subota, 6. srpnja 2013.

Brian Olewnick - Just Outside (blog)

Izvrstan muzički blog čovjeka koji piše biografiju Keitha Rowea..

In his spare time, Olewnick writes about music (and other stuff) here and for Squid's Ear. He's engaged in an increasingly lengthy project writing the biography of Keith Rowe, improvising musician and founding member of AMM. Among other things, Olewnick paints and is a pretty damn fair crossword solver. "You think it's one way. But it's the other way." - Marlo Stansfield

Friday, July 05, 2013


Lao Yang - Untitled (Subjam)

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this isn't the first time, in world history, that a saw wheel has come packaged in a CD case as an object of contemplation. True, I haven't heard of any specific example before this but, if you were thinking about more or less circular, flat items to substitute for an audio disc, such a thing could well have sprung to mind. It's very attractive, after all, burnished steel, in this instance bearing four incisions (mine has four; the above, three) and two shade tones. It connotes sound, a fairly specific, high volume sound that can, in my experience, hover on that fine line between excruciating and divine, inhabiting an area not so far from some noise climes. It implies a kind of violence. It has heft. It feels cool, smooth and somewhat uncomfortable in one's hands. More, Lao Yang has filled the anterior section of the CD case wi a folded rectangle of black sandpaper (rough side exposed front and back) and sandwiched the blade between two discs of same, a half-inch circular hole in their center. There's no printing whatsoever to be found anywhere; all is black or silver. Not quite true--turning over the sandpaper reveals the iterated identification, "P400", the grade of the material, I assume. But there are a couple of other, small, odd things. On my copy (I have no idea if this is the case throughout the run of 50 which, per the website, are not for sale), there are two small, about a centimeter square, placards of thin cardboard. On one, floating loosely inside the case, is a drawing of a man in glasses wearing headphones, his mouth covered by an impossible to identify shape. On the other, slightly larger and wedged between the CD backing and the back of the case, is a pair of workman's or gardening gloves, one laid atop the other. Both drawings have a kind of ideographic quality as though they're abstract representatives of some function or occupation. Perhaps it's someone, and his apparel, who operates a saw.

Olaf Hochherz - watching (Kwanyin)

"Half-animals" is how Hochherz describes the creatures he's created here. The uninformed listener may wonder if he's listening to especially clear and pristine field recordings of insect, amphibian and bird life or if it's an entirely electronic construct. I think the latter though I'm not sure the sounds, or some of them, don't have an ultimate genesis in the analog world. In any case, we're presented with some 42 minutes of these sounds, varying about as much or little as one might encounter near a pond at night, chirruping along at a low level, quite individuated, with the random odd sound or momentary increase in volume. It slips easily into whatever your ambient environment happens to be, unassuming, just slightly alien, a gentle forest of electronic crickets and peepers. Strangely satisfying, somehow more so than many a "real" field recording.

Tim Blechmann/Manuel Knapp - untitled 89 (Kwanyin)

When last heard from (by me), only a couple of months back, mssrs. Blechmann and Knapp had produced a work titled "VIII", a lengthy, droning surge that was ok if a bit thin in substance. This one has some of that feeling, but more structural variation and more reverberant, vibratory kind of sound. I just happened to have rewatched 'Stalker' for the third time the other evening; not sure if I would have attached a Stalker-ish aspect to this music had I not but, well, you could do worse for comparisons. It's bleakly industrial, a barely functioning factory in the wee hours, sluggishly in motion, lights barely flickering. It combusts now and then, sizzles for a bit, subsides. Blechmann and Knapp do a really good job reining in any potentially showoff-y or spectacular urges, keeping things multiple shades of gray, richly layered. Good job, strong work.

btw, you can hear these releases - well, two of them - at the site below...


Wednesday, July 03, 2013


Matthieu Ruhlmann - This Star Teaches Bending (3LEAVES)

Every so often, in this general area, a work appears laden with strong personal emotion not normally associated with such abstract music. Jason Lescalleet's "The Pilgrim" was once such notable event and Ruhlmann's "This Star Teaches Bending" is another. Hear, a musical document is constructed from the various, often tiny sounds encountered during the treatment of Ruhlmann's mother, who had been diagnosed with a rare and terminal lung condition. He presents five pieces, listing the sources which include an oxygen tank, rubber gloves, room lights, a respirator and, notably, one track whose sounds derive entirely from "amplified stomach fasting for 3 days". How to quantify? If I attempt to listen 'disinterestedly", that is, simply as a sequence of sound, it's an engaging disc, very subtle and subdued, perhaps with an air of menace, very restrained, sounding more or less pretty close to what it is: items and machines operating indoors, machines not desgned for sound emission but emtting nonetheless. Of course, given the stated facts about the nature of the work, it's absurd not to think of the context and, for me, this only serves to strengthen the release. I know some may have trepidation about injecting such emotional content into what's essentially a set of field recordings but, for me, if it's done without sentimentality (or even, at times, with such, as is arguably the case with Lescalleet's daughter singing 'Molly Malone' on his album) I'm fine with it and Ruhlmann is nothing if not unsentimental. There's a clearheadedness here, a real examination of sounds and what, here, they truly mean that's bracing, up to an especially including the stomach sequence. Strong stuff, excellent work.


(no idea why the image above and the one at bottom are displaying so large--can't figure out a fix)

Kiiln - Is Music Invisible? (caduc)

Kiiln consisting of Ruhlmann (ukelin, cymbal, piano, amplified objects) and Lance Austin Olsen (tape players, radio, amplified objects, trainer guitar). A set of five pieces with what I'd have to say is an AMMish tinge, meant in a good way. Spare, with gently grating electronics, discreet radio emergences (sounds like a Barber Essay for Orchestra at one point, maybe not), sound sources that linger a bit then cut off unexpectedly. Almost all on the quiet side but with a very wide textural range in that dynamic spectrum resulting in a fine feeling of variation. This is one of those recordings that, short of describing sounds blow by blow, I'm at something of a loss to try to otherwise encapsulate. It's really strong though, flows beautifully, makes few missteps--everything sounds both fresh and considered, nothing overstaying its welcome. Invisible enough, I daresay. Good stuff, try to give a listen.


(Various) Eksperiment Slovenia (SIGIC)

A compilation of contemporary trends in Slovenia, thirteen tracks by musicians largely unknown to me, excepting Tomaž Grom, Michel Doneda, Jonas Kocher (all on one track, plus Grom appears on a separate solo performance and in a trio), Miha Ciglar and Seijiro Murayama (not Slovenian but peripatetic). Unsurprisingly, the cuts are wide-ranging in both approach and quality. The piece with Grom, Doneda, Kocher and Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec (on computer) is a performance remixed by Giuseppe Ielasi and, as such, is an engaging, bumpy ride with shifting, prismatic coloration, very active, rambunctious and exciting. Marko Karlovčec offers an intriguing alto improvisation, rattling and humming in a rather unique manner, with the inclusion of, if not a large fly, a damn good imitation of one. My favorite discovery on this disc is the composer Bojana Šaljić Podešva, whose "Meditation on Closeness", for magnetic tape and accordion (Luka Juhart) is a wonderful mass of quivering energy--want to hear more! Grom's solo is strong of its type; not up my alley but those who enjoy the Guy/Leandre axis will certainly dig. Vanilla Riot's music is better than its name, sounding like Blind Idiot God on meth. Sambolec's "Caressing the Studio (Bed, Table, Window, Chair) sounds like just that, its billowy rustles very attractive and absorbing. Other cuts are more run of the mill, though there's nothing aggressively bad here. Worth checking out if the above intrigues you and someone give me a line on Podešva's other available work.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

pizMO - blst (fibrr)

Every so often, pizMO emerges, bearing news from the Nantes noise scene--Christophe Havard, Jerome Joy and Julien Ottavi. Although not always the case, "noise" in Nantes, in my experience, carries less of the adolescent, rock-oriented vibe that it often does elsewhere, instead tracing its lineage back through the likes of Tudor ("Rainforest" was just recreated there a couple of weeks back by Ottavi and the crew at apo33). Make no mistake, "blst" is every bit as explosive as its title connotes, but one has the impression of hearing hyper-magnified activity that occurs at some micro-level, possibly within the entrails of DIY electronic devices of great complexity. It's a massive, 53-minute block of sound in one respect, but that block is a conglomerate, permeated with materials of varying density and color as well as pockets of air (or other gaseous substances). Hard to escape the aural illusion of magma, liquefying in immense heat, congealing into a smoky crust, fracturing, on and on but at the same time semi-alive, as though lava-based creatures are in the process of being formed. There's a danger of over-satiation; ensembles like pisMO tend to eschew sparseness and silence, requiring a constant bob and weave from the participants as they negotiate their way through a more viscous medium than classic AMM or post-AMM environs--no time is spent in contemplation. Now and then, they run up against a wall, sputter, emit a silly or teeth-grating sound or two, but generally they do a really impressive job at creating a living, variegated form. As with much of the successful music in this neck of the woods, I'd love to have heard this immersed in a large space, hordes of speakers surrounding. As is, "blst" is a fine document, robust, writhing and tentacular.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Going - Going I (silent water)

A double duo of two keyboards (Giovanni Di Domenico and Pak Yan Lau) and two percussionists (Joao Lobo and Matthieu Calleja). While I know I'm not the onl one out there with an abiding and unreasonable love of the sound of a distorted Fender Rhodes, I'm probably in smaller company with my long-term affection from that early ECM release from Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, "Ruta & Daitya" (the former's last venture into electronics?). Going doubles down on the instrumentation while summoning up a similar post-Milesian spirit, with related rhythms and keyboard scurrying. It lacks the over-the-top funkiness of the earlier work (sometimes the beats are a bit leaden, as in "Fara"). An unfair standard to hold this quartet to in any case and on its own the music flows pretty well. Maybe, in a more contemporary vein, think of it as a variant on Radian or Trapist--enjoyable, lightly beat-driven music with imaginative, keyboard-oriented washes and distortion atop. A fun trip.

Mulabanda - Lift Your Toes (silent water)

Another Di Domenico project, again with Lobo in two, along with Daniele Martini (saxophone, percussion) and Bruno Ferro Xavier da Silva (electric bass, electronics, percussion). Miles circa "Bitches Brew" once again hovers over the proceedings on the first of two tracks, with the warped Rhodes and the snare beats; generally, it's in the same area as the Going recording. Side 2 ventures into entirely different territory, percussion and electronics to the four, constructing odd and intricate rhythmic patterns offset against squalls of harsh noise. It eventually settles into a sizzling kind of industrial area, conjuring images of arc wielding. Somehow, I'm recalling FM Einheit. Interesting track, though, coursing through some unusual areas. Those interested in variations of this order of jazz funk will enjoy.

silent water

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nick Hennies - Flourish (Consumer Waste)

In the last several years, Hennies has performed, among others, numerous pieces by Alvin Lucier, so it's not a total surprise to encounter that decided influence in "Flourish (for vibraphone duo). What may be a bit surprising is how fresh and alive and downright absorbing the music is despite, or because of, this influence. Though for duo, the work can apparently be performed by a single musician; in either case he/they move about the vibraphone, playing defined sequences at different points. Within each segment, there's a consistent rhythm, faster or slower, the initial pair of mallets generally joined by the second, resulting in shimmering patterns of overtones and room-molded sounds. There's a clear lineage to works like Lucier's "Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas" though Hennies dispenses with sine tones and doubles the acoustic instrumentation. As in those pieces, one teeters ever so delicately on that divide between the aesthetic and the science experiment if one chooses to make the distinction (I do this less so than many, I'm guessing, but still there are times in Lucier's music where the sheer experiential data outweighs the beauty). The transparent presentation of sonic phenomena can be off-putting to some but, in this instance, I find the results gorgeous, mysterious and compelling enough in themselves, more than enough to sensuously wallow in.

