Todd McComb: Jazz archive, 08/2020-08/2021

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Much as it marked the previous span of twelve months (with this latest being, once again, prolific in this space), August has brought some significant (musical) downtime after a relatively slow July — or rather, a July during which I'd discussed some important items after other extended entries in June — & so it's clearly time to flip this page again. By that I mean that I'm writing a new intro, and starting a "new" set of sequential entries, so do please (eventually) scroll to the bottom for the latest. Of course, this year, coronavirus provides a particular backdrop not only to social issues & politics more broadly, but to the new music community, particularly where live interactions are so important. And although musicians have been able to carry on some of their many activities, particularly solitary activities or innovating with distance-bridging technology, I'm also anticipating a continuing lull in releases, but that's after a relatively lively year so far....

Health is obviously rather broadly important, and that certainly includes life & death & whatever long-term (personal health) complications the novel coronavirus might bring, but art & expression are important (& healthy) too: That's especially true for new music, as established ways of being continue to change, not only on account of this latest (spectacular) human-animal intersection or collision, but according to new ways of living in general. That was already a need — especially in opposition to "there is no alternative" narratives — & new music has already been showing us many alternatives, at least in sound, or in the nitty-gritty of how people interact. So I definitely consider these activities to be more than distractions (& "health" to be more than some reductive absence of virality). I also retain some prior orientations: In particular, although it'd probably be more convenient in a virus dominated world, I still won't be featuring solos (or duos) much, but rather trios, quartets, etc. (These forces are enough to interrogate many of the small-scale social interactions that frequently occupy me. And they're more than enough to bring a nice variety of sound & approach to performance....) I'm also focused on improvisation for similar reasons, i.e. because life is ultimately improvisatory (regardless of planning, as the virus demonstrates once again), but I do sometimes note composed music here. (For me, composition can be a way of generating new ideas for improvisation... i.e. life.)

And I also like to write in an improvisatory manner, especially here in spontaneous response to recordings. So I'll often make remarks after only a couple of auditions, thus trying to give some early impressions. (And sometimes I'll return to comment on an album again & again, such that an interested reader might need to hunt around for additional comments....) I also write more "composed" theoretical pieces myself, e.g. Postmodern Aesthetics (2019), or most recently Practical listening, 10 (which will conclude that lengthy series, as well as launch a new page of serial entries, not unlike this one). In this, theory becomes both output & context of these more specific musical explorations.... And the overall context does continue to expand, as October will mark ten years of my writing in this space: Although this project came to branch into separate (& lengthy, theoretical) expositions, for the actual entries on this page, it came also to be relatively concentrated on recordings. (That wasn't necessarily my intent, as I've spent other periods attending many concerts, but for whatever reason, those circumstances have changed....) So it's turned into something of a specific stance here, and such a stance has only been further ramified by the relative lack of public performances these days: Technology comes to intersect such a project in more ways, and so as noted, I'll be taking up some of those topics more specifically in a related series.

Another aspect to consider is that the music presented here most often arrives without a textual framing: The names of the musicians themselves often serve as the best (or only) description of the result, with no statement of intent (beyond them). And so I often find myself speculating here... as to intent, context, technique, etc. Some of that speculation becomes more concrete over time, especially as what I'd conceived to be a very contemporary-oriented project not only begins to take on its own history (e.g. per the contours of Concepts of contemporary history), but more of the broad musical history of this sort of performance.... In other words, I start with the latest albums, but I do (often) come (eventually and/or already) to listen to musicians' earlier work & influences (much as in my more explicitly historical projects). Of course, one might also frame this "lack" of verbal presentation as providing space for the words of others such as myself, and sometimes I do make rather substantial efforts toward relating musical outputs to broad contemporary issues — or sometimes I (mainly) just note the existence of an album when I think it might otherwise go unnoticed.... (The downside to developing my own "history" is that it sometimes also leaves me feeling obligated to comment when I don't have much to say.... I try to avoid such situations, and always ask myself why I'm writing something here, i.e. what is the use? Sometimes I'm more excited about my own uses than others, though.) In some sense, then, my comments themselves often become contexts for further comments.

But what attracts me to music? Especially in this space, it's something new, something I haven't heard striking me... and that ultimately means as expressed in sound: Pace the forgoing, if the concept is inaudible, it's frequently invisible in this context, and moreover, it's sound that really attracts my attention anyway — particularly sound that suggests new ways of being & interacting. (In this, it's probably easier simply to consult my updated list of favorites, organized by year of release & kept to modest proportions, by way of examples.) Another word I'll mention specifically in this reboot is then "anthropology:" I'm seeing more anthropological concepts & methods entering theoretical (social) discussions in general, even as that's always been a context for ethnomusicology, and although some notions seem (merely) trendy right now, I do want to acknowledge both an anthropology "of" music, as well as an anthropological approach to making new music, i.e. of de-"naturalizing" one's musical tradition & cultural intuition via the broad backdrop of global human activity. (In this, "anthropology" does also tend to fold into ecology, or at least its various intersections with humanity....) And there's always been a lot more happening in the world of sound than most Western musicians (or apologists) have been willing to acknowledge, but now even Western musicians are expanding beyond both (their) traditional tonality & specific 20th century forms of (modernist, Western) "atonality...." Some of this expansion involves e.g. technological novelty, but some is simply a matter of taking what was considered to be "primitive" (& so by implication, not useful) more seriously. And "jazz" does continue to intersect & animate such a nexus (as discussed, in part, in prior openings...).

I'm also (still) considering more seriously the notion of unifying all of my ongoing (at least serial) discussions in one place, i.e. with the ability to display one or more topical threads, search, etc.... We'll see if I take that plunge during what I'm anticipating to be a rather slow (academic) year.... As always, thank you for your continuing interest. I expect that there will be more (hopefully useful and/or worthwhile) to say below.

Todd M. McComb <>
12 August 2020

So a relatively obscure release that I want to note at the moment is the trio album Now!! from Michael Lytle's Elewhale Music: I'd discussed Lytle (here strictly on bass clarinet) in October 2017 around Itinerant, a trio album on Creative Sources with Denman Maroney & Stephen Flinn. (And Flinn has recently released a solo percussion album, also on Creative Sources, Red Bell: He's rather more assertive & expressive there than I heard him in the trio setting, with some amazing extended metal work....) And I believe that Lytle released this relatively short album in April in response to the virus, although he doesn't explicitly say so & it was recorded back in October 2018: But he's joined on Now!! by (& he's evidently especially enthusiastic about their anticipatory contemporaneity) Nick Didkovsky (guitar) & Matthew Ostrowski (electronics), two musicians I've mentioned here in the past but don't know well: Didkovsky is in Eris 136199 with Han-earl Park & Catherine Sikora, and I'd discussed that trio's appearance on the album Anomic Aphasia in October 2015. (I mention this reference in detail because Eris 136199, whose self-titled followup album I'd also auditioned in 2018, is supposedly releasing a new album soon too, Peculiar Velocities....) While Ostrowski (live sampling etc.) appeared on the duo album Elective Affinities with Andrea Parkins (as discussed here this past March, soon after its release, but as actually recorded in 2014).... What is perhaps most striking about Now!! then — & it tends to be a very active album, including via electronic layering, so it'll surely make an impression — is not only its rhythmic sophistication, but its composite of clarinet & guitar timbres: Sometimes that pairing is given some relatively straight duo space, but its figures tend to infuse even more of the sonic environment, together with vocal samples, glitches, etc. Much of the album's subtlety (dual exclamation points aside) then comes into play as sounds & figures move in & out of textures without clear entries or exits, yielding a quite dynamic feel (or maybe a new way of living...) across two dense & differentiated tracks that impressively forge & explore twisting, willowy, brightly colored worlds.... (The closest references here would be from e.g. Thanos Chrysakis or MMM Quartet, but these guys have their own sound — as recorded & mixed by Lytle.)

13 August 2020

I'd discussed Ivo Perelman's Strings series over the past couple of years, in particular Strings 1 in November 2018 & then via broader entry around Strings 3 in May 2019. Four albums were released on Leo Records, and there's a statement that there'd be seven volumes: So is the latest release on Sluchaj, Deep Resonance, an additional item or a change to how that same series is being released? I don't know, but it does continue with the new graphic style on FS Records that debuted with their Taylor/Oxley release (as I'd noted here in June in an entry around their rising profile), and sees another major set of artists come to the label. In any case, while Strings 1 came off as a lengthy series of studies, and the other Strings items (to this point) include other non-string players, Deep Resonance — also recorded in Brooklyn back in (April) 2018 — pairs Perelman with the preexisting Arcado String Trio. So this latest issue ends up having a very different feel from the more exploratory Strings 1, engaging not only a range of rhetorical ensemble sophistication (according to pathways already in place, some classical), but various popular allusions as well. (The way that Arcado also functions as a unit & so sometimes as a foil for Perelman also comes to suggest a bit of Braxton's interaction with his DCWM, e.g. that of 12 Duets (DCWM) 2012 pairing violin.... And the basic "sound" of some of these Braxton productions does seem to be permeating other music, especially around New York.) But the "prior pathways" of Arcado also don't pose an entirely different situation for Perelman, of course, since he tends to return to previous musical partners often, and so builds up historical material (and in fact all of the Strings albums to this point had included Mat Maneri...), and indeed two members of the trio had already appeared in the series: Mark Feldman was on Strings 1, while William H Roberts (more often credited as Hank Roberts) was on Strings 2, and so the new musician to this party is only Mark Dresser — who does add a richly satisfying bass layer, as previously absent from this series. (The resulting sound world does yield quite a bit of rhetoric & drama, making for a rather classically jazzy interaction over bass in that sense too....) Another aspect to note is the remainder of the specific ensemble configuration: Strings 1 had intrigued me for its use of Perelman's tenor sax as "cello" of a classical string quartet (with two violins & viola), but it did mean that he encountered collisions in higher ranges (& he likes to ascend registers...). Besides adding bass below, Deep Resonance then involves the less usual (lately anyway) pairing of tenor with cello & violin two registers above: Actually this works well, basically leaving the whole alto range to Perelman, with clear duet ranges above & below. (A violin-cello-bass lineup is used by e.g. Trio KSZ as well....) It ends up being a much more lyrical, even sultry album (although I'm still almost more intrigued by the partly-novel Strings 1 configuration).

19 August 2020

I also want to note a recently released, composed cycle on Clean Feed: In Igma is by percussionist Pedro Melo Alves, and was recorded in July 2019 live in Coimbra. Although I wouldn't necessarily seek a composed cycle, and was totally unfamiliar with Alves previously, I was intrigued by the specific forces, namely three extended vocalists (Aubrey Johnson, Beatriz Nunes & Mariana Dionísio, none of whom was specifically familiar) along with Eve Risser, Mark Dresser (appearing coincidentally in the previous entry!) & Abdul Moimême — plus Alves himself. That's quite a distinctive ensemble. Actually, I wasn't too thrilled then with the opening (or much of the stated concept either), as notions of angelic voices separated from the hubbub of noisy instruments only seem to underscore Western dualism & indeed transcendental distractions positing human separation from the world.... Perhaps Alves intends his music as a critique of such transcendental dualism — & he well might — but the opening "sound" is one I've lamented in medieval interpretations for years.... In any case, although at times the voices do return to that mode — simple chanting in held notes — they also "descend into the muck" (so to speak) & sometimes interact with the quartet of percussion & extended strings in more lively fashion, starting especially from the striking second track, where extended interweaving of the trio of voices through various clattery, sheering & twisting timbres makes for a strong impact (the vocalists standing together physically to one side of the instrumentalists, per the included photo): At that point, there are few comparisons, but I might cite e.g. the VocColours quartet, whose weird Live in Japan I'd discussed here in October 2019. There's also a (trained) classical vibe to the extended vocal techniques employed, at one point specifically suggesting Xenakis' Kassandra (for voice & percussion, 1987) to me, or more generally, some of Scelsi's sound worlds (i.e. a cross between Khoom, Uaxuctum & Okanagon — all composed in the 1960s).... I thus found some of this material to be quite striking, and would be interested to hear more from a combination such as this — absent the ethereal pole (which is obviously already played out for me). Still, there's much to appreciate here, and from some new names.

21 August 2020

When discussing Grappling with the Orange Porpoise (a Creative Sources release) only last month, I didn't realize that another quartet album featuring Adrian Northover & Adam Bohman would soon be released by FMR: Adopting a similar sort of whimsy for its titling, The Perpendicular Giraffe Compartment was actually recorded back in October 2015 (versus August & November 2018 for the CS album), with Bohman (here simply on amplified objects, v. "prepared strings") & Northover (credited with mbira & melodica, along with sax) joined by Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg (voice) & Daniel Thompson (acoustic guitar) to form The Bellowing Earwigs. So this is actually the opposite of a followup to the previous Bohman-Northover pairing, and Thompson is less distinctive here than in much of his later work, but the addition of Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg still makes for a notable album. I was largely unfamiliar with Schouwburg (although he'd e.g. released a duo album with Bohman on Confront, Bagpipes And Blackberries, recorded in July 2014, as well as previous albums on FMR & CS...), but in many ways, his mix of styles & inspirations can be compared to those of Jaap Blonk. Indeed, the enigmatic North of Blanco (recorded back in 2013) makes for a good comparison with its extended textures of strange sounds, including guitar, there sometimes mirroring the voice & going to spookier extremes.... And whereas Grappling with the Orange Porpoise often ends up being more spare in its textures, after a boisterous opening, in what comes to seem like a series of timbre/role studies, The Perpendicular Giraffe Compartment generally continues with more of an open-ended feel, going off on various tangents & distractions, perhaps even resisting concentration per se... as sometimes remarked of Feldman's music. (For a more recent album, albeit without voice, the tapestries on Compassion & Evidence also suggest some similar ideas on extension & density... including feelings of stasis.) One even ends up with the sense of a psychological fugue state at times, more so than the kind of Zen shift proposed by the CS quartet, in an album that does compete with North of Blanco for pure weirdness — even as it seems to run out of steam a bit, at least relatively speaking.

