Friday, January 26, 2018

Matthew Revert - A Discussion Was Had In Your Absence (Tristes Tropiques)

I think anyone who's familiar with Revert's design work (a sampling of which can be glimpsed here), would be hard pressed not to draw some comparisons with the music heard on this recording. There's a similar transmogrification of the cast-off, the banal and the mass-produced into something worth looking at/listening to differently, often resulting in surprising beauty. The music here is a dense collage of sounds that seem to be derived from a bewilderingly large number of sources: everyday clatter, darkly spoken text, spacey electronic hums, chirps and innumerable other bits of detritus. The choices made are fine. Revert seems to have a predilection for silvered, splintery sounds embedded in thick, grimy masses, a kind of shit-encrusted jewel effect that's unique and, to these ears, extremely attractive. The opening track, "The Sincere Pleasure", positively wallows in this--an iterated, distorted voice weaving through shiny squeaks and squelches coursing through a sonic refuse heap. The aural space expands somewhat in "The Rewarding Conversation", more resonant but also darker and more metallic, the voice acquiring a touch of malevolence. "...slices and slices and slices..." "The Unintended Compliment" stands apart a little, beginning with intoned voices over an ambient hum, reminding me a bit of a portion of Cardew's 'The Great Learning'. Other subsidiary sounds emerge: vague flute-ish tones, high tinkles, shuffled footsteps. But the voices drone on. It's an odd effect--too dirty and cluttered to be meditative but persisting along that route anyway. An excellent and strange release.

Arek Gulbenkoglu - Of Cruelty (Tristes Tropiques)

Gulbenkoglu's work has always been "difficult" but ultimately rewarding to these ears and "Of Cruelty" (intriguing title) is no exception. There are four cuts here, each living in an entirely different universe from the other and each posing its own set of gnarly problems. But also, there's a kind of bluntness about the pieces, a "here it is, deal with it" forthrightness that wins out in the end, though I'd advise listeners to be prepared. 

"A Foregrounding" explodes into one's ears; my first impression was being plunged into a massive traffic tie-up while being shrunk to about ant size. Many of the sonorities resemble vehicular horns (no instrumentation or record of other sources is provided), several of them in constant blare, threaded with needlelike shards, the horns warping into higher registers and then outside the range of human ears. It's a solid wall with internal variations that obtrudes for 7 1/2 minutes. Wake up. "Innards" is the only track to substantially shift over its course. It begins with slivers of a woman's (several women's?) voice, appearing initially out of silences, those silences soon mildly infested with tiny bits of electric dust, intense but barely there. The voices acquire some echo, an electronic transmission loops, filling all gaps; it sits there for a while, subtly amassing some additional energy before, about four minutes into the 13-minute piece, it erupts into a very loud, thick torrent of liquid noise, something like I'd imagine one would hear were a mic to be submersed in flowing lava. The listener bathes in this for the remainder of the track. The amusingly titled, "Haste" seems to be composed of drum machine samples. There's a good bit of space throughout this piece, which runs almost 16 minutes. The predominant element is a kind of bass-marimba-with-a-heavily-padded-mallet sound, slightly resonant, that recurs over the duration of the track, sometimes in a regular (though widely spaced) rhythm, but not always. There's also a flatter, deader bass drum thud and several cymbal-like sounds as well as a hollow-wind segment, all of them clipped and appearing in a random (or intuitive) manner. It's quite odd, like a conversation made up of exceedingly terse and inherently uninteresting statements which, by virtue of simply going on and on and on manages to attain a weird level of fascination. I'm reminded of Henry Gwiadza's strange video/sound constructions, where banally animated figures intermittently engage in even more banal actions but somehow create this engrossing alien world. Finally, we encounter "Consequences". Entirely electronics of a liquid, loopy kind, it seems to consist of two basic strands: a higher-pitched, swirling one that remains pretty much constant, repeating every second or so, and a slightly lower one with a bubblier, more gurgling cast that varies within itself while also repeating, perhaps a bit slower than the other, causing a sequence of pattern and interference that, when noticed, is beguiling. It's simply presented as such and allowed to run as near as I can discern--an object of curiosity and, again, of weird beauty.