(While writing about this release, I had occasion to see an in-store concert by Tom Johnson, performing (with Carol Robinson) two of his works, "Music with Mistakes" and "Questions". It provided a fairly clear offset to Hennies' music insofar as it wandered rather far into the science--actually, in this instance, mathematics--end of things, any emergent properties all but evaporating. In fairness, Johnson eschews such emergence but, as intellectually interesting as some of the night's sounds were, a good part of me longed to hear something along the lines of "Flourish")

RIght from the start, those great bent tones entrance, more so when mirrored a fraction of a second apart; you know you're hearing an iterated acoustical phenomenon yet/and you could listen for hours. The work is more chronicle than narrative, each segment a kind of time period within which something happens (what isn't?), the sequencing taking care not to leave any two overly akin portions adjacent to each other but otherwise with no hierarchical sense. Surprises abound. When the rapid fire second series begins, at first it sounds ordinary enough but one gradually picks up layers and patterns that weren't overt on first blush and when the second pair of mallets emerges, the spectral sheen produces waves of giddy sonic glee. Each section is given several minutes to gestate, allowing the listener to piece together relationships within the sounds and there are plenty to discover. It close with a near-silent episode, sounding as if one is hearing the music from a house two doors down. A wonderful recording, automatic for fans of Hennies or the lineage of which he's a part.

VA AA LR - It Just Ain't Flapping (Consumer Waste)

When last we left Mssrs. Vasco Alves, Adam Asnan and Louie Rice, they were sending off distress flares, wielding fire extinguishers and other assorted hardware. I don't recall if I summoned the ghost of Voice Crack on that occasion but they're lingering about now in the sense that the sounds seem often to derive from some variation of "cracked electronics" and commonly contain at least a smidgen of buried pulse. That said, I enjoy this trio's music more in that there's less a feeling of the spectacular and more of just going about their business with an intelligent inquisitiveness and a finer idea of space. Maybe think: the nephews of the Bohman Brothers. Descriptors are pretty useless. Yes, there's a Stevie Wonder capture along the way, but it's just one element submerged among hundreds. The point, for me, is the flow, the obvious imagination in effect, the avoidance of too many cliches (hey, everyone hits some...), the evocation of a real space in which fascinating things occur for 36 minutes in an array of colors, most of them rusty. That's enough. A really strong recording - check it out.

Consumer Waste

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bruno Duplant/Darius Ciuta - (G)W(3) (Mystery Sea)

I'm not precisely sure of the background to the two pieces presented here; apparently they're derived from scores by Ciuta, a Lithuanian musician/composer. Whether he contributes directly to the (presumably) long-range collaboration or whether what we hear are Duplant's realization on his own isn't apparent. In any case, we experience some 79 minutes of subdued, atmospheric sounds (very much in keeping with much of the label's output) that carries vague nautical connotations to this listener--distant foghorns, the knocking of floating objects against wooden pilings, a generally aqueous feel. The music is simultaneously rich in terms of detailed layering and almost uniformly quiet, enough so that, at times, it almost fades out entirely. It's also sonorous and rounded, entirely "unobjectionable" which may be a positive or negative attribute depending on the listener's predilections. Every so often, for example near the 30-minute mark, there are hints of far away conflagrations, shards of sound that might read as harsh were they closer at hand that serve to inject a degree of necessary abrasiveness lest the affair become too lulling. More descriptives would only belabor the point. Some may find it too long and self-similar for sustained concentration, others may not (I don't). Some may prefer to use it in an ambient manner, for which it works fairly well. A good recording, to these ears, very satisfying, like lying down in an isolated, sonically intriguing environment, waiting for a nap that never arrives.

Mystery Sea

Kassel Jaeger - Rituel de la Mort du Soleil (Unfathomless)

It would be curious to gauge the reaction of the droves of O'Rourke-oids who find their way to a release like this, now that Jaeger has been singled out as a new-found favorite. Given that it's a run limited to 200 copies, better get yours quickly. I'm guessing this "ritual" is one of Jaeger's own devising, as I googling pretty much results in this disc alone, but he seems to want to harken back to the possibility that similar events occurred in times past in this region of central France. Tee result is a combination of on-sire recording (insects, pond sounds, presumably more) and Jaeger's contributions to the landscape, including wood, bones and, to be sure, processing. As with much of his previous work that I've heard, there's an underlying pulse of sorts, though never so prominent as to be intrusive, more a series of varied throbs that oar the music down its sluggish waters. There is a humidity or sorts in play here, a "closing in" of the surroundings, though perhaps my ear-to-brain connection is overly influenced by the shamanistic photos in the booklet. Something doesn't entirely click for me here; perhaps it's simply the knowledge that a ritual is being invoked, however obliquely, and I'm not too keen on the general subject, imparting, for me, a hokey ambience. Maybe it's also the heavy hand of post-production, as when cycles of sound clusters are iterated in a manner that, however blurred, imply a mechanical aspect that conflicts with my image of the nighttime countryside. The second half of the disc is more stable, fairly steady-state and works the better for that, though still, I can't say I found it gripping; listenable but not so memorable, not nearly as memorable, I imagine, as sitting out in that field may have been.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jon Rose - Rosin (ReR)

Another thing that occurs every so often is that a release will wend itself to my mailbox which, upon opening, elicits a WTF?!? response from your reviewer. This is a pretty good example of that phenomenon. I'd never received anything from ReR before, am not aware of knowing anyone there. I'm pretty sure I've never written up anything from Rose, only typing his name in passing as a sideman on this project or that (The President, I think, and Chadbourne's "Country Music from Southeastern Australia") and even those had to have been written 15 years ago. Further, I should say that nothing I've heard from Rose on radio or elsewhere over my adult life has ever particularly moved me. Yet here it is and here I am, so I shall dutifully attempt to at least describe the production (and quite a production it is) and offer my commentary for what it's worth.

This is a 4-disc set, in a book-sized case, honoring Rose's 60th birthday. Three of the discs are music, one a data disc (using QuickTime). There's a booklet elaborately illustrated with photos, replete with descriptions of the music and appreciative essays from Bob Ostertag, Kersten Glandien, David Harrington and Richard Barrett. Oh, and there's also a small plastic packet, autographed and numbered, containing some curled up strands from, one presumes, Rose's violin bow. Fetishism, anyone?

The discs contain groups of related work, not just a random selection. Disc One begins with 13 extracts from Rose's Pannikin project, a multimedia event featuring various musicians from Australia's DIY underbelly, including a brass bands, a hummer/whistler, a cocktail pianist, a virtuoso whip master, a chainsaw orchestra and a dingo. Rose seems to usually fit himself into the action, though not always. It's wacky. There's a kind of Breukerish sensibility here and, depending on one's tolerance for same, the sounds can come across as enjoyably weird and whimsical or trivially aggravating. I wavered between these two poles, save for the wonderful song by the Ntaria Aboriginal Ladies Choir, though I wish Rose hadn't intervened musically. "Internal Combustion" is described as a "multimedia violin concerto", performed with Robin Fox and Ensemble United Berlin. The music is actually pretty much in line with my mental mage of Rose's work--spiky in that combination of Boulezian and prog rock sense, as one may have heard in some 80s Zappa. I'm not a fan but listeners attuned to that world may well enjoy this; it's very capably and precisely performed. A radio piece, "Syd and George" combines recorded conversation with a string quartet (all parts played by Rose). Oh, George is a lyrebird. As with the aboriginal choir piece, this would have been far more rewarding without the accompaniment; Syd and his friend are quite entertaining enough. The disc concludes with an excellent track in which Rose's violin, contact mic'd from the inside, is laid face down on the ground in the rain. Fantastic sounds.

The second disc begins with extracts from a work in honor of Charles Ives, "Charlie's Whiskers" (2004), for strings, solo fiddle, piano, saw, interactive bow and live sampling. At its best, it has a giddy, kind of John Oswald feel, the strings sliding and slithering in an odd, greasily electronic fashion. Not surprisingly, the Ives of "Battle Cry of Freedom" is emphasized, though not nearly as insanely hilarious as the old bird himself, but overall the set works well, Ivan Siller's fiddle in the fifth section a notable highlight. "Talking Back to the Media", as I understand it, uses random, live radio (and other media?) snatches as source material for an ensemble to react to, or against, all of the action live-edited by Rose. Notable musicians involved in this undertaking are Chris Abrahams, Martin Ng and Clayton Thomas, among others. There's enough variety to carry the work a good distance with, often, a rich, burbling stew manifesting, though the 36 minutes presented here (carved out of 55) begins to pall a bit in its hyperactivity--it's not exactly a close listening session; Rose in in little danger of being co-opted by Wandelweiser. Immersed in a room surrounded by it, I can see the attraction, though "Rainforest" it's not. And, lastly in Round Two, what's an avant Australian disc without a cut devoted to the native warblings of a front-end hoe excavator? "Digger Music" documents such, once again accompanied by Rose's frenetic violin stylings. They're a bit better integrated here and one can, in fact, imagine a duet of sorts, a humorous enough image. Oh wait, there's a bonus track. "Bonus track"? I fail to understand the rationale of not listing it in the booklet instead, a little secretly, doing so on an insert. Ah, well. "Bird Verb" is for solo tenor violin, an instrument possessing an extraordinary sound; I'm glad they appended it as it's my favorite specifically Rose-centered work on the set, with fine dark, entwining drones and harmonics.

"Sphere", which leads off Disc Three, is tough to describe. It involves balls, though in what manner, I'm not sure (here's one approach that I don't think is utilized on this particular piece). There's a choir singing "Latin texts of misanthropic sentiment", a harpsichord-sounding instrument, violin and much tape manipulation. Again, it's sonically entertaining for a bit though too much on the audio hijinx side of things for my taste. Others will differ. Now, it's hard to imagine going far wrong bowing wire fences. I kind of wish an exterior recording had been provided, Rose and Hollis Taylor having their way with a miles long instrument (this is done on the video disc). Instead, we have a piece played on a home construction (five wires, one barbed, four regulation) devised at the request of Kronos' David Harrington (for stage play). "Garage Fence" finds the pair sawing and tapping way, producing cool sound after cool sound. Again, given my druthers, I'd've preferred more listening, more awareness of their surroundings (a garage!) but, on its own terms, it's quite enjoyable, occasionally generating a fine, massive buzz. Imagine a more, um, barbarous version of Frith's first guitar solos album...The tenor violin returns in non-bonus track garb for "Hyper", a nine-part suite of miniatures, using a MIDI controller bow. Probably the least enjoyable section of the set, skittery and aimlessly effects-driven, a pallid mixture of 60s tape sounds and Zorn circa "Book of Heads". The final audio disc closes with "Palimps", a quartet of pieces utilizing a K-Bow which sounds like a drastic updating of Laurie Anderson's tape bow, capable of generating all sorts of non-violinoid sounds. I'm not entirely convinced--again, much of it, whatever the source, sounds akin to a good deal of "classical" electronic music one has heard since the 70s, but the matrix Rose constructs often contains impressive space and apparent distance between elements; again, something I'd like to hear in situ, in a 3D environment. Oh, did I say, "closes"? Nope, another bonus track. sigh. "Pursuit Mix" for recycled "junk" powered by bicycles. Works very well though, like an ancient, wheezing calliope on wheels. Nice piece.

The QuickTIme disc contains 13 videos and one sound file, the latter being a humorous performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Rose interpolating his own playing into a mashed up recording of same, complete with enthusiastic audience applause. The others visually document several of the projects encountered earlier, some of which were rewarding to actually see, including three fence events (though one wishes to have heard these sounds in the open space oneself; I think much is lost) and a number of the bicycle-propelled devices which often have a Partchian charm in addition to producing compelling if droll sounds. His, for my ears, generally overactive approach is clearly seen and heard on a 1982 video wherein he lustily attacks his 19-string, mutant cello but, on the other hand, it serves him quite well in a refreshing solo violin performance in front of the Sydney Opera House which concludes with admonishments against this activity from a security guard, Rose arguing whilst playing, telling the guard, "Only one minute left...50 seconds..." down to the piece's conclusion. "You're not allowed to play music in front of the Sydney Opera House." :-)

Obviously, this is a no brainer for fans of Rose. I'm glad to have heard/seen it as, even though at the end of the day it doesn't really overlap with my main areas of interest, it opened up aspects of his work of which I was unaware and, even for me, there are a few nuggets buried within that made the excursion worthwhile. Would like to hear a piece written for him by, say, Antoine Beuger and contemplate the resultant tension.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Jason Hoopes/Agnes Szelag - October Pieces and Shadows (Trestle)

Sometimes a release happens along that touches on two or three aspects of listening to and writing about new music. One is whee something appears out of the blue, from musicians of whom I'd never heard, that just bowls me over on first blush. I recall when Vanessa Rossetto sent me her first three discs and being totally floored. It's a wonderful thing and occurred here, with this duo album form Hoopes (piano) and Szelag (cello). Immediately, I was entranced by the dark, lush but slightly acid-tinged chords, the slow, seesawing piano, dreamy and poignant but managing to skirt any sentimentality. Really stunning.