And as it happens, FMR released another album featuring Northover with a vocalist in the same batch, Cájula — recorded around London in May & October 2019 — documenting a trio with Marilza Gouvea & Marcio Mattos (cello & electronics). Mattos has been a fixture with various London musicians (& liner notes are actually by Schouwburg), but vocalist Gouvea was new to me: The most immediate comparison is probably with Isabelle Duthoit & Light air still gets dark, but that album is ultimately more percussive & layered — while Cájula deals more with a trio of foreground performers often buoyed by legato lines, loops & drones. Moreover, there's a sort of 1960s "hippy" vibe as I'd noted in the February 2019 discussion of Fleur de chaos, a Canadian quartet album around vocalist Joane Hétu, so that comes off as a more similar effort overall.... (Perhaps Northover/FMR should be noted for Sezu as well, discussed here in October 2018, another open-ended album that does involve vocals with cello for its longest track....) The result has a generally dramatic feel, including some lyric bits such as "chicken nuggets," but also develops a sort of surreal or dreamy vibe, sometimes more intricately (in passages that I do find more intriguing), but sometimes seeming to be more of a spinning in place, i.e. about suspending time. Notions of presence & temporality are thus interrogated, as this quasi- (as the voice does come, seemingly inevitably to occupy the center) egalitarian trio leaves a resonating silence in its wake.

24 August 2020

Continuing what seems to be an ongoing theme around "self-made" instruments from the previous entry (& I should probably also note that I don't know anything meaningful about making instruments myself — I just listen to what people make), Marco Scarassatti is back with a new quartet album featuring Brazilian musicians, Disputa e Guerra no Terreiro de Roça de Casa de Avó recorded in Belo Horizonte in October 2019. The evocative title does seem to fit the music, as a variety of barnyard animal sounds are abstracted & exchanged by the performers: The result then conjures some similar human-animal intersections (to the point of being oriented on fowl) as those on SETT: First and Second (albeit an acoustic album), as just discussed (somewhat extensively here) in June. Indeed, Disputa e Guerra no Terreiro de Roça de Casa de Avó appears on the English digital label OEM Records alongside albums e.g. with Benedict Taylor — perhaps obliquely acknowledging this correspondence. So the Brazilian album has a much more specific scope, but in some ways, a similar sense of drama, although likewise in fewer scenes.... That it takes up a specific outdoor space, particularly given the richness of its tangential evocations, then suggests more of the title concept from Scarassatti's previous quartet album Psychogeography (discussed here in March 2019 — the feelings of stasis that album generates at times being something I could have subsequently analogized to those appearing with Compassion & Evidence...), and I think I'll end this sentence with a rhetorical reference to how the concept of "psychogeography" intersects the abstractions undertaken on the largely English albums by SETT et al. In any case, although the "indoor" solo Casa Acústica (first mentioned here in April 2017) reflects another domestic pole, Scarassatti had already interrogated a "mysterious outdoors" more broadly with Ernesto Rodrigues & company on Amoa hi (discussed October 2016).... The general sorts of low scuffling that occupy that album do tend to recur on Disputa e Guerra no Terreiro de Roça de Casa de Avó, as Scarassatti bows or plucks his pássaro-cocho (a sort of compound rustic viola, also appearing on Psychogeography, there along with other instruments) to sound very much like a chicken, sometimes becoming much more raucous — as accompanied or opposed by Marina Cyrino (amplified flutes), Matthias Koole (electric guitar) & Henrique Iwao (objects, mini-table & electronics). Iwao had been cited as a Scarassatti instrument-making collaborator in the past, while it took me a moment to place Cyrino... but she currently appears in a photo on the Free Jazz Blog with a balloon on the end of her flute (& so presumably, we can expect to hear more from her with European musicians...). Koole was new to me, and I'd never really heard any of them before, although they do have various mutual collaborations documented online. Sometimes the ensuing duels can seem kind of soloistic or move into repetitive quasi-fugal states, but the bewildering opening is amazing, and there are many incredible combinations of strangely interwoven lines & timbres. (Figuring out who is making what sound can be quite a project for the intrepid.... Listen to Cyrino elsewhere, though, so as to have a fighting chance.) And a sort of "animal commerce" does begin to insinuate itself into one's consciousness — the former also already an interrogation of human-animal intersection & domesticity per se. What is inside or outside then? Another dispute....

9 September 2020

I wouldn't have known about the new Area Sismica duo album from Joëlle Léandre & Pascal Contet (accordion), on the previously unknown We Insist! Records out of Italy, if it hadn't appeared in a combined entry at the Free Jazz Blog. (There's so much new music available online these days: It's great in so many ways, but frustrations shift toward feeling underinformed! Although I guess that's also what I'm trying to remedy for others here....) Anyway, recorded live in Forli in April 2019, Area Sismica is actually the duo's fourth album, and I hadn't really been struck by their previous album 3 (released in 2014 on Ayler Records).... Still, Léandre is always worth hearing, and I retain some fascination with accordion as fusing the Western keyboard tradition with a more flexible intonation and sense of breath. (The instrument last appeared here when mentioning Lluvia in an entry in May....) I hadn't mentioned Contet (b.1963) though, and not to diminish his contributions, but he ends up making a great accompanist for Léandre here: There's no question she's to the fore for much of the album, but the pitch gamut Contet can provide, whether in contrasting drones or faster chordal matching (or indeed dueling glissandi), provides a perfect foil — the difference on Area Sismica seeming to be a much closer matching of timbres & figures at times, more resonant interpenetration one might say, than on their prior album. The result is not only new combined sonorities, but some highly affective passages: Actually, the first four tracks of the album (occupying about a half hour of the full fifty minutes) seem more like "an album" with a an affective sweep, beginning somewhat tentatively through a windswept landscape, the bass emerging around ostinato (through a lengthy, fraught track), and into faster & more aggressive figural matching in the next track. After an anticipatory introduction, the third track then takes off around Léandre's vocals, in a ritualistic release that takes on a high degree of presence & even catharsis. (Sound is generally excellent.) That striking eruption is then followed by a sort of new age sunrise or afterglow, returning to a kind of simplicity but then stiffening again around ostinato.... I don't usually like to go track by track, but after that, the 5th track seems rather more experimental, trying out a variety of combinations between the instruments, often coarse or percussive, but eventually grains drawn out in duration as well. Next is an extended bass solo from Léandre, perhaps her most intimate of late, really drawing in the listener.... And then the last track becomes something of an extrovert medley around accordion ostinato. So the whole thing ends up seeming like kind of a mixed collection (despite being from one concert), but there are strong highlights, particularly from Léandre herself. And when one thinks about a single instrument for accompanying acoustic bass, although percussion is an obvious choice, the accordion does provide other options around drones & continuity, potentially leaving the "discontinuous" to the bassist... as generally for Léandre here.

19 September 2020

I've been following Carlo Costa's "geology" music since relatively early in this project, starting with the quartet album Sediment back in March 2015. I've appreciated both the concept & the sounds, but I guess I tend to enjoy them more as improvisations, meaning not as much after a few hearings. That's been somewhat consistent, and is reflected in e.g. my most recent comments on the Earth Tongues album Atem (as discussed in November 2019): I basically wondered why it came to leave me unaffected, but in doing so, I'd elided the initial affectivity.... It's also music I basically wanted to enjoy — but I've needed to adjust the locus of that enjoyment. The time scales of geology are obviously inhuman, so connecting (or not) with humanity (i.e. as music) becomes one of the underlying interrogations of such work. And with Estuary (recorded in Brooklyn in June 2018), Costa makes a move from geology music to ecology music, becoming more inspirationally-aligned with more of the projects I've featured here, but also retaining a strong (grounded, one might say?) sense of austerity amid relatively straightforward dynamic processes & climaxes. In fact, joining him are two members from the quartet on Sediment (minus Steve Swell, who's set to appear in the next entry...), Jonathan Moritz (tenor & soprano saxophones) & Sean Ali (double bass), but according to release comments, the trio didn't play together regularly until 2017 (after recording Sediment in 2013). All three also appeared on Ramble around the same time, with its triple horn front line, and (one might say) more active filtration.... And of course Ali joined Costa in the Natura morta trio, discussed most recently in April 2017 with Environ, itself virtuosic around Frantz Loriot.... So, while retaining a geologic inspiration, Atem had gestured toward more of a human confrontation, i.e. beginning to evoke a sense of ritual more explicitly itself — & the first track on Estuary, Aperture ends up being strongly affective & with a singular momentum, opening onto the longer Marshes which then suggests further comparisons: In particular, its relative starkness is more akin to e.g. Xoo (itself conjuring marsh environments, as first discussed in January this year), but Estuary also suggests a singular sweep with dramatic conflict. (But there's just never so much happening, not so much counterpoint one might say, as on e.g. Disputa e Guerra... from earlier this month, or certainly not the broad cinematic tapestry of SETT: First and Second....) The more singular focus then remains on a sense of ritual — or communion, broadly — such that one might compare e.g. to the "ecological ritual" of Ag, during which more simply happens. Of course, these ecologically inspired albums (of which there are many) generally embrace human time scales (although they could also be oriented around other living temporalities...), and so in some sense, bridge an affective gap between the basically geological.... But since I've also been working on a Cage project in my "extra time" this summer (& have a variety of material on the late Number Pieces available to this point, but still under construction...), I want to inject some thoughts from that direction here as well, in order further to interrogate my reactions around affectivity: I want to start by asserting that — at least in the late works on which I've been focusing — Cage uses impersonal material, but generally not inhuman material. In other words, his collections of materials (his "gamuts") tend to arise from very human sources, i.e. affective gestures, the chords a person can play on an instrument, old hymns, etc. And then such collections are presented impersonally, i.e. without embracing ego, via chance presentation, etc. (But I do want to emphasize that the sets of materials on which the chance procedures operate are, most often, already chosen.) So this impersonal sort of presentation — this adoption of a less specific, but perhaps more "universal" perspective — can be linked to Asian naturism as well — including as specifically linked to Cage: That's not about the inhuman per se, but rather the human relation to what is larger than human. (And let's also not forget that Cage didn't start out with a need to forge a sense of ritual: The concert setting provided its own preexisting ritual, to be refigured.) So I do appreciate Costa's efforts to move beyond ecology music to investigate the extra-human (e.g. in geology), but then I also find myself feeling less engaged. (And to emphasize again, I've always enjoyed these improvisations the first time! A project like this can be highly distorting when it comes to a scenario like that, because why must an improvisation provoke years of returns to be valuable? That's ultimately a foolish criterion, if it's to be applied universally anyway....) Perhaps I should end by noting another example (or pole) beyond ecology music, Stratus by Ernesto Rodrigues: The lightness of twisting colors yields a sea of shifting relations, i.e. simply more happening, even if such happening can become continuous with the ephemeral. And as I continue to grapple with my own response in this general arena, I guess it tells me that my head is more often in the clouds than wanting to linger with the cold & sometimes austere ground of Estuary (& its marshy gamut).... But sometimes I do want the latter too.

29 September 2020

Tales From is the latest album by prominent musicians coming together in a particular alignment for the first time, here a quartet that proceeds to make an incredibly strong impression right from the start — & continues to make a strong impression. In fact, I'd say it's more or less what I was hoping to hear when I turned to a jazz project ten years ago.... And joining Frode Gjerstad, who apparently put the session together & offers some remarks (including that he'd never heard these musicians sound quite like this), are William Parker on double bass & a variety of horns, Steve Swell on trombone, and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello & electronics. I seem to be mentioning the latter here increasingly often in a variety of projects (including e.g. with Pinkie No this past January...), but of course the others are much more widely known: And I do end up listening to Parker & Swell more often than may be apparent, including in leader projects that don't necessarily speak to me as directly as items covered here, but that do enrich the scene in a variety of ways: I've often thought of hearing either in a variety of "other" projects then... perhaps even one a bit like Tales From. Recapping specific history here, then — even as I haven't followed any of these musicians as closely as some — Parker was actually first mentioned around Beyond Quantum (with Braxton & Graves), another boisterous & buzzing, melodic album on which he also joins in on horn, and so a fortuitous comparison. (And I certainly listened to the William Parker Quartet early in this project. Most recently, I'd noted Parker on Gowanus Sessions II, in an entry this past February around a series of trios from Thollem McDonas....) And I was completely unaware of this fact until I looked in preparation for writing this entry (& so was rather surprised), but Swell was mentioned here both for the first time (around Cryptocrystalline in November 2013, when I called him "ubiquitous") & in (most) recent remarks (around Throes are the Only Trouble in February 2018, where I said that he "participates in many quality projects") with Weasel Walter.... (And that prior quartet album has much happening too.) But he also appears with a wide variety of material, including in more traditionally jazzy settings. (Releasing the quartet on Tales From presents another label triumph for Sluchaj as well: Although Parker had appeared in an older performance with Agustí Fernández issued more recently, these other three prominent musicians make their label debuts with this striking collaborative album....) Anyway, something else that Parker & Swell bring to Tales From is very much a New York City sound (as recorded in Brooklyn in September 2019), such that its simultaneous sense of extrovert melody & city noises recalls various efforts — but for me, especially those of Jeff Shurdut & e.g. Yad. The latter involves a larger ensemble, such that the cacophony of Tales From does emerge from a different musical economy, but both also evoke earlier jazz styles in their polyphonic choruses (as noted by Gjerstad of this quartet in his remarks) as well as suggest a kind of Sun Ra-inspired collectivism, etc. (There's a punk rock edge too, also found on Yad, especially here with e.g. Lonberg-Holm opening the second track by firing up the electric cello in guitar-esque mode.... Those aspects can recall a bit of Tipple Live at Elastic Arts too, also an album that can be intensely expressive, but on Tales From sans Gjerstad's trademark "teapot" sounds, perhaps in keeping with the more lyrical focus....) There's also no shortage of assertive material here, layering around raucous trombone right from the start, including a variety of scrape & grind technique at times, but there's also — at least in moments — an emergent sense of folk song that seems to emanate through the urban landscape (again, not so unlike in Shurdut's work): There's thus a strong humanity burgeoning & buoying within a sometimes industrial atmosphere, sometimes coming to numb the mind with (saturated) expression, but sometimes also bringing a sense of calm & stillness in reduced passages (as fleeting moments of repose). Tales From is thus music both about & for a very active world.