I like "Of Cruelty" a lot. Rather surprised at that.


Tristes Tropiques doesn't have a webpage but does have one on facebook

The recordings may also be ordered from Erst Dist

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Alan F. Jones/Derek Rogers - CEDARS (Sedimental)

Not that I'm about to provide a list of examples, but I feel safe in saying that there exists a sub-genre of improvised electronic music wherein a substantial portion of its constituent elements consists of, in one sense or another, melodic material. Sometimes it's explicit but more often, I find, it's a difficult-to-quantify sensibility that weaves among the more abstract sounds. There's a risk involved here, of course, a danger of over-reliance on more easily digestible sequences that can unfairly buttress work whose structure is otherwise unremarkable.

I'm not sure if I've heard Rogers' work before though, from what I can glean from the notes accompanying this release, he's likely the one more responsible for the various infusions of at least quasi-melodicism to be found here. And he does it superbly. Among the first sounds we hear, after what seems to be a relatively steady pluck at dampened, unresonant guitar strings, is the distant, slightly distorted traces of an orchestral tune-up and perhaps some initial notes; it will bracket the performance. Matters swiftly become dense; the taps deepen and echo, some (maybe) rubbed strings flutter through the middle ground, waves of white noise that seem made up of human sounds in an underground passageway. The whole is immediately ultra-evocative, though of no set place or situation. Some five minutes in, a single, high piano note is heard amidst loud shudders. Played live? On tape? No idea. It splays out slightly, remaining in the higher registers, playing a sequence of one, two and three notes, very poignant and isolated. A tinge of Tilbury. It's couched throughout by a complex but subtle, dusty drone that sharply foregrounds the piano as though lit in front of a dark, windswept landscape. Harsh, electronic rumbles intrude, sounding like a live jack being jostled in its socket, followed by soft clinking, a foretaste perhaps of the dropped coins that will soon become a more or less through-going presence. Another melodic fragment, a four-note sequence that resembles an old-time radio alert, now on guitar (?). It repeats with the odd variation, nestling into a prickly haze of long hums. That billowy drone, vaguely tonal in nature, predominates for a while, punctuated not only by the coin drops but by other mysterious sounds, movement on foot, breaths, many other things. I won't describe much more in detail except to note that the balance between the mundane and ethereal, the noise and the (imported) melodic is maintained throughout, along with excellently judged shifts in timbre and dynamics while maintaining an ever-engrossing structural arc. When the tuning orchestra returns, it's both clearer and transformed, warped into a rather amazing new sound-world.

A fine recording, brimming with ideas.

Aaron Russell - Red Guitar (Sedimental)

I'm more or less new to Aaron Russell's work as well, though I think I heard at least one Weird Weeds recording back when, a band of which Russell was a member. This is a set of seven pieces for the solo electric guitar of the album's title, all of them bearing a pure, rich sound. Maybe even more than the pieces themselves, which are loosely folkish-bluesy, the sound of the guitar is what enraptures. Most of the tracks are on the short side but they all have a meditative quality that recalls, say, Robbie Basho, nicely unfurling in a way that straddles the structured/unstructured divide, both very attractive on the surface and hinting at deeper concerns. Those latter manifest on the album's one longer work, 'Pink Lights' which, to these ears, is the standout piece. Over the first 2/3 of its 16 minutes, Russell reins things in wonderfully, iterating a set sequence over and over, subtly varied, allowed to hang in the air and resonate. Oddly, it reminds me of Branca's 'The Spectacular Commodity' though sans any bombast, thankfully. It does carry something of a regal bearing, though, a kind of clarion call. After a lulling five minutes, he shifts to a fascinating, almost alarming pair of chords, the high notes therein sounding a like a cry for aid; really great and sustained for quite a while, bending in pitch ever so slightly. Around the 11-minute mark, Russell alters course again, developing a lovely, ambiguous arpeggio (again recalling, for me, Basho) that he allows to recur over and over, with embellishments, for the duration of the piece. A very beautiful work, thoughtful and...calmly agitated.