Then, on re-listen, I thought, "Wait a minute. Was I too 'generous'? Had I been lulled in a kind of soporific state? Was there really that much there?" This happens sometimes, when one can be overwhelmed by an extremely attractive surface only to realize that it was a rather brittle shell, with only dusty air beneath. Well, I've been listening to this one for a few days now and, while I'd make no claim as to its earthshakingness, it's one lovely, moving set of music, subtly different from anything else readers here are likely to bump into.

A little searching around turn up evidence of the pair hailing from Mills College, both students of Fred Frith (Hoopes, most often a bassist as near as I can discern---though is piano work here is very sensitive--, is active in a trio with Frith and drummer Jordan Glenn, among other ventures whist Szelag includes work with Chris Cutler and more). I can't say I hear much Frith in the music, though I certainly haven't kept up with his work in a long time, but other diverse reference points drifted around...There are five October Pieces written by Hoopes and two Shadows by Szelag. The Hoopes compositions are often based on two pairs of chords, gently but firmly played, suspended, forming a softly iterative framework through which the cello weaves long tones. The piano is largely consonant but just tart enough in the higher registers, richer and creamier in the lower, the cello tending toward adjacent tones that never quite smoothly mix in (a good thing) but create a color that's isolated but related. The tempo is always slow, the feeling melancholy and contemplative. The easy referent, one I know I make too often, is Gavin Bryars, by which I mean to say the "good" Bryars from around the "Hommages" period (late 70s, early 80s) prior to the overwrought excesses of his ECMization period. A similar brooding darkness, deeply Romantic in the classic sense of the term. Here and there I was reminded, oddly enough, of Michael Mantler's "No Answer", some similarity in the piano chords that's rare to come by. Other pieces strongly evoked Angelo Badalamenti, his sparser side ("October Pieces 4", in particular).

But enough of reference points. The two pieces by Szelag have a kind of plaintive urgency not quite encountered in those of Hoopes but otherwise the compositions are very much of a piece. Were I to quibble, I might say that the music is a bit too much of a piece over the course of the recording, but that's a tough complaint to file given how honest and beautiful it is. To these ears, the duo manages to avoid the traps of over-sweetness or mere nostalgia, composing and playing with an open, stirring sense of warmth and concentration. Listeners who love composers who are aware of all things contemporary but whose music is nonetheless connected to older traditions (Howard Skempton comes to mind) will find a huge amount to enjoy here. DIg in.

Available as a download from Trestle

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Dmitriy Krotevich - olgoi-khorkhoi (Intonema)

Helluva cover, you gotta say, courtesy Solongo Monkhoorai, depicting the Mongolian death-worm (olgoi-khorkhoi), a crypto-zoological creature rumored to inhabit the Gobi.

It's fun to imagine the 33-minute track here as a kind of sonic recreation of this acid-spraying, electric shock-emitting beast, though in truth, the music is calmer than that, the turntables and nimb churning away in an absorbed, often contemplative attitude. Given the instrumentation, I was greatly encouraged by the mere fact that it didn't sound so much like other things in the area, very much retaining a unique character; no would be Nakamura here. Krotevich seems considerate and careful, navigating from space to space, investigating carefully, then moving on. His death-worm is of the ruminative variety. The piece begins with a low hum which is actually a sequence of globular, liquid pulses, very rapid but subdued, gradually incorporating iterated, broom-like swishes. Elements ebb and surface, not unlike many such ventures, but a) the sounds chosen almost always have a rightness to them and b) Krotevich has divided the work into discreet chapters; in this case, the breaks are welcome and often come at a time when the listener is feeling the tiniest tingle of discomfort with what has been transpiring the previous few minutes. Very well played. A loudish portion midway through uses intense staticky and whining sounds, the death-worm zapping the odd goat or nomad. That's preceded by a wonderful passage that sounds like decayed rotary telephone dialing adorned with crystalline pings that's inexplicably moving before it flutters up into the noisier segment. The disc concludes with a low, rumbling hum, the satisfied stomach sounds of the death-worm as it winds its way back across the sands.

A really fine effort, worth seeking out.

Ilia Belorukov - Tomsk, 2012 04 20 [Live] (Intonema)

Solo alto sax with preparations--treacherous ground to cover but Belorukov does pretty well. Three sections, the first what I always think of as "metal tube dynamics", the harsh scouring sound I often associate with Martin Küchen. Belorukov begins at medium volume before slowly becoming quieter and quieter, incorporating low key pops and soft squeaks; very nice, almost narrative flow here. The next piece uses soft cries and harmonics, presumably inspired by shakuhachi playing at the start, continuing on into low, quavering seesaws of pitch shifting. Again, very well done, sounds spread over a fair length with excellent concentration and fine allowance for space. The third track is very interesting, at least in the sense that I'm hearing it, as a kind of response to the saxophonics of players like Roscoe Mitchell(in the opening portion, all high, abrasively pinched tones) and Peter Brötzmann, in the mid and later stages. There, Belorukov still seems (happily) reluctant to automatically lurch into high volume, instead trying to negotiate Brötzmannian sturm und drang in a restrained manner, a quixotic venture to be sure, but one that's fascinating to hear. Indeed, the more I listen, the more a sense of Braxtonian categorization seems to be in play, a similar concentration on one or two essential elements in the improvisation and and elaboration of same. But whereas Braxton's have long since acquired an air of the formulaic, Belorukov, at the very least, brings a freshness and sense of discovery to the fore. If you haven't entirely given up on the saxophone's role in this area of music, "Tomsk" is a great place to rest your ears for a while.


Monday, June 03, 2013

With Lumps (Neil Davidson/Fritz Welch) - Lumps for Lovin' (never come ashore)

Duos for guitar and percussion from 2011-12. My previous exposure to Davidson's work, on the Cthnor release and a couple of other items, gave me the impression of a fairly active improviser, a scrabbler of sorts, sometimes at the expense of thoughtfulness. Scurrying about and lack of care don't necessarily go hand in hand, of course, and some of the music presented here goes a long way toward negating any such presumption. The opening track, for instance, is quite busy but also very solid and imparting depth and resonance, with heavy buzzes oozing between the clatter and harsher rubbings. There's a thickness, an elasticity in play that breathes ideas into the music. The second cut, however, the inauspiciously titled "sign of the pagan", demonstrates the potential pitfalls of this approach, the incessant skronking and rumbling never quite gelling into anything more than itself and the "itself" not being of any great moment. "plinth glass nebula" fares a bit better, sawing wood given prominence, the guitar (?) creating bristling, finely uncomfortable clouds alongside, but petering out by its conclusion. The lengthy final cut, "National Bird of England" from 2012, contains welcome space, more air surrounding the instrumental sound and is pitched at a somewhat lower volume, all of which aid the cause immensely. Overall, a mixed bag for me but with some pointers toward a rewarding direction.

Muris with Lumps & Peter Nicholson - Michelada Miseries Part 1 (never come ashore)

A live date featuring a quartet of Davidson (acoustic guitar), Welch (percussion, amplifier), Peter Nicholson (voice, bowling) and Liene Rozite (anti flute). Always welcome to see not one, but two instrumental listings heretofore unknown...It's a pleasantly ramshackle affair, the sounds kind of tumbling out, rolling out, causing greater or lesser disturbances in the room. Nicholson's voice, surfacing periodically, is a connective element, warbling what seem to be snatches of either local (Scottish) song or, I sometimes get the impression, lieder from some source. The 32 minute set is similar to the last cut on the above release in that there's more space allowed and, implicitly, a greater consideration of the room. The sound range varies, no one is overly gabby and even the vocals, arch as they may be, manage to work out in this context, no mean feat for this listener's normal tolerance level. One of those seemingly casual sessions at which I oculd easily imagine myself, lolling about, enjoying as part of the larger environment, perhaps integrating sounds, sights and tactile sensations from outside the venue. Nice work.

never come ashore 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Michael Pisaro - Tombstones (HEM)

Listeners whose exposure to Pisaro has been solely through recordings might be surprised at his astonishing range of knowledge with regard to all sorts of music, including popular forms. Were they to hear this release with no external data as to the sources informing its creation, they might well remain so as the references are, to say the least, oblique. Hell, I *know* a bit of the background and still find the connections difficult if not impossible to pin down with any exactitude. (you can glean more from this fine interview with Pisaro). Suffice it to say that he extracted brief fragments from various popular songs (country, blues, rock, rap) and hyper-expanded them, re-contextualized them into the kind of structures, more or less, he'd used in his "standard" work, allowing a good amount of freedom to the performers and in the process, rendered the original sources all but unrecognizable. After several listens, I gave up the identification game and settled back to simply attempt to extract my own enjoyment of the pieces as contemporary songs, which was my approach when I attended a performance of several of these compositions in Brooklyn last fall. Of course, that proved to be difficult enough as well....

There are eleven pieces which fact already causes one to approach the recording differently from other Pisaro works which tend to run a minimum of 15 minutes and often quite a good deal more. I've taken to expecting a large degree of evolution within a piece and a struggle, as a listener, to try to mentally encompass everything that has occurred over the time, similar to how I deal with late Feldman--a challenging task. Here, things are bite-sized but, oddly, it doesn't make the going easier; in fact, it might be harder insofar as the songs end when you've just begun to sink into their framework. The first track, for instance, "Blues Fall", is derived from Robert Johnson's "Hellhound on My Trail", in particular the line, "blues fallin' down like hail". It opens with a beautiful low drone and gentle cymbals, leading to a female voice (four women are credited with vocals, though individual song contributions aren't indicated; I have no idea who is singing where) softly intoning the title phrase, very much in line with the general tenor of the piece. Other words are blurred enough that they're tough to decipher, though "down" seems to be there; perhaps the whole line is, or more. Listening to the original, I can just make out a connection between the song's opening chords and the general tenor of the Pisaro piece, though I half think it's in my imagination. As mentioned above, I'd rather simply listen to to the work "naively", and allow the shimmering washes of tones drape themselves around me (the instrumentation of the nine musicians on the recording centers around voices, harmoniums guitars and percussion), though, admittedly, it's not easy keeping that geekily questioning part on my consciousness at bay.

And, hah, I just discovered that the second cut, "Fool", is the one based on a DJ Screw/UGK track, an area of music whereof my knowledge is minimal to say the least. Unsurprisingly, the compostion bears no resemblance to anything I have heard out of that scene, but no matter. It's not dissimilar in tone from "Blues Fall"; perhaps Pisaro's distillation locates some common ground, which would make some sense. Ach, hard to resist the detective work. I take it, "New Orleans" has its source in Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell", a song I was unfamiliar with. Listening to it now, I'll only say that I prefer Pisaro's reduction aby a few hundredfold, with its rich, deep harmoniums offering some fine, subtle drama. Gorgeous song.

"I Didn't Say Anything" is derived from work by Juan Munoz, a Spanish sculptor with whom, again, I'm unfamiliar. The piece stands apart, using spoken dialogue by Pisaro and Jason Grier as well as containing sparer explicitly musical content and more silence; in a way it sounds more akin to earlier Pisaro music and fits the Beckettian character of the exchange. It's a piece I came back to often, a very moving one. I had previously read that "Silent Cloud" was both written for Julia Holter and based on The Beatles' tune, "Julia", a song I know well enough. I may have made the association on my own, but here the opening piano chords retain clear echoes of the original and I *think* I hear a faint "calls me" buried somewhere in there. Holter's voice is especially lovely here and the somehow stately pacing of the piece works beautifully; if I could imagine any of these songs being performed in anything resembling a pop context, this might be the one. It's around this point in the disc that things begin to become beguiling on the whole, the point at which I slip into the appropriate gear ratio to sync up with the music. I'm doubtless missing aspects (I don't quite get how Pisaro's concern with what happens to "political music" manifests here) but these "packets" of sound have become graspable both individually and as part of a suite of sorts. There's some sameness, though always enticing, but just enough variation (as in the spoken piece from Munoz or the set of relatively abrupt sounds in "A Better Way of Life") to salt matters well and closing with the mischievous, three second, dropped-book piece, "Why".