1 October 2020

I've been reviewing the occasional composed album in this space, and so particularly with my history with Scelsi, thought I should probably make some remarks on the new double album Scelsi Revisited from Klangforum Wien (with four different conductors). So I listened to this set a couple of times before reading the included discussion, which includes general remarks as well as statements from each of the eight composers involved, just to get a sense of the sound prior to those more specific thoughts: The pieces I found more compelling turned out to be those two closer to the Scelsi improvisations, although the longest track does become tediously long at times.... So what does that even mean, closer to the improvisations? Scelsi's composition practice involved taping himself improvising on a (quarter tone) synth/keyboard (ondiola), perhaps in multiple recorded layers, and then having it written out for specific (other) forces by collaborators. And that collection of improvisations was released for study by the Isabella Scelsi Foundation in 2009. Some of the unused (as in unscored) tapes were then prepared for use by composers by Uli Fussenegger (who has recorded e.g. Scelsi's Maknongan on double bass & is also one of the composers participating), who then created new works. (The scorings are based, by commission, on the scoring of Scelsi's "chamber violin concerto" Anahit — themed on the Armenian goddess.) Much of my initial impression was that most of it "doesn't sound much like Scelsi," but then I started to wonder why that should be some sort of criterion.... (Actually, more of the music sounds like Xenakis to me. And I can succinctly tell you why: Combining or elaborating Scelsi's microtonal ideas into more complicated pieces comes to involve combining a variety of pitches in a mathematical, and here usually colorful, way.) And so that got me to thinking about "revisiting" Scelsi with my own thoughts according to my own history: Scelsi not only burst suddenly onto the international scene in the late 1980s, but seemed to offer a direct & compelling musical answer in my own life. (I subsequently prepared a variety of material on Scelsi that wasn't available at the time, but material that also becomes rather dated now. I wrote program notes for North American premieres.... I came to be identified with Scelsi on the internet, when the online world was a much smaller place. And for me, that association has faded with time, not only because I eventually heard the various music I'd only seen in catalogs, but on account of various life interruptions, raising children, etc. So it's interesting to think back to that time, and basically the coincidence of it. I mean, I'm definitely not an Italian aristocrat....) In particular, I was dealing with broad concepts of theory & practice, and especially notions of cultural supremacy & universality: It was, quite frankly, inconceivable to me that European knowledge practices could have some sort of monopoly on usefulness. I even declared as much publicly on the subject of mathematics — after receiving a doctorate in the subject. (I've taken a lot of shit for that too. Of course, now I don't just believe it, I know it.) And I've pursued those deconstructions diligently for decades, including in music: Scelsi's late music, though, immediately exploded the straightjacket of Western tuning & tonality for me, irrupting relentlessly into an unstoppable presence: It flat out offended people (including most of the people I knew, on a visceral level)! And I didn't love it because it offended people, but their reactions did feed into my passion: Somehow I became an advocate or ambassador (& I think that's also blunted my critical reaction to Scelsi's oeuvre in the interim, such that I intend to take a restart there — similar to what I've started for Cage, as noted here last month — & cull a smaller slice of repertory versus more general advocacy...). Scelsi Revisited tells me that Scelsi is thoroughly established in the contemporary musical community now, though, so such a change in my own orientation makes sense.... But then, Scelsi didn't only offend listeners by the sound of his music, but also others in terms of his methods, his improvisations & collaborations, i.e. the questions of "Was he really a composer?" that went along with "Is this music?" (And these questions were answered emphatically in the negative by many around me.) It's clear to the ear, though, that Scelsi was working on a particular sound... the results speak for themselves in that sense. But of course, there was still all of this obscurity, the sense of the arcane or mythological... engagements with various cultic ideas, some seemingly embarrassing. Yet I also continue to hear the quest to get inside sound or behind Western (historical) ideas on music, to touch prior cultures & ideas.... (Its sense of musical emergence from the interstices of Western chromaticism also suggests a sort of Lacanian real to me, i.e. in its contrary history grounded in pure acoustics.... Scelsi's personifications might then be figured as pure affect — as they might have always been.) In this, one thing I find writing today is that Scelsi's music was both rather singular & also elaborated: He followed his path for a long time, first perfected (already) in the mid-60s, trying various new directions himself, but making sure they stayed on message — so to speak. On Scelsi Revisited that "message" is only occasionally there, particularly with the added complexities, but then a variety of innovations were considered, including "method" per se (including collaboration, as elaborated & released in a "satellite" project Scelsi Revisited Backstage) & of course elements of string technique (mutes etc.) & directionality (or momentum) per se. (Tristan Murail is the most known composer participating, and like Fussenegger, has participated in Scelsi interpretations himself: I admire his fine technical control in the "spectral" domain, limited to quarter tones, and projecting a sort of shimmering romantic impressionism.... It's pretty, but doesn't really speak to me — as I learned when revisiting Murail for my Tenney Project.) And there've been various other Scelsi homages out there, perhaps only increasing, whether in the more composed or improvisational domains, but Scelsi Revisited does have reference to the Scelsi Tapes as its unique (thus far) starting point.... And there've been not only many homages, but many more recordings (as my old discography has largely languished — as something I find to be more chore than passion today) as well: Yet my Selected Recordings discussion (from early in the present project) actually becomes much too large, caught in traps of pedagogy or ambassadorship (or retail), such that I'll need to create a new discussion around a smaller set of works (as I also continue similar work on Cage — & probably should for Xenakis as well...), so as to emphasize musical use in the moment. (Ultimately that'll make for stronger advocacy, in yet another cycle....) First, though, I'll complete this other layer of quasi-improvisation in this particular interstitial space....

6 October 2020

I also want to note the new album Antiphonen, recorded live in Austria in November 2019, by a trio of Sainkho Namtchylak (voice), Ned Rothenberg (clarinet, alto sax & shakuhachi) & Dieb13 (born Dieter Kovacic, 1973; turntables): The draw for me is & was Namtchylak, from Tuva, on voice: These days, of course, throat singing techniques are relatively common in avant garde vocals, and Namtchylak incorporates a variety of other techniques & inspirations as well, such that it's unlikely to be readily apparent that she hails from the famous (due so much to physicist Feynman, I think?) home of throat singing.... That's not to say that Namtchylak doesn't have a distinctive style, though, only to note that her music sounds quite international in conception, although the broad vistas opening onto feelings of open space do, perhaps, suggest the Mongolian steppes.... The generally open feeling of comings & goings also serves to highlight the voice — with horn often paired in duo, whether supporting or clashing, rarely taking the lead. The noise-based support from turntables tends to be even more subtle much of the time, providing more of a slowly shifting context, but sometimes troubling a tendency toward continuity. (Rothenberg is well known, of course, first mentioned here in October 2011 in a discussion of Denman Maroney's Partch-inspired composition Udentity.... And Dieb13 was mentioned here in April 2018, in a discussion of the trio album A Geography For Plays with Butcher & Robair — although I've also heard him in other contexts previously.) The result is sometimes soloistic, usually focusing on articulating a main line, perhaps with some dissent, perhaps via a sort of logic of extension or distension.... (The tuning clashes around exotic vocalization come to suggest Scelsi's music at times too, although perhaps mostly because of my recent return visit to that world....) Maybe there's even a bit of the feel of a pop album, with broad affective strokes & even an ambient quality — in a kind of exhibition of tunefulness against noise, the throat of course already suggesting a sense of interiorization. And Antiphonen actually stands in something of a relation of contrast with With, Without, also released by Austria's Klang Galerie & featuring Dieb13 alongside voice, this time via ongoing duo with Phil Minton: With, Without was compiled (by Dieb13) from six duo performances ranging over six different years from 2009 to 2017, and edited into a single track, i.e. as a single tapestry with "scenes" but also continuity. The result can be much more detailed in smaller spaces than is Antiphonen (per the latter's soaring vistas), but also presents broad thematics across various close interactions between voice & electronics — basically an exhibition of Minton's vocal variety in an extended industrial composition by Kovacic.... (The result can also perhaps be compared to some of the floating textures & sense of electronic extension on the recent Compassion & Evidence, albeit there sans voice....) Of course, Minton already has an extensive discography — but Namtchylak is also very worth hearing, and both singers are highlighted quite well in their recent albums with Dieb13.

12 October 2020

Not Nothing was actually released back in March, but I didn't notice until making a recent pass through the Amalgam page to see if anything was new there (i.e. since reviewing Dawá earlier in March...): It's a direct followup to Never by the same trio (Ben Bennett, Jack Wright, Zach Darrup), recorded live in one session in Chicago in September 2019 — after Never was compiled from an unknown number of performances in 2018. I was quite struck by the music on the latter album (reviewed here in September 2019), now the name of this trio, and one certainly couldn't fault it for not being long & dense enough (i.e. having plenty to hear), but the unknown editing & mediocre sound didn't exactly help it shine. (Still, there will always surely be a sense of excitement about that first album, establishing a collective vocabulary, so to speak....) With Not Nothing, though, one has that live "conversational" document that's so in keeping with Wright's work elsewhere, e.g. The Unrepeatable Quartet, also articulated continuously in a single track.... The result is more sense of space, perhaps to be figured as less intensity, but there's also a taut elegance that remains as interactions sometimes slow. Of course, there's still plenty of speed at the right moments, i.e. the sort of sudden stops & turns that Amalgam mentions in the accompanying discussion, and Never isn't a "free jazz quartet" in construction (as was Unrepeatable): There's still a sort of brutality amid senses of refinement & control, i.e. the sort of brutality that can animate e.g. Buddhist (Tibetan or Japanese) ritual music — a combination of negation (surely felt throughout this sequence...) & acceptance of reality. Perhaps then an unpurposeful purposefulness emerges.... And the trio often sounds generally percussive around Bennett, with quick horn pops or guitar attacks moving kaleidoscopically through a continuous texture (also animated at times by very high frequencies to the limits of the audio spectrum, turning on & off quickly, so as not to be so noticeable...). The result is often alien, but not an alien landscape per se, rather a quasi-alien humanity — interrogating & figuring both intimacy & alienation through a broad affective texture. I take much of this feel as emerging from Bennett (whereas the elegance of the overall conversation owes much to Wright... & I'd still be interested in hearing a combined Never-Roughhousing quartet too at some point...). Anyway, Not Nothing soon had me saying yes to negation: It projects an immediately captivating tapestry & remains a productive listen.

20 October 2020

And right on the heels of (me noticing) the new album by Never is a second followup to Ewen / Smith / Walter (itself recorded in 2011): [Untitled] is the third album by a trio of Sandy Ewen (guitar), Damon Smith (bass) & Weasel Walter (drums, percussion), meeting for the first time to record Ewen / Smith / Walter, but having toured in the interim, releasing the compilation album Live in Texas (as discussed here in November 2016). Whereas I'd concluded that the latter didn't really push the style, but was more about becoming more intelligible for audiences, the new [Untitled] (recorded again in studio) does both further & refine the earlier style. (The first Ewen / Smith / Walter is still massive, though, e.g. with varieties of bird chirping & string vocalizing that could be explored in their own projects....) Although a level of brutality is probably going to figure into any Walter project, the sense of refinement here is also tangible, with sparser sections seeming that much more structural (i.e. not really more common, but less about taking a break): Indeed, one might compare to the sequence from Never to Not Nothing, particularly since I'd already compared Never specifically to Ewen / Smith / Walter, writing (last September) that (this) music is "becoming higher bandwidth in every sense." One might say that the later music is just as assertive, but less frenetic, maintaining its tensions in a more complex choreography.... And Walter himself seems to have taken his music-making to another level lately, not only in more judicious use of his prodigious speed & precision, but in his mixing & producing: He seems, in particular, to be animating my entire living space with music that seems directly present. So his sound is increasingly striking by itself (here specifically recorded in June 2019). And I didn't know that this album was coming until last week, but I should probably also add some other notes about prior outings: Beyond the Live in Texas discussion, I'd discussed a series of duo albums from Ewen in a December 2018 entry, while her duo album with Walter, Idiomatic was first mentioned in February 2018. (Smith had appeared with Ewen on the duo album Background Information, also recorded in 2011, and of course in the bizarre & spacious quartet tapestry of North of Blanco... pairing Ewen's occasional guitar vocalizing with Jaap Blonk.) Meanwhile, I'd recently noted Smith & Walter together on Smith's quartet project Pioneer Works (also with Blonk, as discussed in December 2019), after mentioning Walter again with the trio (also with Jeb Bishop) Flayed (in September 2019), as recorded the following day.... [Untitled] is then also a very long & dense album — while Ewen / Smith / Walter is almost more like a double album — incorporating track titles (unlike their prior releases), but also shifting sorts of asymmetry: Various dualistic "tiltings" move technically or conceptually across the trio, invoking e.g. temporal layerings that differ from e.g. the start-stop alignments (or collisions) of Never, i.e. suggest a broader ecology (beyond human-human interaction). Such a pan-human ecology emerging in part from rhythmic complexity per se seems also to suggest Walter's Xenakis inspiration... (something I probably should have highlighted with Igneity, as discussed here in September 2016). Anyway, although I find myself listening more attentively to Walter lately (& I've already reviewed many of his albums, going back 2011!), I should highlight Ewen once again: She has her own distinctive style on guitar, featuring e.g. a sort of low growling amid various other object articulations — making her a one of a kind (multimedia!) artist. And Smith is pretty damned good (& prolific across many styles) too, more the chameleon in the middle of a trio where the other two members are unmistakable.... So Ewen-Smith-Walter continues to be quite a lineup, & "untitled" is their latest (maybe not quite as exhausting) creative tour-de-force.

