turntables) in relation to its original status. Actually, the piece was initially a filmwork, done for the bicentennial of Beethoven's birth (1978) in which the interior of his studio was
covered with pages of scores from his work. A piano would play the music as it entered the view of the camera plus there were TV and radio programs on the composer jostling for aural space. You get something of that here as recognizable scraps of Beethoveniana surface and subside amidst other noise and spun and scratched recordings.

As a piece of music, the collage technique feels a bit dated, perhaps inevitably though, given that, the recording more than sustains interest. Blondy's playing (I'm assuming the piano is predominantly Blondy throughout, not pre-existing recordings) is both sensitive and strong. When actually spinning the vinyl, the effect by DJ Lenar is, I guess, appropriately nostalgic. What holds the work together, not surprisingly, is the actual substance of Beethoven's music, containing enough power and beauty to transcend the perturbations and attempts at warpage.

Good recording, need to check out the original....

Rinus van Alebeek plays Luc Ferrari - Cycle des Souvenirs (Bôłt)
Rinus van Alebeek - Luc Ferrari (Mathka)

OK, this is a little confusing.

The Mathka release, per its liners, was recorded October 28, 2010, the Bôłt the next day, both in Montreuil, France. The first was explicitly at the home of Ferrari, in the presence of his wife, Brunhild. The second doesn't say anything about the location to that degree of specificity; I've no *real* idea if it was recorded in the same situation though it would seem to be odd to do it elsewhere on the next day if you're in the same town.

At first, despite the apparent date difference, I wasn't sure if I didn't have two copies of the same recording, but the Bôłt clocks in at 72:30, the Mathka at 66:41 so, assuming no editing, I take it they're different. It's tough to tell without playing them side by side (which I've not done...perhaps I will; or someone can set me straight) since the original Ferrari piece, "Cycle des Souvenirs", is played throughout on both. That's the conceit here, incidentally: van Alebeek "simply" inserts a disc of the Ferrari into a system, at his home (possibly elsewhere), and walks about the environment, mic in hand, recording the ambiance with the original piece suffusing the space. It's a wonderful idea, in my opinion, and works brilliantly.

Why this works so well is tough to say except for the underlying premise that the nature of Ferrari's music clearly lends itself to thoughtful and sensitive integration with existing environments. All credit to van Alebeek for judicious mixing and editing, in both releases, for creating a flow that seems entirely rich and natural. The piece, voices, the sounds of the room, Mme. Ferrari, in at least one of the versions, reading quietly; it all blends with the "Cycle" as though it had always been there. If I have to choose, there's something a bit clearer and shimmering in the Mathka recording, but both are very much worth hearing.

Excellent work.



Monday, October 24, 2011

MIMEO - Wigry (Bôłt/Monotype)

I love LPs, Still. Admittedly, however, I'd have preferred this to have been issued on CD, or two CDs. The massiveness, the organic quality of the music contained herein benefits from as few interruptions as possible. An amazing set.

Performed in the cathedral at Wigry, Poland in November of 2009, in the freezing cold. Looking at a map, I see the structure is positioned on a promontory that extends into a large lake and, from the dark cover photo, looks to be quite beautiful.

It's a powerful performance but one, largely due to its amorphous character and sheer density is really tough to describe. MIMEO had been in existence a dozen or so years at the time of the recording and had, one hopes, long since reined in the natural danger of overdoing re: the immense firepower at its disposal. It doesn't seem that, as is often the case in a MIMEO event (how many shows have there been in total? A dozen?) that there was any guiding plan put forward by one member, as was the case with The Hands of Caravaggio (Rowe) or the concert at the Serpentine (Matthews). Instead we hear, apparently, a pure improvisation. One can say that, loosely speaking, it progresses from quieter, (relatively) calmer areas near the beginning, surges forward to a mini-climax or two and, for much or Side D, just tears the roof off, causing the marbleized saints to grimace in fear, the stained glass to melt.

There's something marvelous in that barely contained power, the more so because it's been delayed, subdued, for an hour or so. Very tempting to describe the affair in sexual terms, though not solo, instead with ten participants managing to reach orgasmic synchrony as a single vibrating, shimmering organism.

:-) Too much? Too Keenan? Dunno, it reaches places like that, really an astonishing album. I kind of wish I didn't have to flip over the vinyl an extra couple of times, and sure, there's some meandering moments but if you have a turntable, this one is about as mandatory as it gets.



Available in the US from erst dist

Rick Reed - The Way Things Go (elevator bath)

Hey, whaddya know? Another double LP! Also electronic in nature, though solo and, I daresay Reed wouldn't be out of place as a member of MIMEO. His music is resolutely smooth (in a good way) and spreads itself out like a syrup.