One of those recordings of great surface beauty which, when rubbed off, reveals even more intricate and meaningful beauty beneath.


Available from Erst Dist

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Manuel Mota - rcK (Dromos)

Manuel Mota has always intrigued me, ever since "Leopardo" on Rossbin some ten years ago, but sightings had been few and far between since then. That's been safely remedied with this handsomely produced, five-disc solo set. The recordings are in different circumstances, at home or in concert, and took place between 2009-2012.

Richard covered matters well enough that I'm at pains to add much more. As has been the case in the past, at least with my exposure to his work, Mota uses fairly clear tones in a loosely melodic manner that hints at melodies but never quite states them, instead eddying off to the side with calm, wandering ruminations. For all of the first disc and the first two tracks of the second, the sounds are quite of a piece, pleasantly so, but similar enough to create a strong urge in this listener for, after a while, a change of pace. The third cut on disc II supplies that with a repetition of a single three note figure (two quickly slurred ones and a rising third) that sound like a kind of animal cry before, once again, drifting off into 'Opposite'-era Sugimoto soft ramblings. The live set on Disc III, from Lisbon 2011, benefits from a deeper, fuller room sound, Mota's strongly plucked notes having more air in which to reverberate than in the home recordings, though the music itself continues to reside in that same Mota-space. There's also more of a bluesy, Loren Connors feel here; would have been quite beautiful as a release on its own, my favorite section here. The 2009 Ljubljana set is more abstract, recalling Crimson's "Moonchild" (!) and a bit of Bailey, segueing into some wah wah that ethereally summons 70s Miles. The Instants Chavirés performance is a shade spacier than the prior one, with gentle echoes, velvet soft while the closing piece, home again, returns to the standard mode, albeit with a (relatively) loud section.

There's really very little to criticize--all the music is at the very least enjoyable and, on occasion, very beautiful, if in an elusive manner. Though it's 5 discs, the total time is only around three hours, so it's less to digest than may be immediately apparent. It's satiated by Mota hunger for now. Others who've experienced a pang or two for the same in recent years could do far worse.

Toshimaru Nakamura/Manuel Mota - FoZ (Dromos)

The salient item in this 2011 duet is that Toshi plays guitar throughout, a rare enough event. Short of that, I didn't derive much from the session. The pair of electrics, while sparely played, are harsher than much of the music on the box set though still in Connors territory but absent the deep, forlorn blues. There's something hollow in the sound which might have its own appeal--and sometimes it's almost there for me--but never quite engages. Low groans that fracture abruptly, thick keening offset by Partchian strums. It's an unusually hard go in the sense that it often sounds like I should enjoy it more than I end up doing so. Perhaps it will grow on me over time but for the moment, Mota's solo work, at its best, far outstrips this session.

I love Margarida Garcia's cover design and lettering, though; arguably worth it for that alone!


Monday, May 06, 2013

Andrea Borghi - Vetrale (obs *)

Instrumentation for this solo disc is listed as, "modified turntable, elaborated glass discs, computer, effects" and the several handsome photos included on oversize cards depict a stylus and dirt-bestrewn platter. These lead one to anticipate a rougher go of things than is actually the case; perhaps the computer and "effects" leavened matters out a bit. Whatever the case, the sounds are very attractive, dense and multicolored. he six tracks all possess an elusive rotating quality as befits their origin, a cycling kind of hum beneath a fine sizzle. As a rough analogy, think of the better music produced by Gunter Muller and crew in the early oughts and throw in a few handfuls of gravel. Absorbing throughout, a handsome package and a very good recoding.

obs *

Tim Blechmann/Manuel Knapp - VIII (Nada)

Releases like this always present something of a quandary. Structurally, at heart, the music isn't very complex: more or less a sustained surge. It emerges, it grows, its internal elements seethe to the surface, interact and eventually subside. The juicy bits depend largely on the elements chosen and, ore pointedly, what transpires during their interaction, how surprising and/or beautiful a mix results. Here, Blechmann (laptop) and Knapp (electronics) offer up some choice morsels and lend them in a generally engaging, if unspectacular, manner. There's a nice soft/harsh edge to the sound--like sheets of metal rubbed flatly against one another, a very appealing audio bonbon and things eventually edge into a noisy territory à la, say, classic Voice Crack. It's an enjoyable ride though one might question its ultimate nutritional value.


Note: posting may be spotty to non-existent for the next few weeks as I'll be back in the States for a visit and am not sure about my listening/writing opportunities while there.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

A few short notes, from memory, on the concert this afternoon at Foundation Suisse, in the Universitaire a Paris.

The building is a Le Corbusier, a rather attractive one, and the performance took place in the room pictured above with five members of Ensemble Dedalus (Amélie Berson, flute/Silvia Tarozzi, violin/
Deborah Walker, cello/Thierry Madiot, trombone/Didier Aschour, guitar) situated in front of the large window, playing pieces by Hauk Harder, Pascale Criton and Michael Pisaro, all of which involved microtonal tunings.

Harder's "Der Geschmack von grünen Heringen" began with luscious unison lines between flute and violin, gradually both expanding to other combinations of instruments and staggering their entry slightly, resulting in a kind of hocketing effect. It was very enticing for the first several minutes as one tracked the reformulations, quiet and steady, from group to group within the ensemble. However, the idea was pretty well established four or five minutes in and the final ten or so revealed little more. Criton's composition was much more fascinating throughout. The composer was present and detailed (to the extent I could understand) the tunings involved, having the violin, cello and guitar quickly demonstrate same. The first section involved rapid taps on the string of these three instruments while the flute and trombone played soft, long tones beneath. The second had the strings utilizing circular bowing (or strumming, in the case of the guitar), forming gorgeous, iridescent clusters that skirted standard tonality without treading there. The whole piece floated wonderfully, quiet and shimmering with alien colors.

Before the concert began, there were four Asian students playing frisbee outside the large window. They were asked to move their doings by one of the show organizers, a decision I thought was unfortunate given the likely nature of, at least, the Pisaro work, memories of the guy with the ladder at St. Mark's Church in the Village still in my head. I was greatly heartened therefore when, prior to his piece, Madiot got up and slid open the doorway, allowing the exterior sound world entry. The composition was "chords, partially obscured" (2008), originally scored for clarinet, harmonica, electric guitar, violin and cello (plus electronics), adapted to the instrumentation at hand. As if on cue, just as the quintet was about to begin, an airplane engine's lovely sound filled the sky. The work was incredibly beautiful; the cello played a soft, continuous line while the others played a handful of five or six second single notes, deliciously harmonized, very much like the most wonderfully sonorous breathing you ever heard, at least a couple of times very subtly augmented by electronics, possibly a field recording (maybe more often than I realized). They would played three or four such phrases, then sit silently for 15-20 seconds. Outside, the environment cooperated as perfectly as one could hope. Off to the left, about 30 feet out of view, a ping pong game was occurring, the delicate "pok" of the balls intermingled with triumphant or disappointed cries. The traffic on the other side of the dorm buildings hummed. One bird warbled richly, a cawing crow chasing it away. People walked by, peered in, made barely audible comments. The music accepted it all, breathed calmly, registered its own thoughts.

So, so great.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

BOT - Compositions Continuums des Machines (fibrr)

If I understand correctly--something always in doubt--BOT is a program more or less designed by/under control of Julien Ottavi which takes as input multiple sources ranging from mics planted at various locations in and around Nantes to specific inputs from individuals then, using its own internal algorithms, transforms them into an output at its own discretion. I don't know whether the program undergoes any kind of "evolutionary" enhancements, if it learns from previous work (or reactions to same) or whether it simply sits there, processing and regurgitating, 48 minutes of which, sampled from September 2012 through January 2013 is offered here.

I doubtless would have taken this for an intentionally processed field recording if I didn't know otherwise, the shards of recognizable sounds (birds, insects, sirens, etc.) sliced and diced with electronics and, presumably, sounds rendered into shapes at a great remove from their source. And it would be a pretty good one. Everything's thick, sinewy and variegated, everything flows. There are the occasional semi-cliched electronic squiggles and the sounds themselves aren't especially unusual, but the stew is tasty. Is this partially because of a lack of human (routine) choices being made in the work's construction? I'm tempted to think so but again, I'm not clear on exactly how much, if any, flesh and blood interaction there is. Better to just relax and enjoy and BOT, whether neuronal or circuitry, does a pretty decent job of it.

(Various) - Nantes Is Noise (fibrr)

Fourteen tracks curated by Julien Ottavi to document, in part, the noise/improvised music scene in Nantes. Interesting for this writer in that I was only familiar with 6-7 of the names involved so, at worst, I'd get a fuller picture of what's occurring there. Happily, "noise", herein,
is not automatically taken as the equivalent of "loud onslaught", not by a long shot.

Some highlights:

--a short piece by Keith Rowe, "W-O", opening the disc, quiet, intense, scrabbling.
--Formanex (Anthony Taillard Emmanuel Leduc and Ottavi) offer another soft-edged work, with eerie moans and faint static over sharper slices and low hums. Not sure from when this derives, but good to hear the group is still functioning and producing strong work.
--a fluttering work by Jerome Joy that sounds like a combination of electronics and insectile field recordings.
--a lovely, gently wavering drone from Taillard
--Jenny Pickett's field recordings ("In the clearing") which seem to include activity that may not be far afield from a Rowe/Lambkinesque documentation of otherwise non-aurally centered activity
--Ottavi's "Noise serie: Mouvement allegro", beginning with the intense mesh of sound one might expect before abruptly shifting to nighttime insect life, near silence, then a final burst of ultra-harsh static.

(btw, Clinch's piece sounds remarkably like a further sped up veriosn of the sped up sections of Zappa's "Lumpy Gravy")

As with almost any compilation, a mixed bag but a reasonably sold one and a good snapshot of a scene that's not otherwise well documented.

apo-33 (home of fibrr)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Keith Rowe/Graham Lambkin - Making A (Erstwhile)

In January, 2013, Rowe and Lambkin met in New York City to perform together for the first time. Rowe had become familiar with Lambkin's work upon the release of the latter's "Salmon Run" a few years prior and knew both that he did a good bit of graphic work and that his live sets had a strong tendency toward various aspects of performance art, not necessarily "music" as such, to the extent the term still has meaning. So he thought that rather than toting along his usual gear he'd bring drawing materials, scissors, masking tape, paper and the like with some contact mics. Arriving at the venue, he discovered that Lambkin, independently, had come to the same conclusion. Those of us in attendance were than treated to the very fine spectacle of two gentlemen drawing, cutting, measuring and tracing, watching and listening to the results. A couple days later, Rowe took a train on the Hudson-Harlem line up to Poughkeepsie (this writer's home town and current whereabouts of Lambkin) to create the recording at hand, using much the same approach, though substantially augmented.

Were I to say that the results sound unlike anything you or I have likely heard, I'd doubtless be guilty of some hyperbole and would quickly be directed to a multitude of at least quasi-similar ventures. But. It's not just the sounds, for me, more that strong sense of what's going on, the calm deliberation at play, the concentration on the graphism without the overt care of the audio output. Like it or not--and I do, hugely--it's at least reasonably unique. Rowe has always said that, essentially, he's a painter and considers what he does to be a kind of painting. Well, that's never been more explicitly realized than here.

There are three tracks, with timings that strike me as odd enough (12:00, 15:15, 15:15) that I suspect some hidden agenda. You hear a recording Rowe made in an airport waiting area in which he'd spent some time on the way too the States (elsewhere, sounds from the train ride up the Hudson appear), including an announcement offering special services for military personnel and some distant pop songs. This melts into scissor cuts, adhesive tape pulls and, generally, the sort of elements that will make up much of the rest of the disc: two men at work making visual art. Track one, "Over C", contains a steady dull roar; not sure of the source, seems to be more present than would be the traffic flowing up Innis Avenue outside the Lambkin household, but maybe. Actually, it sounds more like an in flight recording of the muffled jet engines outside. It couches the quicker, sharper noises created by pens, pencils and paper which go about their business aurally heedless. It's so full, with so much air and space, the sliding between the particular (the art marks) and the general (the airport lobby, etc.) creates a vast "room", almost a funnel of those past experiences as represented by the field recordings, sluicing down into the drawing implements. On the title track, exterior sound, though present, is subdued, the scratches and bumps of the graphics front and center, along with some dripping or coursing faucet, chair squeaks, a brush in a glass (?) and such. It's more relaxed, more transparent; you begin to think of the set as a kind of sonata. Wonderful sounds: knife on knife, the scrape of sharp metal on dull paper, no talking but the odd grunt or cough. The last couple of minutes have a dynamic surge, a huge wooly sound as though something, some fabric, is being aggressively crumpled. No idea what it is, but I love hearing it, love the way it caps the anterior 13 minutes of relative calm, like a brief thunderstorm after a placid day. "Wet B" arrives in a torrent, abruptly broken off, the ensuing marking sounds crunchier, hastier, with long unscrolling of tape (a great sound, as anyone who does it regularly understands). Such a delicious soundscape! No climax here, thankfully, just the personal, almost domestic sounds of two fellows at work, some of the results appearing on the sleeve of the item in hand.