21 October 2020

Weasel Walter isn't only making sequels, of course, and indeed his recent album Grist with Sam Weinberg (saxophones) & Henry Fraser (upright bass) not only documents a relatively new trio — although apparently performing together since 2017 — but continues & expands upon the masterful drumming & production techniques of [Untitled]: Whereas the latter, recorded in June, often suggests a thick (perhaps urban) jungle or even alien landscape, embracing a sense of the uncanny (including in extended quiet passages), Grist is more aggressively layered in the sax trio tradition, emphasizing human interaction & dialog per se. Recorded, also in studio (Seizures Palace, a fitting title for a Walter venue) in Brooklyn, this time in October, Grist is also a lengthy album featuring a great deal of three-way interaction (vs. simple accompaniment) & constant invention around a series of twisting, but generally affectively blunt, gestures from Weinberg on sax. A series of short, bold strokes suggests a relentless combinatorics, buoyed, interrogated & transformed by Walter on drums — & often contrasted against a more lyrical bass. The result is different patterns of repetition, evolving organically, but restarting with each of the seven tracks. And while a notion of shifting patterns might suggest minimalistic procedures, this is also a Weasel Walter project, so it's more about maximalism: Not via ostinato, figures vary constantly in multiple dimensions, including variations in length, with multiple senses of pulse varied internally to figural statements. (This basic procedure is not unlike that of Feldman's late music....) There's thus little sense of repetition — or repose, for that matter — as statements vary prismatically in the rhythmic domain. This "sense of the multiple" is what actually takes the performance on Grist to another level for me: Not only is the presence very strong, as Walter once again seems to haunt the entire room (as almost a hyper-presence...), but so much more seems to happen versus previous releases featuring Weinberg: I hadn't mentioned Drolleries from his trio Bloor, recorded in 2018 & released last year on Astral Spirits, and that album also features a strong presence & prismatic rhythmic variations around short figures, but retains a jazzy feeling as well around sometimes explicit ostinati.... Foment, also released last year & this time on Amalgam (thus recalling the recent Not Nothing, with its broadly taut affective tapestry as union of large & small...) seems more rhythmically dynamic in an extended live improvisation, and does include the more lyrical (& beyond) pairing with Fraser on bass, but doesn't have the same "Wow!" factor for me — no general criticism of drummer Tyler Damon (who's worth hearing himself) intended... although his playing does come off as less varied in this (likely unfair) comparison. Grist does recall Foment somewhat to start, but ends up seeming more machinic, an assemblage of smaller parts, as even e.g. "sounds of the city" move through as deconstructed vistas, twisting & rattling as they go, reconfiguring into ever more jagged shapes.... A recent comparison might be with the (variant) sax trio album Mutations & its aggressive sense of resonant interpenetration, but whereas the latter suggests a sort of sputtering naturalism within its immersive acoustic resonances (& hierarchies), there's nothing rhetorical about the swallowing of one's entire room by Grist, rather strongly posthuman assertions beyond (mere) associations of a (spectral or) watery acoustic.... And perhaps a better European comparison is actually with a couple of older albums from Jean-Luc Guionnet (especially Bird Dies by The Ames Room with Will Guthrie, discussed here in December 2011, but also Moon Fish by The Fish, discussed in July 2012), as he likewise employs relentless (in this case, stochastic) variation of relatively short & geometrically shifting figures. (I did note influences of Feldman, and then Xenakis, around those albums as well....) So what is the affective stance of this album? Xenakis' "energy music" is indeed a touchstone, but there's also a general feeling of endless (machinic) variety, around (indomitably human) invention & possibility per se. And while Walter might still provide the "the finest in unrelieved tension," he's much more of a musician than suggested by that simple phrase. (And slowing or pausing per se do not by themselves constitute such relief, percussive strikes already being by their nature intermittent in sound... as is sound itself.) I don't know how many of his albums I've reviewed here now — as it's been that many for that long — but it's increasingly clear that he's one of the most distinctive figures in US improvisation today (as well as perhaps the most over-the-top Xenakian musician around!). And especially because it's in a standard format (& of course available on Bandcamp), Grist would make a great introduction to Walter (& Weinberg!) for anyone who hasn't heard (either) him yet.

27 October 2020

I wasn't previously familiar with Pascal Marzan, but apparently he decided recently to turn to a microtonal guitar setup, specifically a 10-string acoustic instrument with adjacent strings tuned 1/3 tone apart (to be articulated as 1/6 tones via fret splitting). I don't know how Marzan decided on this particular setup, but it could be because it's more or less what James Tenney did in his iconic (within microtonal music) Changes (1985) for six harps tuned 1/6 semitone apart — the same microtonal framework favored by Cage as well, in the late Number Pieces that include microtonal material (albeit not using fixed pitched instruments in his case). The stochastic contours of Changes do provide their own affective response, but serve to explore this "new" tuning space in general too, and obviously the large number of possible notes are close together, but also provide a variety of non-"dissonant" paths through the octave.... In Marzan's case, this multiplicity also projects a sense of fragility on his single (not especially resonant) instrument, especially against the roaring tenor sax of Ivo Perelman on the duo album Dust of Light / Ears Drawing Sounds, recorded in London in February 2020. Perelman, as seems to be his style, dives right into this microtonal universe, and is soon blasting some fierce melodic statements along these tricky & detailed contours. (Maybe Perelman would be intrigued by improvising over Changes too? But of course composed music won't react to him as Marzan does....) Perelman was already experienced with Mat Maneri, though, and his lineage of microtonal music, and evidently has quite an ear to go along with pinpoint tonal control. At times, this 1/6-tone system is even being manipulated, not only via the chromatic steps on which Marzan can also draw, but with Perelman playing "neutral" intervals in quarter-tones sitting in between.... The result is a strong feeling of interrogation & experimentation, more so than a real artistic statement (beyond openness to new worlds, which is important enough right now...). Marzan does also vary his string attacks (including ostinati, arpeggios, etc.), although remains relatively restrained next to the horn, which then adds a strongly human quality to the otherwise relatively novel interval combinations. (Perhaps there's also a bit of claustrophobia coming through via the concentrated listening.... Still, such an exploration of this — seemingly quite flexible — tuning space is clearly worthwhile.)

And I'd actually just reviewed Perelman's Deep Resonance this past August, an album drawing from much more traditional influences & yielding far more emotional sophistication, so he's been busy (including with his regular collaborators), and is apparently branching out with multiple projects on multiple recording labels in anticipation of releasing his one hundredth album (although perhaps that's not to be named specifically).... So The Purity of Desire also comes to draw on an interest in different tunings, in this case around the Middle Eastern investigations of Gordon Grdina on oud: I'd likewise reviewed Grdina's Safar-e-Daroon in May this year, but that album was oriented on composed music (including a bowed string trio as part of a quintet, The Marrow), whereas The Purity of Desire involves only Grdina & Hamin Honari (returning on tombak & daf) improvising with Perelman. And so Perelman dives right in! Once again he emphasizes lyricism & doesn't hesitate to take the lead, but there are solos (that can also be melodic) by the others as well, and eventually some rather involved & novel textures. This is also "nuts & bolts" music (as I've used the term before), based on small-scale correspondences of motivic patterns, etc. more so than any large-form fusion concept: I.e. they just start playing, paying close attention to small articulations, but also resulting in a real sense of melody, some alignments in groove, etc. Once again, The Purity of Desire is more exploration than finished product — but also involves adding a strongly melodic (i.e. human) component to a more abstract musical interaction or idea.

3 November 2020

Continuing with a detour into some actual traditional music from the broad & culturally convoluted Near East, The Art of the Duduk is the latest album of note from Ocora Radio France: Recorded in May 2019 in Armenia, The Art of the Duduk features Haig Sarikouyoumdjian (b.1985) on the characteristic duduk double reed made of apricot wood, in what is not only an incredible exhibition of breath & tone, expressed according to the sort of tender melancholy that seems to define Armenian traditional music, but an intellectual accomplishment as well. Although traditional Armenian music theory is basically lost — assimilated to Ottoman court music long before the tragic events at the close of World War I — Sarikouyoumdjian adopts an improvisatory style on some tracks, abstracting regional melodic complexes. (In that sense, The Art of the Duduk involves "ethnomusicology," but internal to Armenia — at least until documented by Radio France.) I don't have much more to say about that, since my knowledge of Armenian music is modest at best, but this new album supplements (for me anyway) the series on Celestial Harmonies as released in the mid-1990s & which I'd found to be the most musically intriguing (e.g. relative to prior Ocora albums) to this point. Sarikouyoumdjian's collaborators are also top musicians — with drone player Artur Kasabyian being of special note as well, the low breathy dam (v. e.g. a string drone) lending some of the characteristic suppleness to the articulation — the result being instantly captivating to the ear. (My survey of this & many repertories remains quite arbitrary though, in terms of what catches my eye before my ear....) This is obviously living music, both subtle & highly virtuosic. (For those readers with a Western classical bent, listening to these albums gives me the impression of Armenian music as "the Chopin of the Near East" for its sense of balance & "the in between." From there, the famous pieces often sound like film scores... which they may well also have been.) The duduk in particular is surely one of the world's great traditional woodwind arts, and has been inspiring multiple (other) cultures for centuries. (The distinctiveness of the Turkish ney doesn't make sense without it, for instance, even as political relations between those nations have been a mess for a century....)

16 November 2020

Now returning to electroacoustic improvisation in the UK, High Laver Reflections — recorded in "Spring" 2019 at All Saints Church in High Laver Essex — involves a distinctive pairing of AMM legend Eddie Prévost (percussion) with the Earshots duo of Edward Lucas (trombone) & Daniel Kordik (modular synthesizer). And Earshots is not "only" a musical duo, but also a concert series involving a variety of well-known performers (although previously unknown to me), and had recorded a Prévost solo album in the same church in October 2018, Matching Mix (already released on the Earshots label). High Laver Reflections is then a followup involving the duo: Whereas Matching Mix had involved an exploration of percussion resonance in the space of a church, the trio take that basic impetus to a new level via soaring trombone lines & more subtle (or low-pitched, but not always) electronic reverberations — still accented by rattling percussion. Indeed the first track provokes a strong sense of ritual, sometimes recalling the quintet on AAMM (discussed here in June 2018) with its "Unholy Elisabeth" also originating in a church, but with Tilbury's tinkling piano usually evident amid a more crowded palette of players.... In other words, High Laver Reflections involves a tighter "musical economy" — for whatever that's worth — but does also seem to feature Prévost that much more distinctly. The "ritual" first track can then be quite compelling, recalling e.g. Tibetan styles with deep moving resonances & lines of flight in what ends up being a rather similar sound combo. (What is otherwise objectively strong dissonance comes to sound distant or even mellow? This combo creates its own ambience....) It's a relatively short album, though, even as it does seem meaty, and turns to other styles: The second track morphs from long horn calls into a more typically "choppy" improvised mode, and in the process comes to sound more like a shimmering trombone trio per se, already relatively soloistic & coming to drag for me with static roles.... The third is actually the longest track, and suggests a sort of outdoor music, a squawking jungle (or maybe even e.g. a barnyard, sometimes not so unlike Disputa e Guerra... as just discussed here in September...), meaning that it doesn't really seem to involve the space of the church much anymore. And the final, short track involves some big drums in what seems like a taut & lively "anthropological" summary. That's more compelling again, less consistently layered, but still doesn't recall the opening — which I continue to hear as the most captivating. Anyway, I'd be interested to hear them elaborate that style — or something else they might do to make a more coherent overall album, rather than an exhibition of styles. (And despite being concatenated across multiple sessions, and despite these observations of difference, High Laver Reflections does still yield a sense of transformative continuity... a sort of "de-Christianification" of rite, I suppose.) The Earshots duo/series is also something to watch in general, with Lucas already being involved e.g. in performing spectral music (i.e. as briefly suggesting a sort of Scelsian mysticism here...).

17 November 2020

It seems that Benedict Taylor & Daniel Thompson have been planning a "statement" duo album for a while now, and so T'other — recorded at Cafe Oto in January 2019 on two dates thirteen days apart — inaugurates the new Empty Bird Cage Records with a lavishly produced double album. I don't know the "project space" at Cafe Oto, but this is not a live album, other than perhaps during a moment when some people walk through chatting in the background.... (That sounds quite distant, though, and originally I thought it was people outside my window.) Other than this little intrusion during an otherwise quiet moment, the recorded sound is some of the best available, very crisp & detailed & spacious. I don't normally spend much time talking about sound, but the way the two instruments are framed & separated in stereo is striking, and brings a great deal of presence to every attack & slur. (The stereo mix is sort of the opposite of what Weasel Walter has been doing, per recent remarks. Both provide exceptional sound, but a different soundstage, Taylor & Thompson opting to emphasize the natural acoustic....) Unusually, I've also been listening to this album — or these two albums, because they're too much to listen to at once — for weeks before writing this discussion: That's partly that I was honored with a pre-release audition, but these are also lengthy & detailed interactions that require a lot of attention. (And I've been busy with other music projects, to appear eventually....) I mean, I believe that the music can probably be enjoyed by letting it wash over you, reveling in the various dynamic changes & complex shifting polyphony, but the detailed interactions tend to draw me in.... And these interactions come in two basic modes, namely a pairing of similar material between the two musicians, or of contrasts. Sometimes the latter gives a sense of solo & accompaniment (in either direction), but in some ways, that only emphasizes the parity between the instruments & how that's interrogated at length. That these are similar instruments — viola & acoustic guitar (& Thompson is always credited specifically on acoustic...) — should be emphasized, since what they typically do in the world of music today is so different: Their historical nexus is via the vihuela, though (and surely this suggests that a vihuela should enter the scene at some point...), and the way that they can both pluck or bow provides the beginnings of a variety of musical cognates (to borrow a term from James Tenney) across the texture. Basically, one instrument can respond with its "version" of what another does, these being relatively close for these two instruments, but not the same. And this entire regime of shifting complementarities & contrasts is quite organic: There are four tracks on each album, and each track involves a beginning & an end amid a general exploration, i.e. the track markers are not arbitrary & each track becomes an artistic world of its own, not simply the exploration of a particular procedure (or, as I've been saying about some other releases, a study). So that these two great musicians were building up to this project does come through, and of course for me dates to earlier efforts.... In particular, the trio album (with Tom Jackson, who continues to appear with Taylor & Thompson in various concert formations) Hunt at the Brook has become a classic for me, following up on Compost (featuring Taylor & Thompson) with Alex Ward (as first discussed here in April 2013). And although I love the addition of clarinet, T'other has raised the stakes on both clarity of conception & articulation. It has almost as much happening as well, despite the reduced forces, and clearly represents a development of style (but not a redefinition, although "definition" is one refinement that's involved). The historical sequence also leads me to "lament" that I didn't hear T'other prior to SETT: First and Second (recorded later, in November 2019, but released earlier): I have to joke, because these twisted "aesthetic narratives" are common enough in this milieu, but T'other would have made First and Second substantially easier to hear — & (presumably) easier to discuss subsequent to rehearsing similar stylistic orientations & techniques around the duo album. Such is life, but I also don't want to reprise too many comments from that discussion: The way the duo shifts temporalities together, including something of the same "cinematic" panning effect is still notable. The sort of "naturalist" quality, abstracted through a sort of rhetorical (or historical) humanity (i.e. I want to stop short of saying "posthumanity") also maintains, with a variety of evocations likewise moving through the texture organically.... (So rethinking human ecology remains a touchstone.) Still, though, these are generally traditional musical figures — involving some "noise" at times, more often scrapings on viola — interacting either relatively sparsely, or quite loudly across the ten (is it?) strings, forming a richly interpenetrating polyphony that comes to suggest an orchestra of sound.... But this is also a kind of non-idiomatic (or "anthropological" per my opening this year) music, developing a lyricism (although less lyrical per se than e.g. Nauportus), a sort of new world music.... The sound consequently ranges from soft & pensive to full-bodied & bracing, and back again via various squeaking twitterings or harmonics, or via percussive plucks & scratching (not to mention adding voices/strings). One might even suggest that the precision of their playing & interaction then allows for minimalism, without demanding it — and so allows for various hybrids as well.... (This is thus a freely flowing music able to contextualize various inputs... e.g. fitting later into Serries' linearization regime on SETT.) And of course it's a duo, but hearing these two musicians in this format has also been illuminating & quite musically stimulating. (It's ultimately a powerful — & quite rhetorical — interrogation of globalism & its ecological implications. In that sense, it comes off as an often forceful conversation with, nonetheless, much agreement & space for exposition....)