I find it oddly hard to offer much in the way of descriptors. The six pieces are fairly steady state, drone-y, if you like, though exceedingly rich and varying substantially within the initial parameters. There's a fundamental tonality to them, yet they bristle. I think it's fair to detect Rowe's influence (Reed, of course, plays with Rowe and Michael Haleta in the Voltage Spooks trio) and at times I think of the music here as akin to what you might get if you took some of the similarly (relatively) unabrasive passages of Rowe's work, especially that from around 2004, and stretched it out, by doing so making more apparent the detail nestled within.

At its best--for me, "in a hazy field of gray and green" and "the way things go (for c.h.) here--Reed attains a kind of granular ethereality that I find singularly captivating. He doesn't get nearly as much notice as he deserves. Check it out.

elevator bath

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tetuzi Akiyama/Takuji Kawai - Transition (ftarri)

What a nice surprise this is! While Akiyama is a known, if widely ranging in style and quality, item, Kawai is new to me and a wonderful find. Perhaps surprising to myself in that his style laps quite a good bit in a jazz direction, albeit a specific one. To these ears, he comes very much out of Paul Bley, a musician of whom I'm quite fond. The pieces, which I assume are improvisations, are ruminative, quiet and inward-bending. I suppose one of the surprising things is that, at heart, the music is very responsive, much more so than standard post-AMM improv and yet there's not a whiff of staleness about it. To the contrary, there's something quite fresh and alive going on. Akiyama is in a slightly more mainstream mode than his "Relator" persona and is extraordinarily sensitive here. Kawai prods and pokes, like a better version of Misha Mengelberg, but also offers a kind of elegiac tolling, allowing the notes to just suspend, that's absolutely entrancing. The entire disc is solidly excellent though if I had to pick a track as a favorite, it would be "Realization", single guitar notes hung in the cool air over low, rubbed strings and isolated, deep piano tones. Gorgeous. Don't let this one slip through.

available from erstdist

Mural - Live at the Rothko Chapel (Rothko Chapel Publications)

Jim Denley (wind instruments), Kim Myhr (guitars, zithers, percussion), Ingar Zach (gran cassa, percussion). Inevitably, what first strikes one is the image of the space in which this trio is performing, visual and aural. The sound itself is noticeably clear and vivid and one imagines it playing off the dark, gorgeous paintings. It also a spacious yet solid performance, with more than a tinge of AMM in the general character, mostly quiet and not very harsh. Myhr has some lovely moments on guitar and zither, somewhere out in classic Sugimoto and melodic Fages territory (sort of taking the Tilbury role), Denley reins in the potentially troublesome flute and sax both by nixing any jazz content and, like Myhr, often venturing down lyrically abstract pathways. Zach might be the real glue here, though, managing to contribute massive amounts of varying coloration without even coming close to being obtrusive. Good job, check it out.

Kim Myhr's page
Rothko Chapel Publications

Richard Garet - Decentering (Sourdine)

Another helping of complex, steady-state music from Garet, who does this quite well. Presumably sourced from field recordings among other things but processed, reprocessed and more into something very much other. As with most of the music in this area that I find enjoyable, you have to deal with both the surface uniformity and the underlying complexity simultaneously. So, at the beginning, for instance, you register the high, slightly rough pitch and then pick up the faint low tone as well as begin to hear what's making the high tone rough, all these small irregularities. Other layers are introduced or subtracted, generally adjacent in volume but varying in timbre, twining together, forming a variegated strand, though always a strand. The predominant feel is of wind, cold wind, blowing through interstices, picking up stray elements, including traces of voices, carrying them along for a bit, discarding them. Toward the end, the wind aspect recedes and a more claustrophobic sound emerges, or the wind is being funneled through a tighter set of tubes...Good work, worth hearing.


Edén Carrasco/Leonel Kaplan/Christof Kurzmann - Una Casa/Observatorio (Three Chairs Recordings)

Carrasco (alto sax), Kaplan (trumpet), Kurzmann (lloopp). How to describe when, to your ears, something just doesn't work from the get-go? When almost every decision made by the musicians involved makes you wince? Part of it may have to do with the way the music uses the lexicon of eai but inserts it into the structure of efi, an uneasy fit. Perhaps this was the intent (I often wonder about the frustrations musicians must feel in attempting to break out of whatever the current stylistic environment is dictating, especially when that environment is, really, pretty rich and interesting!). But here, all the whistled sax, breath-a-fied trumpet and, perhaps most egregiously, the software-generated loopiness (or llooppiness) simply fails to cohere for me. Everything seems pro forma. The second of the two pieces here ratchets things up a bit and its to the music's benefit; the more activity, the thicker the mix, I suppose, providing a certain amount of body missing otherwise and the periodic pulsing rhythms help as well.


available from erstdist