"Making A" is an exceptional work, not as much for the sounds themselves, gorgeous and evocative as they are, but for the state of mind(s) captured and for the evocation of a specific room wherein the activities occurring are both specific and redolent of the world at large. Extraordinary.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

For the last couple of years, the Bôłt label, under the curation of Michael Libera, has released a number of very interesting, occasionally exceptional recordings which were essentially cover projects, albeit with highly unusual ideas of the kind of pieces to cover, often from the contemporary repertoire (notably, Ashley's "Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon"). As enticing as this idea has been, Libera has pushed things a step further with this set, three discs issued under the title, "United States of America Triptych I-III", examining three unique aspects of Americana. One of them uses a specifically musical source, and an inspired ones but the others travel a bit further, um, afield. The total time of all three is less than 75 minutes, leading one to wonder why they weren't simply released as a single disc, but so it goes. Well, you do get three fine cover illustrations by Aleksandra Waliszewska, so I can't complain.

Volume I uses as its text, a selection of John and Ruby Lomax recordings from 1939, not "music" as such, but sounds and talk about the music being documented, presented in fragments and integrated into sounds provided by Pete Simonelli (voice), Miron Grzegorkiewicz (guitar), Michel Biela (bass guitar) and DJ Lenar (turntables). Simonelli, a poet and member of the band, The Enablers is the one constant presence throughout the triptych, possesses a healthy baritone capable of raging in a way that recalls, among others, Robert Kidney (very much so at times). The five tracks are presented without pause, the music having a vaguely blues orientation, most prominently displayed on "Parchman Prison, Mississippi", a low throb laying a good, grimy bed for Simonelli's rants against "red liquor". I'm guessing the sung texts are restatements of the original songs registered by Lomax though, not knowing the originals, I'm not sure. "Silver is silver and gold is gold/You don't mind if you lose your soul". A brief snippet of Mexican song, straight from the original recordings, is appended at the disc's conclusion. I'm hard pressed to say how much I enjoyed this realization; I did in parts, though I'm not sure of its lasting effect. The analogy to Kidney's work rang true through much of it and, to that extent, I think the music works--Simonelli's vocals may be an acquired taste for many but if you surrender to it, things more or less gel. It's a bumpy conglomeration, hitting its stride here, stumbling there. Worth a listen.

The second portion is titled "Ten Intrusions" and utilizes eight pieces from Harry Partch's "Eleven Intrusions", leaving aside the two studies and "Cloud Chamber Music" while adding two instrumental variations. The ensemble is Simonelli (sounding, it must be said, more than a little like the master, echoing his dark, sepulchral voice), David Grubbs (guitar), David Maranha (organ) and Andrea Belfi (percussion). It's pretty fantastic. While the group nods toward Partch and his justly intoned music, particularly in some of the guitar passages, it's by no means a slavish imitation, importing some bluesy elements (referencing the prior entry in the series) and discreet rhythmic modules. Simonelli is restrained, less so than Partch even, maintaining a cool, distanced outlook. On pieces like "Lover", he iterates lines, brooding on them like a barely contained John Giorno, Maranha's organ is marvelously subtle, atmospheric here, bubbling and gently propulsive there. Great source material, imaginatively, sensitively and, perhaps most important, gutsily handled. By all means, check this out.

As near as I can determine, Susanne Bürner's "Vanishing Point: How to Disappear in America without a Trace" is a compilation of anonymous, shall we say paranoid writings on the subject collected into a single volume, kind of a series of found documents elaborating on the thoughts of those whose skies are filled with black helicopters. Simonelli, Grubbs and Małgorzata Penkalla supply the vocals with Grubbs and Grzegorkiewicz returning on guitars and Maranha adding violin to his organ duties. The titles of the three tracks give you some idea of the nature of the text: "Destroy All Photographs", "Kill the Dog" and "Die with Dignity". The instructions bearing on these bits of advice are intense, shrill and maniacal and are delivered as such, especially by Simonelli who is again in something of Giorno mode, repeating lines with insane determination and vigor, singsonging lines like "kill the dog" and spit-snarling out others like "Criminals don't read, they're stupid! They're stupid!!". His subsidence into quasi-calm between explosions is as disquieting as the yells that inevitably follow. On the first two cuts, the accompanying music is almost subsidiary, just color. With "Die with Dignity", a shuddering figure underlies the words, like hesitant but determined steps toward self-annhilation, becoming fuzz-drenced as the piece bores on ahead. One could almost imagine Godspeed You! Black Emperor having done something like this, but this is better, stripped of any moody grandiosity. The paranoia becomes appropriately claustrophobic before the radio waves penetrating your fillings explode, ending your worries.

A finely realized set or works; can't wait to hear what Libera dreams up next.


Distributed by Monotype

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Johnny Chang/Stefan Thut - two strings and boxes (Flexion)

A composition by Thut for two zithers (excited by e-bows, if I'm not mistaken) and two cardboard boxes that's pretty damned wonderful. I've found some of Thut's work in the past to be a bot on the parched side, but hear the two basic elements, the soft hum from the strings and the even softer rubbing of the boxes, are beautifully integrated, just barely brushed in--faint smudges on a not quite pristine sheet (you can, I'm glad to report, hear the world of Solothurn, Switzerland beyond the walls, wisps of engines and conversation). One of many things that fascinates me about the Wandelwesier aesthetic is the way the finer examples of same manage to vary so much within such a quiet area, where your ear has a decent amount of work to do just distinguishing the sounds from your own ambience (if, indeed, you choose to do so--I don't, always) yet still acquiring a unique identity. "two strings and boxes" is akin in a number of ways to other things we've heard over the past decade yet it stands very much on its own and is a very thoughtful, beautiful work. Highly recommended.

The release includes a fine essay by Patrick Farmer that does a far better job than I do framing this music.


Katsura Mouri/Tim Olve - Various Histories (845 Audio)

Sometimes you just crave some good old-fashioned eai....served up exceedingly well here. The opening low, fluttering growl is an immediate palate enticer, soon littered with crunchy clicks and skewed scrapes; we're on our way. Five tracks that, at there best, sound like where Voice Crack should have been by now had you taking their turn of the century work and plotted an upward quality graph. Mouri, who I don't think I've previously heard, is on turntables, Olive on pickups and metals, together create a brew both thick and spiky, with enough liquid continuity to flow easily but enough hard nodes to provide plenty of tooth. An implied, buried pulse often serves the music well as does a kind of transparency in the multitude of layers piled atop--there's a fine sharpness here and a sense of unwasted action. Also a welcome habit of saying what needs to be said then stopping. All too rare, nowadays. The pieces are well varied, covering ample ground quickly and with imagination, the closing track venturing into spacier territory, a stringent whine carving out a large room sparsely occupied by dull, echoing metals--very, very well done.

Arturas Bumšteinas/Kyrre Bjørkås - Sleep (An Attempt at Trying) (Bôłt)

An odd one, this. Bumšteinas apparently suffers from insomnia and has decided to compose about it, taking as source material any number of "sleep aid" tapes he'd acquired at flea markets and the like over the years, electronically altering the music in various ways, adding lyrics (base on the instructions therein) by Bjørkås and scoring the affair, a nine-piece suite, for an improvising ensemble of voice (Marcus Gammel), reeds. flugelhorn, violin, viola, guitar, percussion and field recordings.

Indeed, the opening track, "Prelude/Interlude" immediately recalls the dreamier music of Robert Ashley and the whispered, buried words readily summon forth his "Automatic Writing". The pieces veer between this pole and a kind of Frissellian one (guaranteed soporific in my book), the gentle tones floating by, bearing soft pops and somnolent plucks, blurred and hazy. There's also something of David Sylvian (on Nembutal)in play. There's a sameness to the songs, though perhaps that's to expected in a way, an oneiric, soft-edged iteration, counting new music sheep. Bumšteinas seems to have succeeded in his modest aim, to lull the listener. I want to say that the results aren't too exciting but I guess that's the point.

Bumšteinas at Bandcamp

Sunday, April 21, 2013

JesterN - hBar (dobialabel)

OK, first some housecleaning. JesterN is the name used by Alberto Novello, whose concept and composition this is. Much, if not all of the original sounds transfigured by Novello, came from Paolo Pascolo (flute and composition). I take it that Pascolo wrote or improvised the music on flute, Novello then running it through this or that program, modifying it pretty thoroughly. And then there are the visuals.

The release comes with two discs, one audio, one DVD. The audio on its own is reasonably enjoyable; the flute playing is of a modernist classical bent, clear and fluid, hinting at melody and rhythm without quite getting there. There are five pieces, often beginning with only the flute, then quickly adding crackles, zooms and other electronica, multiplying the flute sounds, layering them, engulfing everything in vortex-like swirls, withdrawing, leaving scant traces. At its smoothest, the music has tinges of Carl Stone, an echo or two of shakuhachi, but it's more often more disjunctive in the spirit of classic tape music (though, of course, here digitally generated. It's strong on its own, slithery here, plangent there, the electronics avoiding the cliches that sometimes infect this area.

But the work is fully realized only on the DVD, where the same pieces (edited from a live performance) are presented with interactive video accompaniment. Novello's program apparently uses sophisticated mathematical formulae involving growth and randomization and, as nearly as I can tell, it's the computer-generated sounds which directly trigger the visuals (though they themselves may largely derive from the flute). They tend to begin with a simple image then to undergo a series of transformations rendering them more irregular, more varicolored and, often, intriguingly organic, as can be seen in the cover image. Each of the five pieces is visually different, each going through a unique set of permutations, all enjoyable to one extent or another.

"hBar" is a strong and unusual effort, well worth investigating.


Lali Barrière - Patio (Chirria Sello)

A very short (<12 minutes) but quite enjoyable essay in amplified objectness. A live performance, clearly embedded in its surroundings, Barcelona police sirens, birds and vehicle engines a consistent, underlying presence, Barrière's rumblings, strikes and burred percussiveness fitting in perfectly. Her work here is rough, no-nonsense without being strident or overly aggressive, staying for much of the piece within a rather narrow sonic range but exploring that very diligently, in textures, dynamics and compressed sound placement, before a nice coda that uses plucked metal of some kind, pinging like the rods inside a toy piano. Strong work--could have gone on much longer (sounds as though it did only the recording being cut off), though it's brevity is refreshing.

Chirria Sello

Daniel Barbiero - Not One Nor (zeromoon)

Two compositions for solo acoustic bass (Barbiero), each a healthy combination of restraint and extended techniques. "Not One Nor" provides the merest set of instructions, asking the performer to utilize two sound areas, "Bowing just above the bridge" and "Bowing the tailpiece". Other aspects such as order, number, duration, dynamics, preparations and amount of space is up to the instrumentalist, though re: the latter, leaving "ample space" is encouraged. The result is along the lines of what one might well anticipate but the strength of this recording comes through via Barbiero's sensitivity and choice of sounds. It's interesting in that, generally speaking, we've heard this palette before--what sounds haven't been generated by bowed strings at this point?--so it becomes a matter of relationships and placement, this texture against that, and Barbiero maintains one's attention throughout while quietly tickling the ear. A fine piece.

"Eighteen Events for Double Bass" sets that number of scripted activities against an equal number of "non-actions". Not sure what these are, exactly, possibly of a visual nature. Dealing with what's presented, we do hear a series of discreet events, some of which are a bit more "traditional" sounding than the prior work, with rich, dark arco, others far drier, with scratchy harmonics, and a wonderful almost whistling passage. It's consistent in approach with "Not One Nor" but also carves out a different structural area and is just as satisfying. Listeners into the Wandelweiser aesthetic will find much to enjoy here andI'm looking forward to more from Barbiero.