20 November 2020

Conveniently arriving in the wake of discussing T'other, Combinations is another string duo album, this time pairing Joe Morris & Tomeka Reid — who've likewise been featured here together in larger combos, in this case, beginning with Geometry of Caves (recorded in 2016). I'd already noted Morris & Reid as the "backbone" of that quartet when discussing the followup album Geometry of Distance in December 2019, and in fact that recording was made ten days after Combinations, the latter in Brooklyn. (And the back cover actually credits Morris with piano, but that's not the case here. He's on guitar throughout. Also, the notes tell me that this is the 6th recording ever to pair cello & guitar as a duo. I find that assertion more than merely difficult to believe.... But I suppose I do credit Rogueart for continuing to include program notes.) In any case, Reid & Morris also vary their interactions between complementarity & contrast, the latter allowing either to the fore.... It's more "traditionally human" music, though, especially because it includes three jazz standards among its ten tracks (which starts to seem unusual for a recording in this space...), but also because of evoking a variety of world styles (i.e. it's not generally "non-idiomatic" at all) — although it does also move into extended techniques for other tracks. (The duo adopt different approaches for different tracks, some more or less traditional in terms of material, but reworked into something distinctive for this format....) There's definitely something of a feeling of nostalgia at times, a sort of build up of affect... maybe even a sort of (rainbow, I guess) "cowboy" feel to close (& so an overture toward another slice of Americana, almost coming off as post-Sephardic here...) that might suggest e.g. Morris's duo with Brad Barrett & e.g. Cowboy Transfiguration (a trio album adding Tyshawn Sorey, as first discussed here in November 2019...). And of course there's also Morris's predilection for pairing crossing lines in the middle of the texture... here not only as a sort of braided backbone for other activity, but as the duo interaction in sum. (The interactions can also become rather intricate around a variety of creative techniques and/or polyphonic voicings. So an affective component is not always prominent.) Morris & Reid thus continue to forge their own distinctive joint style, in what does seem to be another exemplary (complementary & contrasting) pairing....

22 November 2020

Since early in this project, a new album from the Kaufmann-Gratkowski-de Joode trio has been an event of note, as this ongoing group — apparently modeled on the old Jimmy Giuffre Trio — continues to provide a great musical experience within the broad intersection of free jazz & free improvisation. Their latest, Flatbosc & Cautery, recorded live (as all the trio's albums have been) in Köln in May 2018, then adds Tony Buck on drums & percussion: The more open textures, often shifting around piano, on the trio's previous album Oblengths (recorded back in 2014 & released in 2016, although still seeming current) are welcome on their own, but of course adding drums does seem "natural" as well.... And that the drummer should be Buck comes as no surprise, as he already appeared on the great sextet album (recorded in 2013, bolstering the trio) Skein, a meaty album of sophisticated shifting timbres & combos.... (Buck appeared with Gratkowski on the quartet album, substituting voice for piano, Goldsbleed as well. But as discussed here in December 2017, neither is really pushing their ideas in that setting, rather supporting vocalist Tomomi Adachi....) The result is then a canonical free jazz quartet, and indeed the emphasis on traditional pianism is more than usual for me in this space: Kaufmann does involve various preparations, but they also tend to be relatively subtle, meaning that the piano timbre is often altered, but usually continues to sound very much like a piano (including some tricky fingering often enough & in various interlocking phrases...). Other instruments "sound like instruments" too, for the most part, although the quartet does get into some extended technique at times: These passages tend to seem more like interludes in a more aggressive musical conversation, but also come & go organically, such that the entire album can wash over the listener... a lot happens, and it's generally not cued, meaning that just about when one has accustomed to a particular interaction, they're on to something else. The trio's (& now quartet's) timing is especially striking in this way, i.e. the sense of tautness they tend to maintain between aggressive fire-breathing & moments of repose. (And much as I'd suggested in October around Tales From, this is also the sort of ensemble & album I'd vaguely expected to hear when beginning this project: It's aggressive & conversational, colorful & generally extroverted, making a strong "argument" in the traditional or classical European musical sense.... So it can come off as a relatively conventional album, but also does so at a very high level of inspiration & execution.) Another addition for Flatbosc & Cautery is Gratkowski on flutes for some extended sections, sometimes creating a pastoral feel (in contrast to the industrial feel that they continue to cultivate at other times...), but generally advancing the jazz flute (of e.g. Henry Threadgill, or of course Robert Dick) here in the 21st century & to fine effect. I've particularly enjoyed some of the more intricate flute passages, as well as the sort of Michaux-esque vibe that develops around it at times (or at least e.g. on the short last track).... Ultimately though, these guys are consistently inventive, and however I want to introduce the new qualities that they're developing here, they do forge a quite powerful & enjoyable "classic" quartet album — an album meeting high expectations, and one that'll presumably reward (& require) repeated listening for a wider audience. Because Flatbosc & Cautery is very much a long album with plenty to hear.

16 December 2020

I'd mentioned Peculiar Velocities by the trio Eris 136199 when discussing another trio release, Now!!, this past August: Peculiar Velocities hadn't been released yet, but the participation of guitarist Nick Didkovsky linked the albums for me. Indeed, there are some similarities to the result, Lytle's bass clarinet on Now!! yielding to Catherine Sikora on saxophones, with the electronic manipulation (but not the sampling) falling on guitarist Han-earl Park, the leader of Eris 136199. I haven't read the liner notes yet — as, more & more, I react to the music by itself & save any (increasingly rare anyway) reading for later — but the various repeated track names, seemingly indicating compositions, seem instead to be indications of improvisation approaches, per Park's compendium of strategies. And although his bio doesn't suggest direct influences from Anthony Braxton or Joe Morris, those are two musicians who come to mind regarding this, Park's third album with Eris 136199: The basic structural "feel" of Eris 136199 suggests Braxton at times for me, specifically the Diamond Curtain Wall Music, with the two guitarists on each "side" of the horn, inverted as a sort of connector versus a wall.... (Perhaps Braxton's own inversion on Trio (New Haven) 2013 is more apt, but in those terms, Park turns things inside out....) Moreover, the focus on particular strategies & the way the trio tends to move through material — not to mention the two-string backbone — suggests a similar sort of interaction as on Switches, although the best formal comparison might instead be with Morris on Locale (as reviewed here in May). And Peculiar Velocities does suggest various locales, i.e. worlds forged. These are substantial worlds too, despite the relatively short length of each of the eleven tracks: This isn't "non-idiomatic" music, though (as Park describes himself as "fuzzily idiomatic"), and often makes use of rock figures twisted into various shapes passed back & forth to create a dense (& un-rock-like) tapestry, or sometimes slowed into swells (per something of a "sea" analogy...), both usually animated (in the "human" vs. noise/industrial sense) by the horn, whether in more of a stark New Age sort of guise, or perhaps sounding more classically jazzy.... (So I suppose the better Braxton comparison is actually to Quartet (New Haven) 2014.... Without any acknowledged influence, it's fascinating to hear how intertwined Park's work can end up sounding.) But Sikora is actually the best-known performer here, appearing on a variety of albums, including a solo outing on Relative Pitch, making for two thirds of an Irish trio (with the Korean-Irish Park): Her horn tends to add a haunting vibe to the more intricate guitar interplay, but can be more constrained or simmering at times as well — versus the more open, soaring approach often heard across complex underlying harmonic-rhythmic space. (The result sometimes projects a rhetorical quality, but can also seem to be more about warmth of tone, i.e. as a welcome in spite of the thicket lurking beneath....) A sense of simplicity against complexity thus tends to maintain through various mutations & contradictions, making for a unique mix of sounds & ideas, while surges of energy seem to emerge (gradually) from nowhere. The result is, as noted, a series of different musical worlds.

[ And apropos these worlds, having now revisited the CD (after considerable postal delay), I come to hear them clearly situated as vignettes within an overall urban fantasy soundscape.... - 03/12/21 ]

29 December 2020

Although I'm certainly still expecting more releases of note dated 2020 at this point, some dated 2021 are already appearing. And the first to make an impression on my ears was Neigen, a generally leisurely album of close conversation on Ayler Records, performed by a quartet of Nicolas Souchal (trumpet & flugelhorn), Michael Nick (acoustic violin & electroacoustic octave violin), Daunik Lazro (tenor & baritone saxophones) & Jean-Luc Cappozzo (trumpet, flugelhorn & objects): I was totally unfamiliar with Souchal & Nick (& am assuming that they are younger), but of course Lazro & Cappozzo are fixtures in this general arena. (Lazro was first reviewed here in April 2012, around the haiku-inspired trio album Pourtant les cimes des arbres, while Cappozzo had appeared in general improvisatory settings, and then was featured on the trio album Grey Matter, as reviewed in February 2014.... They also have a previous trio together on Ayler, including standards & released in 2017....) The detailed, timbre-focused interactions of Neigen also recall various projects around Ernesto Rodrigues — here "mostly" acoustic, although the electroacoustic octave violin is prominent on one track — but there's also (as noted) a distinct conversational or rhetorical sense to Neigen. Different pieces (of the nine) then observe different interactions & orientations, a series of what might seem like little studies, but with a definite affective quality, a degree of calm, even during dissonant clashes. (Neigen thus differs markedly from most of the recent albums on Ayler, which tend to have a rock orientation or background....) The often leisurely vibe also leads into what is likely to become a new theme here: Was this album actually recorded with the musicians together in one space? The Ayler website notes it was recorded in 2020, but there are no dates or locations. There is an engineer named, though (i.e. not one of the performers). Was this project recorded over the internet? I'm really not sure, but it could be. (That the release is coy about its details & intent is certainly nothing new....) Anyway, the result comes to suggest e.g. the Spectral horn trio, whose latest album Empty Castles was reviewed here in July 2018, not only because Neigen involves three horns itself (with violinist Nick often seeming much like another horn), but because of the sense of "acoustic echo" that also maintains. There is no sense of physical space projected, though, but rather a kind of interrogation of synchronicity. (This impression remains regardless of how the music was actually made....) The result is generally mellow (& does sound increasingly rhetorical, clearly evoking "free jazz" by the end...), but I've found it to be engaging. And perhaps with a little splash of nostalgia lurking within its ecology.

11 January 2021

[ And it turns out that my speculation was incorrect: I've been informed that the recording was made "the old fashioned way" at Cappozzo's abode, over the course of a few days. - 01/16/21 ]

Returning to a late 2020 release on Creative Sources, Odboqpo is another instance of an album appearing without a recording date (other than simply 2020) or location (but again with an engineer): In this case, I was attracted by the participation of Slovenian drummer Vid Drašler — whose often subtle contributions to Nauportus have been rather compelling for me — and who's joined on Odboqpo (a made up word featuring rotational symmetry?) by the preexisting duo (neither of whom was known to me), Paolo Pascolo (flute, bass flute & effects) & Alberto Novello (modular synthesizer). And that the electronics mainly seem to manipulate & respond to the flute, while Drašler "accents" over the top, suggests the possibility of non-synchronous interaction — again generally evoking a mellow or leisurely vibe à la Neigen (which is more interactive per se).... (And again, there are quite dissonant clashes at volume, but it's more their affective orientation that I'm feeling. Some listeners might disagree, but one could trace notions of dissonance producing calm e.g. in Japanese traditional music....) Some quite striking textures result, and I'm enthused by these sorts of forces: Flute appears to be on a little (cyclical?) upsurge lately, and parts of Odboqpo do suggest parts of e.g. the very far-ranging Solar Wind (including in what is a less common new age evocation for the latter, but also in low breath "effects," presumably achieved rather differently...) — although not so much of the recent rhythmic tempest that's Flatbosc & Cautery (with its sometimes surprisingly prominent flute). Indeed, Odboqpo projects more of a consistent ritual vibe (& perhaps even some "anthropology" per my opening, although I do have to question the underlying colonial & appropriative dynamics in general of the so-called new age flute style...), and suggests various intensifications at times as well. Sometimes it's more "atmospheric" over extended stretches, though (including noisily), and can come to feel more about (ambient) presence. (Odboqpo also reminds me a bit, in its mixture of weirdness, of e.g. Parak.eets & Natura Venomous, but perhaps that's as much about the classical-linguistic flavor of the track titles as it is any detailed sense of the musical interaction....) There's thus a strong sense of gravity, broken sometimes by the occasional cliché (whether flute or electronic), but also a sense of layering, including in some more traditional configurations with the synth serving as bass/harmonic binding. (One might recall that medieval polyphony is generally considered to have been built up in a layered manner, one part after another....) Perhaps Odboqpo ends up being overly placid at heart for me, and it's a long album of over an hour, but there's generally some tenser or burbling activity not far behind. (And I'd be interested to hear these performers in a more traditional interaction — if that's not what this is, or again even if it is....)

12 January 2021

Musik by Werckmeister is another 2020 release from Creative Sources that only recently made its way to me, although in this case I'd already been staring at its disinterested cat cover for several months.... I'm also unsure why I didn't explicitly link "Werckmeister" to Baroque tuning (i.e. systems of "well temperament," as some readers will know the term from Bach...), presumably because of trying not to jump to conclusions about anything in this space, but that's indeed the touchstone, bringing some Baroque tunings to contemporary improvisation. In this case, I was able to confirm the orientation on clarinetist Markus Eichenberger's site, the quartet for Werckmeister consisting of the additions of Etienne Nillesen (extended snare drum) & Philip Zoubek (synthesizer) to a long-running musical interaction (since 1994) between Eichenberger & tubist Carl Ludwig Hübsch. Of course, Zoubek was already involved with Hübsch in HMZ (whose long second album Drought remains a mellow favorite) & goes back in this space all the way to my conversations with Joe Hertenstein (Crespect having been reviewed here in December 2011), while Nillesen (also on extended snare drum) was featured in a November 2019 review of Piano Trialogues with Nicola Hein (alongside three different pianists). Meanwhile Eichenberger was actually unknown to me, but has e.g. a solo album also already on Creative Sources.... The strangest thing for me, then, in writing this discussion becomes that I've been finding Musik to be rather compelling, while also feeling indifferent toward the concept (as is, apparently, the cat): That a different tuning can bring different timbres, combinations & dynamics seems clear enough, as e.g. in my November discussion of a couple of new releases from Ivo Perelman in this mode... and indeed I've long been attracted to different tunings. But why Baroque? (Note, for instance, that these mean-tone derived tunings, with their narrow fifths, are rather far from e.g. medieval Pythagorean. These are "functional" tunings, emphasizing thirds, and prompted by the limited pitch choices on keyboards & fretted instruments....) This isn't a case of adding microtonal options, but rather of "warping" the sonic space around particular keys, i.e. versus the equal spacing of equal temperament, with some intervals being "more out of tune" etc. In terms of items I've featured here, then, one reference is Tuning Out, with Veryan Weston playing old tracker organs with registers balanced in hybrid positions (thus yielding some strange intervals beyond a period tuning). There the interplay around the string instruments tends to involve more discontinuities & even a rhetorical sense of exchange at times. That's less true of Musik, which tends to flow in waves, featuring long interweaving lines that can focus on individual horn grain.... (It sounds nothing like Baroque music.) Musik does involve a similar sense of exhaustion for the listener, however, around the novelty of the note relations themselves: It can seem less interesting as it overwhelms one's concentration (& I suppose I'm perversely attracted by music I'm having trouble following...). But that passes with exposure — even as Hannah Marshall does suggest around Tuning Out that its unfamiliarity challenges the listeners' perceptions as a form of liberation per se.... The focus on "grain" also recalls Music for Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinets & Electronics, there also with an electronic framing, but developing its dissonance in more of an understated way & coming to seem strangely "flat" alongside the warped tuning of Musik (which I'll compare to those old visual illustrations of general relativity with heavy spheres warping the "fabric" of space...). Musik also suggests a sense of symphony, particularly via its Italian tempo marker track titles, but does seem to be improvised.... (Like Odboqpo in the previous entry, it also involves a different designer etc. on Creative Sources, and so was apparently produced independently — amateur cat photo & all.) The long wind lines are thus the highlight here (& Hübsch is so eloquent on tuba...), but that's as contextualized by the synth (i.e. where the tuning is implemented rigidly) & as accented by the drum (which sometimes sounds like a traditional snare drum & sometimes doesn't). The result is frequently tense, but does open up, especially for the more timbrally subtle last track — the shortest, and (therefore?) also the choice for a sound sample on Eichenberger's site. (That last track is much more affective in the context of the first two, though, as the album opens with a jolt.) Musik is also sometimes loud, with suggestions of howling & various sorts of articulations, varying attacks in waves & layers.... There's thus a sort of immersive orientation (or disorientation) that can project a strongly industrial feel, i.e. a sense of following the constraints of some sort of contraption (which we are, per the tuning), in turn producing a kind of textured field. (The sort of resonance involved is more constrained than e.g. some broad acoustic interrogations from Ernesto Rodrigues & company, Coluro or Sitsa with their microtonal articulations tending to enunciate a complex acoustic space, bounded — & so interiorized in a sense — but not claustrophobic... as Musik can sometimes seem to be.) It's difficult to hear the Werckmeister quartet as any kind of historical interrogation, though (unlike Tuning Out...), as its historical prompt becomes largely about novelty. In this, although it doesn't use samples (or adopt any sort of plunderphonic approach), as e.g. Music for... sometimes does (while also projecting a kind of luminosity...), Musik probably reminds me most of Compassion & Evidence among recent albums: There's an industrial quality, a sense of affective flow, maybe becoming a bit ponderous at times, but seemingly conjuring a new world via its space of electroacoustic interaction.... (And just to retain some obvious humanity, the live performance from Köln in November 2019 also includes some audible coughs, seemingly not quite as framed as that on Setúbal, but nonetheless a part of the finished result....) So where does a project like this go? What does it imply? For me, I guess it's about strange intervals in taut, flowing lines — as forged into a coherent tapestry. And its inspiration does remain curious, including for its implications on historicizing. (The presumable key here is that, as a practical temperament, Werckmeister is appropriate for the horns in a way that an arbitrary warping of intervals would not be....)

21 January 2021

And already in the wake of assuring myself that I don't really need to discuss everything that the prolific Udo Schindler releases, he has another four albums out on FMR, including a two-album series with Damon Smith, The MunichSoundStudies. To top it off, the third volume (the second set of the second album, all three having been recorded in December 2019) adds vocalist Jaap Blonk — who's been working extensively with Smith, as most recently discussed here around Pioneer Works (also in December 2019). So whereas the first volume (recorded a few days earlier & released as a separate album) features Karina Erhard (who was previously unknown to me) on flutes, with Smith as something of a tentative pivot between her & the multi-horn playing Schindler, including sophisticated (even pastoral) dialog between the wind players, and whereas the second volume features a duo presentation in which Smith apparently prods Schindler to play jazzier, I feel compelled to make some remarks on the third.... (And note that Schindler remains very precise in his "jazz" playing with Smith. He does project his own ideas, but it's the sort of "analysis" of jazz's historical roughness that can sometimes run counter to expression per se....) Indeed, this trio seems to have real potential: As with so many albums from Schindler, it all seems so preliminary (or experimental), but a variety of textures are forged (& held) via interweaving of the three lines, with Blonk emerging from quiet to start the set. But also eventually becoming quite raucous at times, as Smith seems to settle more into accompanying Blonk. (The set is just over half an hour, with the first two volumes actually being longer....) In that sense, Schindler can seem kind of to the side, but he's a resourceful player, and ends up reinserting himself as the sound develops. (The batch from FMR also includes Lakefront Discussions, another duo with Blonk, after their Hillside Talks album on Relative Pitch, as mentioned here in a May 2019 survey.... The former was recorded in April 2020, so subsequent to The MunichSoundStudies Vol. 2&3, presumably making for a more balanced triangle of interactions for the future....) The abstract vocalizing tends to emphasize continuity here, with Schindler's horn more often providing discontinuous responses, within what becomes a dynamic of extension & of establishing stable processes across a variety of timbral prompts. (Blonk tends to remain with a style of vocal production, rather than moving on as quickly as he sometimes does.... And he usually remains at the center.) And so will there be an elaboration, or is Schindler perpetually in "explore" mode?

22 January 2021

Brooklyn-based 577 Records is another label that's existed for a while now, but has also been expanding its catalog of late beyond its previous core: I hadn't really remarked yet, but they're embracing music well beyond the New York City jazz tradition, including more experimental approaches. And The Clear Revolution, the third album they're releasing by the Cyclone Trio of saxophonist Massimo Magee & drummers Tony Irving & Tim Green (after two on the companion "Orbit577" series...), isn't particularly experimental, especially as it evokes elements of free jazz, but does suggest the development of a subtly (or not?) striking new interactive language among the musicians of the trio. Although Irving has a history with the English scene, all three were actually unknown to me, with the trio having formed seven years ago in Australia (where Irving had relocated). I thus had the impression (from Irving's notes to another release) that Magee was also (along with Green) from Australia, but apparently he's from London: I say apparently, because I wasn't able to find a detailed biography, although I was able to discover that — besides prior albums with Irving & cited work with other well-known improvisers — Magee creates e.g. "digital art" that can be rendered by a computer both as a graphic & as a sound file. He thus presents with some real multimedia conceptual chops, so to speak, such that a comparison of The Clear Revolution with something as iconic as Braxton's Trio (New Haven) 2013 starts to seem less far-fetched. (Indeed, I originally told myself that it was absurd & unfair to compare Magee with Braxton, even if the interlocking rhythmic forms from Irving & Green suggest some similar interactions as on Braxton's imposing late sax-&-two-drummers set.... But now that I've heard Magee's just-released solo, on Orbit577, Live in the Metaverse — on which he performs on clarinet throughout, "through" a streaming setup, embracing digital artifacts & lag — it's increasingly clear that he's engaging similar concepts & has plenty to do with how the Cyclone Trio operates.) The Clear Revolution was actually recorded in studio (in London, this past March) the day after Cataclysm (a live album already released on Orbit577...), and involves something of a rush to document their work prior to the pandemic restrictions coming into full force: As opposed to the live albums, which involve plenty of the energy (& even the primitivism) with which such an instrumental configuration would likely be associated, it thus invokes a more didactic approach, suggesting (per discussion supplied by 577) "extended versions of ... research," being "rigorous, patient" with "clarity of intent." (So I might compare it to something like Grammar II — with DLW now poised to release a third album Beats, as it happens — but Grammar II is much less jazzy....) The generally fast interaction (although encompassing slower moments seamlessly as well...) in clear figures & gestures also suggests a recent album such as Grist (as reviewed here in October 2020): There's a sense of decisiveness throughout, rather than the sort of "blurring" that can animate jazz per se, plus a sense that the horn is spanning or suturing a rhythmic framework. (So this aspect is part of a contemporary trend....) In the case of The Clear Revolution, such a relationship is then ramified into three specific geometries on the three different tracks, (again per the supplied discussion) "exploring their philosophical questions alongside the foundations of free jazz." For me, the final track, the "square," opening to welcome the listener's thoughts into the interaction, comes to suggest a powerful transversal that leaves me in a calmer (more hopeful?) mood versus the sometimes frenetic activity elsewhere, but the album also wouldn't be what it is without the incendiary (& transcendentally oriented) "bottomless" opening track, even as the more rhetorical second track stands out rather less to me.... (It does work as a middle track in their three orientations, but there are more provocative conversations to be found in this mode....) There are still slurs, etc. — amid various layers of evocations of jazz, as noted — but there's also an impressive precision, including a handling of extended nuts & bolts continuity & momentum (that again suggests DLW's approach on Grammar II...) that forges a real style beyond (paleo?) high energy sax & drums: The Clear Revolution is elemental in both senses.

24 January 2021

Another recent (officially last month) release that's struck me for its basic sound & vibe — in this case that of ritual — is Triche!, recorded in June 2019 in Vienna by a trio of Éric Normand (electric bass), Matthias Müller (trombone) & Peter Vrba (trumpet & electronics). Although it was recorded in Europe with European improvisers — & of course Müller is relatively well known, appearing here most recently in a September 2017 review of the memorial album Konzert für Hannes, while I hadn't mentioned Vrba — Triche! also strongly suggests Normand's prior work & North American context: Indeed the similarity in title immediately suggests Torche!, reviewed here in December 2017, by a largely French Canadian quintet of three horns around (electric again) bass & (subtle) percussion, with that earlier album described as consisting of "simmering & creaking world-mediations speaking from their North American setting" & as "developing tension largely without rhythmic clarity or individuation" (when evoked again in the subsequent review of Fleur de chaos in February 2019...). Triche! can also be mysterious & breathy, also involving some noise, but involves more focus from moment to moment, versus the weird tangents & flights on Torche!.... (And while the latter sounds very much like birdsong at times, Triche! explicitly invokes birds in one set of its titles: There are three titles repeated three times in each of the three languages of the improvisors, without any obvious similarities in the music, plus a single track title in English.) The basic "stuff" of the music then generally develops in long & layered lines, often around legato trombone with percussive/gonging/metallic bass & faster (sometimes into electronic manipulations) accents & ornaments from the trumpet. (Whereas the trio might suggest e.g. Trialectics, the latter is far more overt in its polyphonic motion & develops a very different sort of intensity....) A recent sonic reference is then actually High Laver Reflections, as reviewed here this past November, there in a church acoustic & with generally a less wild edge... involving a sort of numinosity too, but with the "wild" feel (somehow, but obviously via Normand...) shining through Triche! remaining the latter's most striking quality. (High Laver Reflections consequently seems to be a bit delicate or tentative in comparison, despite no obvious lack of "sound" or even noise emerging from its combination of trombone, electronics & percussion....) Moreover, the bounce of the strings suggests a sense of resonance, articulated by grainy breath (the roughness of which sometimes evokes "jazz" all by itself), but also as sometimes subsumed into the buzz of electronic modifications or even quiet static per se, yet somehow never losing its ritual shape or reference.... (One might describe its basic New World wildness as evoking colossal or elemental — i.e. totemic — forces....) The growling trombone et al. thus come to seem rather raw & emergent, despite (or because of) scrupulous control of timbral grain & resonance, such that a sense of (almost quasi-Tibetan?) gravity tends to maintain. And while I could also note Normand between two horns e.g. on How Does This Happen? — an album with John Butcher & (frequent collaborator) Philippe Lauzier, released in 2018 but not discussed here... — Triche! (appearing once more on his own Tour de bras label) seems to be a significant milestone in his development of a tauter (more globalized?) personal style.

25 January 2021

I also want to make note of an entire series of "outdoor" music appearing from guitarist David Birchall over the past year: I hadn't noticed until one of those albums, Watergrove Part 2, was also released by Confront, but his Bandcamp site includes that album & others by overlapping (smaller) groups. Watergrove Part 2 appears to involve a scene above a reservoir, damp & mossy... while others might feature actual rain or a highway. (Birchall has added performing this sort of music to his bio, so perhaps he'll be sticking with it....) I thus found Watergrove Part 2 to be generally the most appealing scene (from September 2020), and it also involves a quartet: Besides Birchall on banjo, thumb piano & electronics, there's Francis Comyn (frame drum, hand percussion, wind chimes & gongs), Adam Fairhall (accordion) & Michael Perrett (saxophone). They were new to me, but I'd been following Birchall since Live at Ftarri, featuring noisemaster Toshimaru Nakamura in another quartet, and so yielding a very different sound — already with a sense of "musical ecology" that can (perhaps) also be heard on these later albums. Watergrove Part 2 is certainly less aggressive, as well as less apparent as to who is doing what within its ecology, Birchall in particular: There's no guitar, and the slow plucking or rubbing of strings isn't always apparent, especially next to various percussion & gongs.... It's possible there's some sampling or a looping contribution from the electronics? (There's some static near the end of the one short track, or maybe just the sound of water itself... or an effect of percussion. There's enough disorientation that at one point I'm thinking "Aha, there's the banjo sounding like qin!" ... but it was thumb piano. It's also possible that the "electronics" credit simply means that Birchall recorded the session, or packed the equipment....) One does hear various clear twittering & swells from the winds (including accordion), though, while the chimes & especially gongs can be prominent.... So it's possible there are some environmental background noises on the album, but mostly it seems to be produced by the musicians themselves, evoking the scene. It certainly "feels" as though it ought to be acoustic, particularly via high held tones that seem to shift the scene & perception, yielding a ritual or meditative quality to the proceedings. The result is stark, yet active, generally maintaining continuity & focus in a slow articulation that sometimes fades to low levels... very much yielding a purposeful sort of feeling, even a sense of outdoor claustrophobia arising via focus (& eventually lifting into broad vistas, before refocusing).... I'm also struck by the sheer difference of this music from Birchall's contribution on (the more typical) Live at Ftarri, so felt compelled to note the contrast, but there're also other worthwhile comparisons to be made with material featured here: Perhaps the most obvious & iconic, also from England, is Hunt at the Brook, featuring another guitarist in Daniel Thompson. That album likewise engages an environmental soundscape, but evokes more of a sense of nostalgia, i.e. a human-focused history beyond natural evocation per se. (Of course, Thompson et al. have also gone on to figure various natural scenes musically in different ways....) The human rhetoric makes the music wilder on Hunt at the Brook, but there's also figuration of abandonment, imagery that becomes the focus of the more industrial Traintracks Roadsides Wastelands Debris: I could suggest more "naturalist" albums from Rodrigues, but that trio (featuring guitar) conjures a similar focus, albeit via abandoned human artifacts (rather than living persistence). And in another direction is something like Bow Hard at the Frog (discussed here in May 2018) from Fred Lonberg-Holm with frogs in a swamp.... (Watergrove Part 2 mimics animals but doesn't appear to invite them to be part of the recording.) Or for its "watery" articulations & deconstructions, I'm also reminded of Ramble, there becoming more aggressive (even pounding or shrieking, relatively speaking...) at times, although with a similar calm being projected at others.... In any case, Watergrove Part 2 does evoke its setting, largely via human response, making for a satisfying — if musically modest — sonic experience. I've done a lot of hiking, and found the music to be evocative in terms of setting, so I'll be following this developing outdoor series from Birchall (who appears to bring his own subtle, but distinctive, sense of shaping...).