Available for download from zeromoon

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lee Patterson/Vanessa Rossetto - Temperament as Waveform (Another Timbre)

I think the first time I heard a recording by two individuals working remotely, corresponding electronically, was 1994's "Monogatari - Amino Argot" by Otomo Yoshihide and Carl Stone (just noticed I wrote it up for All Music Guide). The format has of course become quite common since then and has, I take it, evolved quite a bit from the simple sending of files with the kind of ABABAB back and forth which occurred in the Yoshihide/Stone album; I take it the interaction is richer and less "balanced" in that sense, or at least it can be. In any case...such was done here between Manchester, England and Austin, Texas and the results are superb.

The music, while not really dronish, is fairly steady state; even the quieter of the four pieces contains continuous sounds. Rossetto's viola can be clearly heard at times and is likely there in disguised form even more often while Patterson is doing whatever it is he does, though I don't detect any sizzling ovoids here. The opening track is extremely strong and rich, multiple layers of deep hums, revolving scrapes, metallic scouring and more, a massive drill burrowing through stone, really impressive. The second track begins with a low volume, churning mass -- good lava pit feel here, small elements solidifying, breaking off into slag. Lovely the way it fades to almost nothingness a couple of times only to well back, changed subtly, refiltered, ending in a great and unexpected low piano tone followed by stirring, dark string work. Great music, pushing to the edge of a kind of Romantic conception in a way, something always latent in Rossetto's work (if, indeed, she was primary source of this particular segment. "The highs and lows of cross-Atlantic collaboration" (:-)) is more fragmented, with odd, almost random elements entering now and then, though with a substrate, soft grainy noise, that holds the pops, grinds, near-choral samples (probably wrong on that one) and squeaks in place, soon giving way to recordings that include birds, traffic and such; not (the latter) so unusual but sounding wonderful. The closer, "an indication of presence", brings the dynamic level back up to where we began, though the flow is initially more troubled, clotted and a little frantic until Rossetto's dense, incredibly striated viola emerges, as though a dozen Tony Conrads had wandered into the space, the vast hum shrugging off splinters a harsh string scrapings, utterly filling the space, subsiding into a scratchy nest of rubbings and pings.

An inspired pairing resulting in a beautiful recording, despite the ocean between.

John Cage - Cartridge Music (Another Timbre)

Wherein the venerable work is tackled b yStephen Cornford, Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Robert Curgenven, Ferran Fages, Patrick Farmer, Daniel Jones and Lee Patterson.

From 1960, the work is for pickups and contact mics, the score constructed by overlaying transparencies that map the players' paths and provide durational cues, if I understand correctly (which I may well not). The results, frequently, are not so distinguishable on a purely aural basis from certain kinds of improvisation, especially those of the rough-hewn and spare variety. One question that often occurs to me when listening to compositions like this is, how much depends on what we might (still) call the performer's virtuosity? Or, more pointedly, how much of prior knowledge as to the identity of the interpreter acts to weigh one's perception, evaluation and appreciation. I hear a David Tudor performance of the work and find it quite special and thrilling--is that because I know it's Tudor? Had I heard this one blindfolded and been misinformed that the musicians involved were Rowe, Wolff and Sachiko M, would I have heard it differently? I don't know but I don't discount that possibility.

In any case, I find myself relatively unable to get involved with this rendition. Maybe its due to the number of players and the (if one can go by the interior photos) wide-ranging variety of sound sources; I think, as is often the case, I might prefer fewer options delved into more deeply. The sound is rough, ragged, near-random s it "should" be, dynamically varying but, dare I say, excessively aimless? That could well have been the (a) goal. With Tudor, I impute a strong hand at the till, but perhaps that's an old-fashioned way to come at pieces like this. Here, it's fine but not gripping, maybe imparting too much the sense of performance on the one hand and, if so, less directionality than I'd want. I listened intently sometimes, distractedly other times, finding it penetrable but with not enough...mystery? verve? randomness? prick my ears.

Michael Thieke/Olivier Toulemonde, Lucio Capece/Jamie Drouin - The Berlin Series no. 1 (Another Timbre)

As the title indicates, this is the first in a planned series intended to document aspects of the Berlin scene; whether they'll be split affairs remains to be seen.

Two long tracks, 43+ and 36+ minutes respectively, the first featuring Thieke (clarinet) and Toulemonde (acoustic objects). The former's playing is maybe a bit harsher in tonality than what I've heard, live and on recording, from his work with The International Nothing (with Kai Fagaschinski), my main prior exposure to him. This is all to the good and he carves out fine, thick lines, microtonally tinged with Toulemonde gamely and adroitly contributing percussive sounds that circle the tones like thousands of irregularly spaced satellites. But interest just isn't sustained for the duration. They reach a certain point, maybe ten minutes in, where the next 20 minutes offers no deeper plumbing. Though one track, there's a pause after a half hour and what seems to be an entirely different improvisation begins. I take it Thieke is, at first, tapping at his instrument in some manner and Toulemonde is making very electronic-sounding noises acoustically, but in any case, it's a refreshing change of direction. The section evolves into some keening and scraping; not entirely absorbing but with much more meat in it than the earlier portion. A mixed bag, overall.

Not so the Capece/Drouin track, which I found unreservedly fantastic. Bass clarinet with preparations on the one hand, analog synth and radio on the other, each deployed masterfully. Like Malfatti, Capece (and, for all I know, Drouin as well) has the ability to operate, often, in a pretty highly circumscribed area and yet generate an amazing wealth of striking and fresh sounds. The first third or so runs more or less as one might expect: lone, quiet tones from Capece, gentle accompaniment from Drouin but then things switch up with some fine, discreetly bristling synth and coarser split notes on the bass clarinet--delicious combination. The music subsides into a silvery pool, laden with rasps, soft whistles, deep thrums. It nestles there and sizzles; again, occupying a limited space but offering so many small differences, so clearly etched as to be endlessly fascinating. A great set--hear it.

Atolón/Chip Shop Music - Public Private (Another Timbre)

I guess it happens every so often but meetings of "bands" seems a bit uncommon, here the Atolón trio (Ruth Barberán, Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Ferran Fages) and the Chip Shop Music quartet (Erik Carlsson, Martin Küchen, David Lacey, Paul Vogel) offering two tracks, live and studio. One immediate plus: there's absolutely no sense of overcrowding, the new septet providing ample space in which to maneuver. The first track, the live one, begins very winningly, with chimes and burbles, spreads it self out without hurry, very relaxed. Too relaxed? well, maybe. At 43+ minutes, there's a sprawling tendency that offers less in the way of implied form than I'd like to hear; hard to quantify. The music is fine but doesn't feel especially notable. The "private" cut, at about half the length, is perhaps necessarily more succinct, tauter. The sounds possess a bit more urgency (it's wonderful to hear at least a snatch of Costa Monteiro's accordion sounding like an accordion, and Küchen's alto has some delicious moments), a greater sense of purpose as though they're striving to get somewhere.

Osvaldo Coluccino - Oltreorme (Another Timbre)

And then you get recordings like this one which seem so effortlessly beautiful...Solo, all "acoustic objects", played in a loosely percussive manner, softly. Softer still if you follow Coluccino's suggestion and turn the volume low. Sounds enter into the room, disappear; depending on your listening acuity, you may forget the disc is on for a minute or two. When they surface, I bet they sound as natural as whatever else is going on wherever you are. Nothing forced, nothing overly stressed, a fine willingness to withhold; reticent but not shy. If anything, some of Jeph Jerman's work is called to mind.

One of those recordings where it's tough to say much, worthless to describe but extremely enjoyable to experience. Coluccino isn't well known to me and I daresay many an eai fan but clearly should be. Check him out.

Another Timbre

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Antoine Beuger/Jürg Frey - Ensemble Dedalus (Potlatch)

A couple of things to get out of the way. As more and more recordings surface documenting composers who first came to renown as part of the Edition Wandelweiser collective/label, using that term, "wandelweiser", has become an increasingly inexact way to refer to their music, given how much of it has spread out into areas that, for example, aren't necessarily spare, quiet, what-have-you. That said, the recording at hand, containing two pieces by Beuger and one by Frey, does in fact sit with reasonable comfort in that so-described zone. Second, like a number of recordings of this set of musicians and, more, like any number of live experiences, the ambience outside the specific room is clearly audible. Some people have problem with that. I not only don't but often (including here) find that it adds a wonderful--I'm tempted to say necessary--layer of meaning to the pieces, embedding this hyper-delicarte and sensitive music into the real world, on equal footing. (I recall seeing, a couple of years back, a performance at St. Mark's Church in the East Village, NYC, of some works with Barry Chabala, Ben Owen, Dom Lash (others?). While they were playing this intensely quiet music, one could see, through the large windows right behind them, a worker for the church carrying a large ladder which he proceeded to, with some noise, lean against the building, climb and do whatever it was he was doing. I loved that.

Ensemble Dedalus has as many as twelve members although, in recordings and performance, they adapt to the requirements for the occasion. Here, the present members are Didier Aschour (guitar), Cyprien Busolini (viola), Stéphane Garin (percussion, vibraphone) and Thierry Madiot (trombone), augmented by Beuger (flute) and Frey (clarinet).

Beuger's "Méditations poétiques sur quelque chose d'autre" presents the players with two pages, one containing ten melodies, the other fragments of text from Alain Badiou, Henri Bergson and Vladimir Jankélévitch. The musicians can play the melodies in any order and at any speed and may hum or read, in a soft voice, the texts. A few seconds before the first note, you hear the room and its presence remains throughout, car engine sounds mostly, blurred but every so often a horn or a pronounced revving motor. At first, the vibraphone seems slightly foregrounded, perhaps only because its tone separates itself more form the ambience than the wind instruments and the soft voices. The occasional sibilances of the latter bring them to one's attention as they gently eddy amongst the played notes. There'n an ever so slight tinge of Ashley here, like a quieter variation on his "Automatic Writing" as the words are all but indecipherable. The work indeed has a dreamlike feel, very ethereal, in which case the exterior sounds provide a perfect offset, not too grimy, still somewhat distant, but making their existence known. As the work progresses, the flute and clarinet assume greater prominence, producing some really exquisite harmonies and subdued dissonances. It all flows so naturally, slow and meandering, suffusing the space second by second like advancing sunlight.

As the title implies, Frey's "Canones Incerti" consists of two sets of melodic lines per musician which, if I understand correctly, are played in order, a then b, but the duration, entry time (after the beginning) and number of iterations are up to the player, the piece ending when everyone has stopped. And what eventuates certainly carries that quality of a canon, of overlapping directional lines (echoed by the sonic vectors of the passing automobiles, which sometimes, for me, take on the aspect of breaking waves). Perhaps it's the vibes, but something about the work has a dreamy, gamelan-like quality. If I have a quibble it's that a work with such a timeless feeling to it ends a touch abruptly-but a minor carp.

One excellent consequence of the increased recorded output by the Wandelweiser cadre has been multiple performances of the same piece. Beuger's "Lieux de passage" (a term sometimes translated as "corridors" but which I like to read as "way stations") was given a wonderful reading on the Another Timbre box set and likewise here. Here, the idea is essentially a clarinet solo (given ten lines, able to begin where the player wants, stopping wherever desired) with the other musicians playing a note from the line form time to time. By virtue of its structure, this composition has a less systematic sound than the other two, the undulating, plaintive, even wistful lines of the clarinet taking on the character of an elongated, non-pyrotechnic cadenza, slowly unfurling, becoming wind borne, nudged now and then by puffs from the accompanying musicians. The image of spiraling cigarette smoke dissipating into a room might be too easy but also the feel here is less smoky than liquid. If you can covert that image into water vapor, maybe that's getting close. Gorgeous, thoughtful and extraordinary music, however one attempts to analogize it.