16 February 2021

Releases dated 2021 are becoming more the norm at this point, and the second I want to feature here (after Neigen in January) is the latest from trio DLW (Christopher Dell, Christian Lillinger, Jonas Westergaard), Beats. Beats is a relatively short album of many tracks, recorded in Berlin in February 2020: The accompanying description online — & there are liner notes as well, this time the largest portion being a narrative from an accompanying journalist — positions this, their third album (or fourth if we count the quartet Boulez Materialism, reviewed here in July 2018), as basically the opposite of the previous Grammar II. (Grammar remains unavailable & I haven't heard it.) Whereas that album builds larger forms out of smaller structures, and generally in a steady or even leisurely fashion, Beats breaks up structures by shifting & cutting their rhythms. It's thus basically a deconstructive album versus the "constructive" Grammar II (& as I understand, Grammar), and so recalls various efforts in that sense: I've particularly valued e.g. Ramble from the Sandra Weiss Quintet as an album that reliably vanquishes earworms (especially music repurposed as commercial jingles, something that can be so annoying...), but that's more in the (graphically vertical) pitch domain. Beats undertakes something akin to this with rhythm, and basically annihilates rhythm with more rhythm — hence differently from e.g. another Swiss reference, bass duo Studer-Frey, known for their (horizontal) rhythmic "liquification." (And I only realized in the course of preparing these notes that I have these common associations for Swiss improvisation....) The result is fascinating, but frankly, annoying too: In particular, I'm reminded of my response to Nate Wooley's Knknighgh (reviewed here in August 2017), an album I also found fascinating for its conceptual manipulations, but annoying for its material. However, while Knknighgh basically interrogates the construction of its own earworm, one isn't left with such unwanted baggage from Beats. Rather, already from the second repetitive track, we are also in the world of popular & club music — not to be left there, because the rhythms will eventually be annihilated, leaving not an earworm but void. The complicated manipulations of Beats (as well as extended repetition appearing already early in the album) also suggest the possibility of losing attention as a listener, i.e. of having the music overwhelm the mind & begin to wash over.... Yet that doesn't actually occur, as I find my attention to be quite fixated on the album, until the very moment it's over — when I'm not feeling a sort of contentment with the sudden silence (as is common with various improvisations these days, especially in a post-Cage universe...), but rather a desire to fill the space excavated. (I actually find Grammar II to be a satisfying response.... Generically, though, there's a deterritorialization, so a basic subsequent urge toward reterritorialization.) In any case, the eerie opening in extended technique promises a novel album (which it is...), but then is followed quickly by the repetitive second track, and then with similar popular references appearing (or being reworked) in (some) later tracks. Per the journalist notes, they've actually started with a composition by Dell for the project, although it's being broken up from the start — & then the other pole is a piece by Webern toward the end, seeming lush & inviting in this context. (One might suggest that Beats thus reconfigures pointillism per se.) One might even suggest that this project is about breaking up rhythmic "scar tissue," with the brief accompanying quote from Dell suggesting figure-ground reversal.... (It's probably also worth noting that — again per the journalist — each musician is operating electronics: This isn't obvious, but is apparently an updated approach versus the electronic manipulation by a single dedicated performer joining the trio on Boulez Materialism?) It's never to the point where up seems down & vice versa, though, speaking especially of the (material) percussive strikes themselves....

8 March 2021

And I also feel as though I need to note Live Offerings 2019, recorded on three dates in June 2019 by the duo of Benedict Taylor & Dirk Serries. It's a very substantial album, just released on Confront instead of Serries' A New Wave of Jazz: There's actually a prior album from this duo on the latter label, Puncture Cycle (recorded in June 2018), as well as An Evening at Jazzblazzt (recorded on the third date of four consecutive, the other three appearing on Live Offerings 2019...), featuring pianist Martina Verhoeven in trio for its longer & more extroverted second half. I didn't discuss either of these when reviewing SETT (recorded in November 2019), but they were already released. (The Jazzblazzt set was also apparently recorded by the venue, not by Serries, as were the other three dates, and the latter do sound more detailed & intimate.) They just didn't catch my ear the same way, I suppose, and Serries has released a lot of albums in a short time.... (But I've generally been listening to everything new from A New Wave of Jazz — & Confront too, for that matter — even as I'm not discussing nearly everything....) In any case, Live Offerings 2019 does catch my ear, and has been one of the more appealing albums I've heard of late, so here I am back to excavating my response to SETT.... (After all, it was released first! And the quartet is obviously significantly more dense than the duos....) Of course, the other obvious reference — at least for Taylor — heading into the latter project was T'other with Daniel Thompson (recorded already in January 2019 & reviewed here in November 2020), a carefully conceived & articulated expression, deriving from their many years of playing together. (Both duos are quite extensive explorations, with T'other being a little longer....) That renewed & focused work with another acoustic guitarist then seems to have made these sessions with Serries that much more productive (& perhaps they'd already played together nearly as much, but I think not...), involving some of Taylor's most striking individual playing. Yet Serries (b.1968 & previously known for other musical approaches...) isn't absent, sometimes being much more active himself, but also showing a very sophisticated style of incorporation & extension, a sort of "Yes, and then what..." drawing out more & more, the "linearization" I'd noted in that previous giant review — something that would have been so much easier if I'd heard & discussed either or both of these big duo collections already — figuring that sort of incorporation. (Serries then "stacks" these linear intervals into staccato chords when he wants to be more aggressive, even producing something of a rhythmic-harmonic sea at times.... His nimble serial+ combinatorics is impressive & more evident in the duo setting: The image of the "blockchain" also occurs to me around Serries' linearization & incorporation of material, which sounds nice & contemporary, but I don't actually want to associate any of the "nonsense" — & there's plenty! — involved in cryptocurrency with this engaging music.)

9 March 2021

Vario 34-3, another 2021 release (curiously out of Chicago...), is then the latest installment of Günter Christmann's "Vario" series, encompassing a variety of media, here a quintet of musicians, the first Vario 34 album being from 1993 (by a sextet, also with guitar, "insect music" they used to call it?) & this being the third (based on the title?). And I wasn't actually familiar with Christmann previously: Apparently he hasn't been releasing albums very often, but did have a release on Creative Sources (of course!), also with bassist Alexander Frangenheim, Core from 2010 — & it seems to be long gone, so I haven't heard it. (I guess it's not a Christmann project anyway, i.e. without the Vario name?) The rest of the musicians involved in Vario 34 are then well-known, the exception being (perhaps) Frangenheim (whom I've nonetheless featured here many times...), with Mats Gustafsson (here entirely on soprano sax), Thomas Lehn (live electronics) & Paul Lovens (percussion) also dating to the beginning of the project. And Christmann (b.1942; here on cello & trombone, i.e. "tenor") is someone who was more prominent in the 1990s, affiliated with FMP... not that I'm a historian of that time & place, but aspects of the way Vario 34-3 sounds (& the way the ensemble is collected) do perhaps recall e.g. Sudo Quartet, also with Lovens (along with Zingaro...), but in a generally louder & more assertive context around Léandre. (I should also note Lovens in a recent duo album with guitarist Florian Stoffner, Tetratne: Recorded live in 2019, it develops a rattling & rumbling dynamic between the two, constantly twisting & transforming as a pair, yielding a sort of quasi-manic & eccentric continuity.... While it's not generally as rattling, even as it does spoof some household rattles, an even more restrained — yet similar — description does apply to various threads of Vario 34-3 as well, snaking & intertwining lines....) And unsurprisingly, Christmann & his group have developed considerable sophistication across more than two decades, such that Vario 34-3 is a substantial (if under an hour) & sometimes intricate album (& a challenging listen from beginning to end, if so often understated...), ultimately yielding considerable moments of repose. That it's nominally divided into tracks for "tutti" quintet & different duos & trios — recorded across two days in Berlin & Hannover in August 2018 — might suggest a lack of continuity, or even too much in the way of contrasts, and indeed each of the nine tracks does start from a stop (while they're also all of roughly similar length), but the overall effect is of a single sweep: The paring down of different sections almost comes to suggest e.g. the masterpieces of Josquin Desprez (of another era...), or maybe just other contemporary albums where they don't want to label track breaks. (It's unclear, though, how the final result was assembled.) What's more clear is that Christmann has elaborated the style considerably, achieving a filigree detail in both extended & mutual or interpenetrating modes of expression. (Perhaps this is also the sort of music I'd been expecting or wanting to hear earlier in this project? And actually, lacking comparisons for the affective sophistication of Vario 34-3 today, I have to say that Joe Morris does capture a real whiff of its style with Paradoxical, also elaborated for the 2020s, albeit more roughly articulated as well — & the capture might approach uncanny if the composition had been recorded by his trombone & cello trio instead.) As far as a more concrete description, electronics tend not to be very noticeable, but then become crucial to extending some passages, especially the duo with trombone (for which a pairing with electronics also seemingly takes up a broad trend of an earlier era).... A vaguely ominous (& subdued) pounding opens the album, however, soon transformed by cello, hovering to resonance, spreading across the ensemble, worlding... another start from windy breath (& static) & into a kind of sparsely offbeat conversation, then to the grunting of jazz bass in a classic sax trio... tutti later skittering, escaping, even rattling its way into lushness, a precise lushness... thinning, echoing, percussive bass clicking then (e.g. hints of Trialectics?)... so much more before a suddenly lonely appliance fades to a stunned silence. The various twisting lines challenge me to pay attention from beginning to end, so I'll indeed leave much of the dynamic to ellipses... continuity itself becoming ramified & multi-faceted. (One might say that this music refuses capture, including on behalf of the listener.) But in the end, there's not only the touching of (so many) worlds, but their deeply sculpted repose & so renewal... suggesting a kind of elaborate & spacious garden of music, emphasizing particular earthy colors & cultivated with great care.

10 March 2021

And Ize actually dates to last year — released in September (in what seems to have been a good month), but not noticed until March. Ize is then the fourth album by trio HMZ — now specifically credited as Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba & objects), Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba, harmonica & pitch pipes) & Philip Zoubek (piano & synthesizer) — following Otherwise (reviewed here in November 2018, coincidentally nine days after Ize had been recorded in Köln, also in November) & Drought (as released back in 2016). In discussing Otherwise (also from Insub Records, which has recently released a large batch of post-Cage composed music as well...), I'd suggested that HMZ's albums were becoming progressively smoother, but that sort of summation obscures some aspects: While the tapestries of Otherwise are more extended, there's e.g. a quasi-industrial vibe in the second half, and a continuing exploration of new timbres, even as they do become more assimilated to an overall sound. There's also more of a (self-conscious) rhetorical sense of "material," contributing to a kind of conceptual smoothness as well, i.e. anticipating & recalling. That kind of audible self-involvement seems to be banished from Ize, though, which again projects a stark incisiveness (& to a greater degree...) — including already via the sort of smoothness in extension to open the album that very much announces post-Cage music. (Ize is back to five tracks, again with short & enigmatic names as on Drought.... It's also not as long, and generally leaves me wanting more....) Indeed, I still feel fond e.g. of the gamelan-foghorn opening to Drought, as well as its later textural explorations (e.g. around clicks) & ongoing bent tones, but Ize seems to be that much more sophisticated: There's a kind of calming tautness to the presentation as well, seeming less mellow per se, but potent in its clearing of the mind nonetheless. And instead of so much prepared piano (the timbres of which I certainly enjoy on Drought), Zoubek spends more time on synth, but also sounds more "pianistic" when on piano, i.e. seems to use fewer preparations, or else they're more subtle.... (And that aspect of the album was a little jarring for me at first, i.e. the coloristic staccato chords accenting various tracks — not so unlike some Japanese approaches to improvised piano. It does come to suggest a sort of frozen, crystalline vibe. In particular though, I found myself reacting to the equal temperament itself as seeming out of place — until the "wrongness" sounded right. But then when it comes to Japanese evocations, maybe I should acknowledge the seeming "bonsai" implications of my Vario 34-3 comments as well....) And I didn't know about Ize at the time, but some of its smooth & wave-like approach, particularly around synth, seems to have been brought to Musik (recorded a year later, also in Köln) — along with aspects of the long-tone (e.g. beating) interactions with Hübsch on tuba, the latter already coming to growl more like a didgeridoo at times on Ize.... Of course, Musik also revolves around a specialized tuning (& includes a drummer), conjuring a sort of clattering "heart of the machine" vibe or perspective.... While Ize can seem static & impersonal, but conjures a grand stillness amid endless vistas.... (It can sometimes be taut or even loud too. In fact, its degree of speed or dissonance per se is perhaps unremarkable — or rather, becomes reconfigured perceptually.) But more frequent use of synth does also take HMZ farther from being an acoustic trio, which seemed to define their earlier niche in some ways, so it seems as though they've really outgrown that, now going for "their" sound per se, whatever it entails. (And powerful held tones from Martel continue to condition much of the space, tonal shifts themselves seeming to occur in an epic register, i.e. outside of the normal flow of time. Some of this does seem to recall the great North American wilderness....) In this, I hear the trio as becoming incredibly affective, easily making Ize one of the best albums in this general space. (And I believe it ought to be much more widely heard than it's likely to be. It doesn't scream "difficult.") In part, HMZ regularly achieve another sort of figure-ground reversal, especially as "noises" become reconfigured, i.e. as forces of nature — or per a geologic sense of time. (In particular, even whether an interaction is calm or tense can soon be placed into doubt. But then, I do believe in calming through tension....) They synthesize a variety of ideas & orientations too, also moving far beyond the transparency of "new age" — or even ambient, given the increasingly engrossing character of Ize — into a particular style of their own, ready for life (in motion) in the 2020s....