A great recording, no doubt.


available stateside form Erst Dist

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rick Reed/Keith Rowe/Bill Thompson - Shifting Currents (Mikroton)

So, as I understand it, the initial idea here was for Bill Thompson to compile a catalog consisting of over 100 tracks culled from other performances of Reed and Rowe and then, with the pair improvising amidst a multitude of speakers, do a real-time mix of same during the performance. Here, on two discs, are recordings from Huddersfield and Stirling, both in 2009. If the discs contain Thompson's contributions as well as the duo, I have to say that the former are very subtle indeed; had I not been given a hint otherwise, I could easily have thought it was only the pair, given the multiplicity of sounds they're quite able to generate of their own accord.

The music itself is, unsurprisingly, not dissimilar to that produced (in my experience) by the Voltage Spooks trio (Reed and Rowe with Michael Haleta) which is to say more on the steady-state end of things than Rowe is otherwise likely to produce these days (or then). There's a certain amount of scrabbling about which I'm tempted to attribute to Rowe, but the roughness and abruptness of much of his recent work is ameliorated by a consistent thrum or buzz. I'm guessing that's largely Reed's doing, though perhaps it's Thompson as well. Or both or neither. The Huddersfield set is interesting; one's initial response is work that's easily digestible but not very forceful, but little by little, you settle into its flow and begin to appreciate the gentle fluctuations and odd sonic appearances, like the quasi-arabic squiggle that occurs some 15 minutes in, the various small knocks, shudders and clinks, the introduction of taped room sounds including blurred conversation. It intensifies midway through its 54-minute span, ripsaw sounds breaking through, clanging that recalls the strumming of toy piano rods, radio captures--its a large welter but a curiously gentle one.

The Stirling set is bleaker, with hollower tones and softly iterating, echoey percussive elements, very dark and dystopic though again with a thoroughgoing presence, more drone-oriented than the prior performance. Again, much of the enjoyment is to be found in the details that merge along the way, the bits that poke their head through the morass. Generally, both pieces are more reminiscent of the work Rowe was doing int he mid-oughts, which is no bad thing. While not as deeply stirring as his more recent music, it's remains a fine listen and offers a really nice opportunity to hear more of Reed, who's underrepresented on disc. Clearly, one is curious to have heard this in a room, with the Thompson elaborations flitting about but, as is, it's a good, solid listen.

Hanno Leichtmann - Minimal Studies (Mikroton)

A new name to me. True to the title, Leichtmann has constructed ten studies that adhere to certain minimalist aesthetics. Overall, I hear echoes of early Riley in some parts and early Carl Stone (in the harmonies) in others. Leichtmann (modular system, bass synth, guitar, e-bow, organ, sampler, signal processors) uses contributions on various tracks from Boris Baltschun (electric pump organ), Sabine Ercklentz (trumpet), Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet) and Alex Stolze (violin), kneading them into his framework. The results, while perfectly pleasant, are far too pat, so much sonic wallpaper, with easily swallowed bass lines and flowery frills atop. Sometimes, as on "Study Six" (with Stolze), those bass lines verge on parody, bearing an 80s slickness that conures up unfortunate images of rolled up sleeves on suit jackets and Hollywood faux noir. Very well done on its own terms, I guess, but way too tame for my taste. For those who find Fennesz heavy going.

Catherine Jauniaux/eRikm - Mal des Ardents (Mikroton)

The direct translation of the title is "ergotism", which is to say the effects of ergot poisoning, but "heartsickness" or "bewitchment" might be more felicitous interpretations.


I knew I was in for rough sledding here, not being too much a fan of free improv vocalizations this side of Ami Yoshida on the one hand and not being terribly partial to eRikm on the other. And yes, the snow was patchy. Two discs; oddly the first is from live shows in 2010 while the second dates from a 2000 Taktlos Festival performance. Jauniaux supplies her own texts (needless to say, often indecipherable) in addition to using that of several others, including Ovid, Rilke, Duras and Gainsbourg. The turntable/electronics are both busy and excessively thin sounding, not a great combination (many jazz samples here) and the vocals...I just don't know how much is left to mine in this area. Again, short of Yoshida and a handful of others, at their best, a kind of sameness almost inevitably sets in, with the rapid-fire sputtering, the gurgling, the frantic howling, the tongue clicking, the overwrought tonsil-wringing. Well, enough people get it, I suppose, but not this listener. The odd nod to pop (as in "Ne Pas" on the first disc) is actually welcome, supplying a brief dab of grease to the affair.

The 2000 set is actually a bit more controlled and interesting. When Jauniaux verges, slightly, toward more traditional song terrain, as on "I'm Not Far" and "Sous-Jacente" and others, the outcome is far more agreeable than otherwise; would like to hear more in this direction--not everyone has to be a "free" musician. The set is still not quite in my comfort zone but I enjoyed it far more than the recent one. Your mileage, of course, may vary quite widely....


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Well, it's been a while since I posted anything of my own work here--been a while since I produced anything much! But yesterday, I did four small watercolors that worked well enough for me. The idea was simply to try to coerce something decent out of a heavy Charcoal Gray wash, not the most conducive watercolor, one rarely used in fact, partially because it tends to dry rather...dryly. So I cut four small pieces, painted area about 3 x 4 inches (they might read larger here, not sure), opted for a vertical orientation and went to work to see what would happen. Wanted to keep them roughly in the same territory but with free variations within. Anyway, here they are, in birth order:

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Robert Piotrowicz - When Snakeboy Is Dying (Musica Genera)

You hear a given musician a number of times over the course of some years and you think, "I have a pretty fair idea of what this fellow is about". And, of course, you're usually entirely mistaken.

I'd heard Robert Piotrowicz' music on several occasions, usually enjoying it quite a bit, and had come to expect something along the borderlines between improvised electronics and noise, subtly handled. Then this item appears. Not only is the instrumentation somewhat different (modular synth, guitar, piano, vibraphone, computer, all wielded by Piotrowicz) but far more importantly, the entire approach is something other, more composed, more "classical", to entirely misuse the term. Given the disc's title and those of the five tracks ("The Boy and Animal Mass", "The Bite", "Formatio", "Pneuma" and "Snakeboy MAximus"), one is almost forced to find a narrative thread in the music and, indeed, there's something vaguely programatic about the content; one wouldn't be surprised were it used as a soundtrack of sorts for a film about said snakeboy. There's a linear flow, very delicately traced, piano, guitar and vibes wending a tentative path through the subdued, often cautiously threatening electronics. Sometimes there's a hint of minimalism, just a trace, with repeated phrases embedded in a shifting ground, more often a tinge of Feldman in the placement of the vibes and piano notes but overall it's really a very unique sound. The mix of colors is tremendous throughout, Piotrowicz expertly juggling texture, timbre and duration, maintaining a midrange dynamic in which the near-melodies rest. More malevolent strains enter during the final cut, implying the unfortunate consequences for our hero alluded to in the album's title.

It's a vinyl release (though Piotrowicz was kind enough to send a CD burn to my turntableless abode here). If you can play it, definitely avail yourself of this music. Really excellent and substantially different from much that you've likely heard.

Musica Genera

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Jean-Luc Guionnet/Eric La Casa/Philip Samartzis - Stray Shafts of Sunlight (Swarming)

Three selections from a 2007 European tour, all discreet, subtle and enjoyable. Guionnet is on saxophone here (the others on laptops and electronics), occasionally recognizable as such but always melding with Samartzis and La Casa in quietude and immersion into the room. You hear muffled conversations, breath through the sax, exterior sounds, thin sine tones--just a fine, breathing atmosphere. A few days ago, I went to the opening evening at Présences Electroniques festival here in Paris and, as is often the case, was appalled by the stale vocabulary utilized in much electronic music, the clichéd synth tones, the paucity of sonic exploration. Then I hear something like this where that whole desperate search for purportedly new sounds is, I imagine, not really a consideration yet...all these wonderful new sounds emerge, fresh and invigorating, without the slightest tinge of academe. That notion of "unfolding" which I prize so highly and which is so bafflingly absent in much contemporary, more "officially sanctioned" electronic music, is so manifest here. As ever, recounting sounds and sequences seems a fool's errand. Those familiar with Samartzis' work (of which scarce little has reached my ears in recent times--I miss his music!) will find it up to snuff with his best. For myself, the same is the case with Guionnet and La Casa. Windows open here, washing machine going, sounds of cooking and cleaning, the music blends in quite beautifully. What more can one ask?

A fine job, give a listen.


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Jakob Ullmann - fremde zeit addendum 4 (Edition RZ)

This addition to the 3-disc set of Ullmann's music previously released by Edition RZ consists of one 66-minute long work, "solo III für Orgel" (1992/1993;2012), performed by Hans-Peter Schulz on the baroque organ in the Abbey at Neresheim. It's amazing. Schulz has penned a fine history and description or the work which all should read.

The constant is that 13-tone row referred to by Schulz, played by not fully depressing the organ keys, doing so just enough to generate a sound, but one that wavers and is quieter than it would be otherwise. On the recording, this low dynamic amplitude registers less as quiet as such, more as distance, at least to these ears. It's a gorgeous, complex sound, at once static and infinitely varying. For the initial ten minutes it occupies the space, at which point we hear the first of several auxiliary sets of sound, a flute-like, even more "distant" flutter of notes, like a bird song. I take it that this is part of the "structural processes" which seem to have been laid over the score in a manner reminiscent of Cage's "Atlas Eclipticalis" (the composition resulted after Ullmann's meeting with Cage and nods to him often). Other sounds appear on occasion, including a relatively loud, deep moan or two; it's like watching a still scene, being always very conscious of the air between your eyes and the solid material, its subtle shimmer, with the odd passing shadow, cloud, bird or insect. Very real, very (I hesitate to use the term) organic and natural.

As ever, I'd dearly love to hear this piece in situ, to experience its physical and corporeal nature as well as the apparent distance of the sound, its disappearance into the ceiling of the abbey. Ullmann has located and elaborated upon such a beautiful "section" of the pipe organ, something that's just inherently wonderful enough on its own, more so when gracefully embedded in a simple but by no means simplistic structure. I'm at something of a loss to say much more except to urge that you give it a listen. Great, great music.

Edition RZ

Available from Erst Dist

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Antoine Beuger - 24 petits préludes pour la guitare (Edition Wandelweiser)

"It takes waiting. Then another string, another finger. A pass in the middle of an arpeggio: an alvearium must be built, a conduit, an in-between-

--- (very) slow, very free, molto

I had to look up "alvearium", not a common term. I was pointed toward "alveary", a word with two intriguingly different definitions: first, a beehive, or something resembling a beehive and second, the hollow of the external ear. Apian aspects don't leap out at one here, so I'm going with the latter meaning, thinking of these sounds flowing around my own alvearies. Of course, its root is also the middle name of the guitarist in question, Cristián Alvear Montecino, who plays so lovingly here.

True, there are 24 pieces contained on this disc, which range in duration from 2:00 to 3:45, but in part due to the large amount of silence in which the single notes are swathed and also because the composition are "of a piece", the recording reads almost as a continuous work. The preludes seem to consist of sets of two to five notes, generally, perhaps always, in a rising pattern and very often diminishing as they appear, purely struck, with incredible gentleness, so much so that the final note in a given sequence sits right at the edge of audibility. The notes float away, evaporating as they go.

Unlike some Beuger discs, the recording environment is pristine; I get the sense the pieces would work just as well in a sonically active space. In fact, part of me would like to hear just that, to have the notes just barely glimmer through the surroundings. But for the time being, this is more than gorgeous enough. What else canI possibly say about this? I sometimes had the mental images of beautiful, faint speckles on a wall. Other times of wafting dust motes, semi-periodic puffs drifting out of sight.

Just precious, amazing music.

Christoph Korn - SIMEON (Edition Wandelweiser)

I'm nothing if not a sucker for interesting structure and Korn's "Simeon" is almost all structure, a relatively simple one to grasp when looking at the score, much more difficult to do so using one's ears. I can't locate an image of said score on-line but, more or less, it's an irregular (one might say, poetic, as well as very elegant) variation on Cantor's Dust:

If you visit Korn's site you'll see and hear a related example.

Korn presents two pieces, each 30 minutes long, which, though dissimilar in pitch (the second is higher), are otherwise tougher to prise apart than the Beugers above. Each is composed of a single sine tone, initially heard as a continuous sound for some 1 1/2 minutes, then repeated with silences interpolated, silences which increase in both length and number upon each iteration. The last line, the eighth in the example printed in the booklet, consists of three very brief blips. Appended to each work, after 20 minutes of this process, is ten minutes of pure silence. If indeed that's the score for one of the two tracks, I'm unable to follow it; perhaps it isn't. The sheer length of the tones and their self-sameness make it all but impossible for this listener to get a handle on the structure as a whole, just some adjacent blocks. So my tendency is not to worry about it, treat each gap as a surprise, be generally conscious of their increased prominence, then lie back and enjoy the silence.

Damned if I can say why, but the disc grew on me the more I listened. Not for everyone, by any means, but I'll be looking forward to hearing more of Korn's music.

Edition Wandelweiser

Available from Erst Dist

Monday, April 01, 2013

Graham Stephenson/Aaron Zarzutzki - Touching (Erstaeu)

Erstaeu 003 is, at once, the most "traditional" of the first three releases and, perhaps because of that, the most difficult to approach, at least for this listener. My previous experience with Stephenson's work (I think this is my first exposure to Zarzutzki) has often followed the pattern of initial opaqueness followed by gradual transparency, eventually resulting in enjoyment and appreciation. I say "traditional" a bit tongue in cheek, although the set here, trumpet and electronics (both also credited with microphones, contact mics, one assumes), has something in common with old-school improv duos in that it's real-time and very active although any call and response has been long since jettisoned.

Ultimately, I end up just sitting back and letting the music wash over me, cease looking for structure, allowing the knowledge to hit me retrospectively, if at all. What's left are mere descriptives, not sure of their value. The first track (all the pieces derive, I think, from a single continuous session) reaches a really fine, needle-sharp, swarming area, the strangulated brass mixed tightly with a shrill electronic surge, expiring into an itchy bath of wheezes and very rough, scratching crashes, building back up to a mid-level chatter that (possibly because I just saw him last night) recalls the work of Pascal Battus (not a bad thing!). The next piece seems more slowly paced, though no less fraught with agitated noise, featuring some seriously brutal, gravelly synth work. Cut Three is again relatively spacious, Stephenson's horn to the fore, a smidgen more geared toward normal trumpet tones, like Don Cherry on helium. The pair chuckle a bit during its denouement, a downward, farting spiral...and immediately return to the rambunctiousness of the opener, developing a furious storm of low, rude synth and burbling, bleating brass for the fourth track. Periodic pauses for breath between assaults. The piece evolves a huge amount of power, gets a fine careen going, though at times the synth becomes a bit monochromatic, Zarzutzki mining a strong lode, maybe dipping into a given sound field once or twice too often. Finally, there's something of a recession, the synth switching to springy tones, a tortured Slinky, eventually growing spare. At moments, the music brings to mind the Rowe/Sachiko M recording, "contact", though cruder (which also isn't necessarily a bad thing). A beguiling super-low hum/metallic tinkle segment, much more roughage then, surprisingly, the faint sound of a flute, perhaps from a radio, a small window opened to an adjacent world, all but obliterated by between-station-sounding buzz and bludgeoned by static eruptions. Nice. Out with a pop.

So, I end up greatly enjoying the session, not so much for structural reasons but simply for the cascade of sound, for the kind of persistent exploration and the harsh things the pair discover along the way. All three inaugural releases on the Erst sub-label are quite strong, mandatory listening.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Anne Guthrie/Richard Kamerman - Sinter (erstaeu)

Something very cool about erstaeu 002's existing in such a different world than its numeric predecessor (and 003 is altogether different as well). After the sublime compressive intensity of "Dystonia Duos", "Sinter" injects vast amounts of oxygen into the room, air swirling and echoing in huge spaces, light shimmering and hazy. In metallurgical terms, sintering is the making of objects from powder and "powdery", especially with a metallic connotation, isn't the worst term you could use for much of this music. Field recordings (and, per the sleeve, "domestic recordings") are mixed with electronics throughout; nary a French horn in sight though I think I pick up a bit of Kamerman's small clattering devices here and there.

Describing the music is another matter, though. The interior drawing behind the disc seems a decent descriptor, both loose-limbed and gangly but, in its particulars, very structurally sound. The location recordings tumble through, knock into one another, get subsumed by electronics, reappear in another atmosphere--all very dream-logicky, seeming to be sensible but resistant to easy back-formation. In performance, I've often enjoyed the way Kamerman wouldn't distinguish between the "music" and incidental noises he'd make in the course of sound generation (placing a disused object on a table, not minding the resultant, very noticeable click, moving a chair with its frictional moan, etc.) and one gets the sense of that here as well, of a pair of people moving about in the course of creating other stuff. I can imagine someone thinking of Unami now and then, but this work is fuller, always with subtle things taking place in the background or right alongside. When Kamerman (I assume), softly counts off sequences of numbers during "Civil Twilight 5:23", there's almost an eavesdropping feeling, as if he's privately enumerating something, not realizing he's speaking aloud. Quite magical.

"Origami 1/5" is oddly fascinating--steady-state in a manner of speaking, the rustling (of paper? cassette tape?) remaining fairly constant and crisp throughout, a thin sine-like tone sputtering behind, a faint speaker hum always there. Intriguing balance between activity (even hyper-activity) and a pervasive sense of calm, beautifully sustained for over 13 minutes. The last cut, "Several or Many Fibers", almost seems epic, of great volume but transparent, like a Turner; hollow, distant echoes, passing voices, obfuscated urban sounds, clangs and taps as from a restaurant kitchen, an underlying, whirling tone as though someone's playing an early, undiscovered Terry Riley tape a few doors down. Cinematic to the extreme. It proceeds so naturally, so unhurriedly but with items of interest every step of the way, in every direction, like some marvelous stroll. An extraordinary piece capping one of the finest recordings I've heard in quite a while. Excellent work.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Joe Panzner/Greg Stuart - Dystonia Duos (erstaeu)

Contrary to the effects of the titular condition, which I'm given to understand afflicts both musicians, and as also implied in the images of distorted and pained hands adorning the cover, there's some seriously steady and decisive music contained herein. It's understandable, for a moment, that the innocent listener might have an idea that this is more Panzner's affair than Stuart's if, like yours truly, one's knowledge of the latter's work is pretty much covered by his adventures in Wandelweiserland but I have no doubt this is an entirely mistaken impression. Percussive elements are discernible (Stuart sleeve-credited with "friction, electricity, gravity), pure or transmogrified. But the who-did-what aspect is even sillier to dwell on than usual as what one confronts are these enormous, extraordinarily deep slabs of sound, layered as far in as one can hear. If there's a visual analogy that springs to mind it's of a multitude of thin sheets--a wide range of colors, grains, embedded elements, degrees of transparency and opaqueness--overlaid with a fine combination of care and abandon.

There's more than enough depth in play so as to yield new stuff on each listen. "organ b/w timpani solo" is essentially a gradual surge, though the components have a life of there own, beginning with what seems to be a room recording with shuffling feet and hands, sawing (or heavy breathing), bubbling this, zapping that, so many crossing lines, each a very distinguishable color. "Churning" was a word that often came to mind. Great combination of up-close and distance, scrims of sound, causing you to strain to hear what's "beyond". After ten minutes or so, this high, writhing tone enters (the organ?), forming a formidable, constantly shifting substrate for layer after layer of sound, the volume steadily increasing. It's like a massive blender where, no matter what's chucked in, the strands remain clear. Just huge sound, but so clear. It reaches its orgasm (hard to avoid the metaphor), having barely avoided annihilating your speakers, and sputters out, directly into "dissection puzzle", which both ratchets matters down half a notch and also explores a very different soundfield; I get the sensation of harsh jets of water being sprayed at great force against plastic or metal with a good amount of resonance. It's as intensely active as the prior cut but with more air pumped through, even if it's at skin-stinging speed. Again, additional sounds accrue with no sacrifice of clarity--a really fine scouring. It dissipates briefly, then receives a few strenuous blasts of static that coalesce into the blowtorch that begins the final cut, "casa de pedras". This is the eeliest, toughest to grasp cut for me, but I love it. The structure seems steady-state at times but there's a ton of movement occurring throughout, a kind of lateral shifting, though also circular, like on the surface of a pond, refracting the view beneath in dozens of ways. It's gentler than the other two pieces, but more beautifully confusing.

A tremendously exciting recording and a very auspicious debut for the Erst imprint, AEU.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jeffrey Allport/Joda Clément/Chandan Narayan - The Party (Simple Geometry)

That phenomenon of the basically good, solid improv performance edging, just briefly, into something more. Here we have two performances, or portions of same, each lasting about 16 minutes, by Allport (percussion), Clément (analog synth) and Narayan (autoharp), in Toronto and Montreal in 2010. The first piece begins with a drone, a very rich one, soon interrupted by various bangs and clicks, either Allport I suppose, or the others moving about; I tend to enjoy when musicians don't worry about ancillary noise they create simply by adjusting, putting down or otherwise doing "normal" things with items within their reach. It unspools into a quiet rumination, soft moans with scrapes and squeaks before recollecting into a Crypt-ish whirlpool in its last few minutes. There's nothing that particularly stands out, to these ears, but at the same time it satisfies. Sometimes I mentally shrug and say, "OK, fine.", other times I think that, especially were I in the room, I'd be quite well sated, leave the space feeling enhanced.

The disc is designed so that the second track seems to pick up where the first ended, in very AMM-like terrain. They get to a really nice, dry sound, all sand and arid whistling, zero humidity sliding and rubbing. But int he last several minutes, they glide into what, on the surface, doesn't seem to be exceptional: a low moaning drone with the odd deeper tone, augmented by an autoharp strum here, a thin, reedy tone there but also a sudden sense of the space, those random taps emerging, possibly some sounds from the room's exterior, footsteps, a voice, a squeaking door. It blooms into something greater, unexpectedly. I love it, feel transported to the place and time. Well worth the journey.

[oh, yes. The cover image is troubling...]

Simple Geometry

Candlesnuffer/Lucas Simonis - Nature Stands Aside (hellosQuare/Z6)

In some ways, I have a similar issue with this release from David Brown (Candlesnuffer), here paired with Lukas Simonis, recorded in 2007-08in Rotterdam. Here, the basic approach is not so conducive to my taste: guitar and electronics, tending toward the frenetically active. kind of efi meets magnetic tape. So I listen for things that draw me in, that get past what I often hear as surface effects. It takes a while. Brown is very guitar-y, often using bell-like tones and a striking approach that summons up sounds not so different from parts of "classic" Rowe, but with emerging and disappearing rhythmic patterns. Simonis is more abstract, fairly thick slabs with vaguely metallic feel slice into the pieces or bracket Brown's sounds. Still, there's much I find peripheral for a good bit, some feedback with plucking that feels perfunctory. It's not until the seventh of eight tracks, a harsh, sparer piece, that things open up for me, that some sense of space pervades the music, that theres a feeling of necessity. Maybe it's the relative reticence, maybe the obscure allusions (at least in my mind) to gamelan, not sure, but it springs into much more vibrant relief for me. The last track, making use of some looped lounge-jazzy samples also works, not by reaching into more difficult territory as did the prior, but by allowing playfulness into the mix and by keeping thisng brief.

All in all, a mixed bag. SOme will find the guitar/electronics interaction bracing on its own terms. Others, like myself, will have to negotiate the grounds, locating those nuggets that satisfy our peculiar tastes. Those nuggets do exist however.



AMPH - Polar/Mongol (Sprachlos Verlag)

Andreas Malm and Peter Henning (AMPH), out of Malmo, have issued this very attractive 12", 45rpm recording containing two tracks of controlled noise. "Polar" indeed summons up frozen, nautical images, with foggy horns, whistling windlike tones and imagined ice being crushed beneath prow. A swirling mass of air, stone and icy water, the piece builds and builds, the storm surging; the music becomes quite loud, extremely dense and ultimately, necessarily, deflates, gutters out with what sounds like muffled grunts. It may be not so different from many a thing heard before, but the duo handle their business quite well, creating thick, satisfying slab of noise. "Mongol" is both more regular, in that looped rhythms are employed, and rougher, more fragmented insofar as the disparate set of sounds utilized. It chugs as well, galumphing forward like some large, shaggy beast, groaning, complaining, clearing out vines in its path. As before, matters grow noisier, more metallic, the creature entering some hellish factory perhaps. As is often the case, I found myself imagining experiencing this work in a room, amidst multiple speakers; there's more than a tinge of Xenakis in play. As is, it's a good effort, worth checking out.

Sprachlos Verlag

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