Also featuring Martel, I didn't notice the short Le Rnst until recently either, but it was released (on Ambiances magnétiques) back in June. (Basically, I noticed some older releases after the label sent out a new batch recently. Maybe nothing happened over the summer because of border restrictions? In any case, I then noticed Ize after Le Rnst....) I wasn't necessarily going to review it, but feel I should note it here now: It's actually a concert document (ending a tour, but also the first date involving horn?) from a quartet of Martel (viola da gamba, harmonica), Éric Normand (electric bass), Matija Schellander (double bass) & Xavier Charles (clarinet). And I'd just noted Normand in Triche! — where I'd also noted Torche! (reviewed in December 2017), featuring both himself & Charles — but I didn't know Schellander (b.1981, Austria): It turns out that he mastered the album, and I see now that I'd actually heard Blue Mistake, Red Mistake (very sparse, involving voice) released last year on Ftarri.... Anyway, Le Rnst also conjures that North American outdoor aura at times, and I suppose the portions of the single track when it seems like we're waiting for something to happen are an authentic (e.g. hunting) experience too.... (E.g. Nashaz suggests some similar marine evocations at times, for instance, but is ultimately a tighter & more substantial album.) So the interaction can certainly seem preliminary — even as it e.g. opens with a few great minutes of seemingly (magically) coordinated four-way gesture in extended technique.... (Of course, I'd also reviewed Normand & Martel together in the trio Boule-spiele back in January 2017, but that's a much more abrasive album... even as Le Rnst does have its thorny moments & even a rowdy late scene. Mostly it's quieter though.) And I'd be interested to hear more from this group: They project both an appealing collection of evocative timbres & a developing (distinctive) sense of group (contrapuntal) interplay, e.g. sometimes-wispy intertwining lines....

12 March 2021

Next I want to mention Ha th wa by a London trio of Martin Hackett (analogue synthesizer), Daniel Thompson (acoustic guitar) & Philipp Wachsmann (violin), recorded live in May 2019: I was unfamiliar with Hackett, but apparently he's been around for quite a while, starting as a flute player (moving through melodica?) before moving into electronics — already e.g. by 1997, as I was able to audition such a trio online with Rhodri Davies. (So Hackett has a distinctive approach, involving more of a wind player's mentality than is usual on synth, but hasn't recorded much at all....) And this trio does have a distinctive collective sound too, often featuring fast interactions from skittering electronic lines & creaking violin (& recall that Wachsmann already has an "electric" rig that he uses for various projects...), supported by the more often percussive guitar. But Wachsmann — who has appeared often in this space — & Hackett can also shift into more chordal orientations, e.g. providing a "ground" themselves for more lyrical explorations. (And the sonic combination from Hackett is indeed his own, but if I had to pick a reference, particularly for when he moves more into a "framing" mode, it'd probably be Wade Matthews from e.g. Primary Envelopment, first reviewed here in March 2015.... That comparison includes making an impact with very high, judicious pitches.) And of course Thompson has become something of a fixture here, once again more often in the background, but subtly sculpting — Ha th wa being the second (this time, download only) release on his new Empty Birdcage Records, after the extensive duo T'other (as reviewed in January & recalled already earlier this month...). And while it's difficult to suggest a sonic reference for their sometimes lightning-fast (but sometimes more subdued) conversational exchanges, perhaps the most apt is actually the trio album with which I'd opened this (flipped) page, Now!! (which does involve a horn): It shows similar movement around quick exchanges featuring electronics, but also involves a more densely layered sound, rather than "meeting" within a central temporality... it's generally wilder, more suggestive of physical space (i.e. an urban jungle at times).... Ha th wa is then a rather short album — although not particularly shorter than Now!! (or indeed Beats, as reviewed earlier this month...) — & involves an almost Webernian concentration in its conversationally oriented exchanges, figured in discrete tracks: In that sense, there are "collisions" (versus e.g. various materials passing through each other like clouds...), i.e. a definite sense of foreground. The synth also brings a combination of speed & precision that I welcome — as I continue to refigure my early wariness of electronics in this space. (It's kind of funny to recall, as more & more of the items I feature seem to involve electronics....) But once again I hear a distinctive & developed individual style. And I'd be interested to hear more from this trio, as Ha th wa does continue to sound like a more preliminary exploration. But with a wealth of quick-witted activity, despite its short length — & already developing its own palette of sound combos.

14 March 2021

Poland's Fundacja Sluchaj continues rapidly to expand its catalog — as clearly one of the premiere free music labels at this point — & so before I move on to discussing another landmark release in Warszawa 2019, the latest from the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, I don't want to fail to note Move in Moers, the second album by the pan-European (acoustic) "Move" quintet: Move in Moers consists of a single substantial track, recorded in June 2019, and involves — once again — co-founders Harri Sjöström (soprano & sopranino saxophones) & Emilo Gordoa (vibraphone) with Achim Kaufmann (piano), Adam Pultz Melbye (double bass) & Dag Magnus Narvesen (drums). (Move might thus be characterized as an extensive rhythm team surrounding sopranist Sjöström, i.e. not so differently from how some of Parker's configurations tend to go: Indeed, a sense of extended line applies here as well.) And Move in Moers — following their first album, Hyvinkää, reviewed here in October 2017... — does feature piano (too), and although I've been deemphasizing (at least relatively straight...) piano, Kaufmann is one pianist who often continues to appeal (including e.g. recently with Flatbosc & Cautery, a real tour-de-force), such that he feels like another major force behind Move.... But when reviewing Live in Munich 2019 by Sestetto Internazionale — another Sluchaj release(!), also featuring Kaufmann together with Sjöström — here in January 2019, I actually forgot about Move & Hyvinkää, such that I didn't make an explicit comparison: The former includes electronics as well as more instruments fighting for the top line (& so might be compared more to Warszawa 2019 actually...), projecting an eruptive (& so traditional) classical vibe versus the more subtle & shimmering "new music" edge to Move. And Move in Moers does seem considerably more refined at projecting the quintet's basic ontology of motion, suggesting an elegant & continuous transformation, a sort of forever-moving braiding of asymmetric, forward lines.... (The single tapestry thus suggests quite a journey — a "travelogue" I've called some more lingering efforts in this direction in the past... — always seeming on its way to somewhere else.) And such a motion-based ontology does seem highly relevant today (cf. e.g. recent monographs by Thomas Nail), but Move in Moers also seems to be forever disappearing, by which I mean that there's little anticipation or emergence, instead mostly loss... & I'm not sure that's really where the musicians want to be. I mean, there's ultimately nowhere to be.... (I should note that the result is also not stylistic collage, as with so many contemporary productions that feature movement through styles: There're no concrete evocations in that sense, but rather a continuous development of "one" style....) Still, such notions of continuous transformation evoke e.g. Tenney (& e.g. Spectrum Pieces) & various other contemporary (as well as more traditional...) concerns, even as they're generally limited to/by the (Western) chromatic scale here. So I'll be interested to hear if Move can refine or develop this style further....

21 April 2021

And Sluchaj had released some Evan Parker albums already, but obviously Warszawa 2019 is one of his most significant offerings of late, reprising the pioneering Electro-Acoustic Ensemble — here as a 10-tet — after a considerable interval: Indeed, that interval might be nearly a decade, depending on how one perceives Seven (reviewed here in January 2015) by the similarly constituted (albeit minus Paul Lytton) ElectroAcoustic Septet. Certainly the title, Seven, suggests a continuation, but from a 2021 vantage point, the results start to appear (at least potentially) as differently ramified paths.... And such an impression was already buoyed by the recent issue of Fixing the Fluctuating Ideas, an unreleased recording from Victoriaville in 1996: There the original ElectroAcoustic Ensemble, i.e. doubling the Evan Parker Trio (with Lytton & Barry Guy) with electronics players to form a sextet, is also joined by Tuvan vocalist Sainkho Namtchylak for one searing track (of two) — from very early in the group's history. (I actually thought that this was a new recording when it was announced. At the time I also didn't know that Warszawa 2019 was coming....) That track also sees the Ensemble (already) as a septet, though, meaning that instrumental & electronics performers are already not strictly paired. (And as some participants come to the ensemble with their own electronics setups, such a distinction does blur over time.... Indeed, it already had with the dual participation of Philipp Wachsmann on Fixing the Fluctuating Ideas.) In any case, I'm not really attempting to become a historian for this music, especially since I only came to it in the 2010s, but also because Stuart Broomer has really taken that upon himself.... Still, I do feel as though I need to orient my own remarks, particularly as Parker is such a towering figure in contemporary improvisation — & also someone whose music I haven't featured all that much here. I mean, I do continue to listen (e.g. to the also very recent All Knavery & Collusion, a more "inside" jazz quartet album that I didn't find to be very interesting...), and I've commented on various items, but I guess I usually feel as though I'm a little "late" for Parker. (Warszawa 2019 sounds completely contemporary however!) And Seven didn't really enthuse me, particularly its emphasis on a sort of "all melody" filigree around soprano in the lengthier first track. (The shorter second track anticipates more of Warszawa 2019, it seems now, but seemed like a pendant to me at the time.) The previous album Hasselt (recorded in 2010 by a 14-tet, once again including a "world music" reference, a shō) appeared more or less at the start of my return to contemporary music, meaning that the original five album run on ECM was "historical" for me from the start.... Regarding the (more recent) intervening history, though, I do want to note a couple of other clear references: The prominent inclusion of Matt Wright (laptop & turntable) on Warszawa 2019 seems to mark a new (i.e. more contemporary) step in electronics work with the ensemble, and that obviously follows Parker's duo with Wright, Trance Map (recorded over multiple sessions from 2008 to 2011), and then Crepuscule in Nickelsdorf — the latter by an expanded "Trance Map+" quintet, recorded in July 2017 (& reviewed here in August 2019). That "dreamy" album was specifically noted by Parker as something for bedtime, so has a rather different vibe from the extrovert Warszawa 2019, but does involve new interactions & intimacies (as well as bassist Adam Linson, also on Warszawa 2019, plus in that case the Spring Heel Jack Duo, versus the FURT sampling duo of Richard Barrett & Paul Obermayer on the newer album...). Also, Lytton — who's been on every one of these albums other than Seven — recorded the duo album Known / Unknown with Nate Wooley in January 2018 (as reviewed here in March 2020), and one can hear echoes of those developments as well, i.e. its own sort of alien (partly electronic) sound world.... And as it happens, trumpet (in this case by Percy Pursglove, whom I've heard with a handful of groups, but not mentioned here...) is rather prominent on Warszawa 2019: While Parker himself (credited only on soprano) tends to remain more in the background (e.g. around transitions, i.e. operating almost subconsciously for the listener?), Pursglove brings a strong "jazzy" component to the proceedings relatively early on — following an eerily compelling sort of anticipatory "procession" that suggests Xenakis (at least to me) in its opening metallic strikes, eventually into distinctly Cageian sonorities (passing, perhaps, through Scelsi...). How is Parker himself really "felt" on Warszawa 2019, then? For one thing, it's noted that he mixed the album (in the "middle of 2020"), and that's surely felt particularly strongly in this context, i.e. given the variety of instrumental & electronic activity in constantly shifting scenes.... (There's his selection of participants, of course, as Parker has previously noted such as his "method of composing.") And per some of my usual concerns, the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble might also raise questions of what I call musical economy, i.e. just how does this big ensemble function? (And these days, a quintet such as that on Move in Moers can basically seem like a large ensemble....) Besides the basic doubling of instruments with electronics, then, there's also considerable variation of texture across the two substantial tracks: Although the players can make quite a racket, and the whole production can come off almost as a wild monstrosity at times (in the best possible sense!), there's also considerable repose & a real sense of patience in navigating a wide variety of interactions. (I'm assuming that this vibe comes from Parker....) Sonorities vary considerably as well, and not only via electronic participation, but with e.g. Sten Sandell (piano & synthesizer) or Mark Nauseef (percussion, mostly or all metallic?) injecting changing textural directions, beyond the often sort of "background" burbling of the reeds. (They become a sort of fluid backdrop via electronics.... And Peter van Bergen on clarinets is someone whose work I know only from this ensemble, whereas I'd heard Sandell in a handful of productions & Nauseef of course with Parker on As the wind — reviewed here, also ambivalently, in November 2016.) And given the wide variety of rhythmic textures around the (sometimes windy) breath & fluidity of the horn trio, it does become difficult to characterize Warszawa 2019 in affective terms with any specificity, but it shows a keen sense for space & its exploration, perhaps as a kind of "roominess" projected out of what could otherwise become a rather closed environment amid so much overlapping activity (i.e. including various sampling). And considering that the FURT duo is also injecting prior (recorded) music by Parker, another clear reference is Anthony Braxton's Echo Echo Mirror House Music, employing similarly large & mixed ensembles, along with extensive sampling (in that case, of Braxton's oeuvre specifically): Both can suggest something of a carnival, but the EEMHM is surely much more consistently "busy" (more like a classic big band, or even a party...) & so with less sense of repose, i.e. no ground or bottom.... (I.e. Parker offers various spaces to inhabit more specifically, not only a sea of sound.... One can then find oneself elsewhere without realizing how it happens, but it's not jarring, and a sense of space remains. Warszawa 2019 also doesn't involve a survey of traditional idioms, world or otherwise, but various creative contemporary textures....) Then the other clear reference from other musicians — although, as it happens, Barrett (who is also known beyond improvised music...) also appears — is still Skein (recorded in 2013), similarly based around an important longstanding trio doubled into a sextet (& so surely at least inflected by Parker...), but there with added instruments & only a single musician on electronics: Skein can be rather busy (& with more rhythmic consistency) but with (extended) space in various sections as well. And what one hears with Parker is then in some sense simply more, more instruments, more electronics... as more possibilities (to navigate...), but not generally as more sound at once. Somehow then it's the transitions that (quietly) sing so strongly.... Such that the after-image becomes that of a powerful ritual, leaving thundering silence after quickly truncated applause.

26 April 2021

So continuing a little run of albums including piano, I also want to mention Melt by a quartet called Hearth, Susana Santos Silva (trumpet), Mette Rasmussen (alto saxophone), Ada Rave (tenor saxophone & clarinet) & Kaja Draksler (piano) — with all musicians also being credited with "small instruments, preparations and voices." (There's thus a bit of chatter, more in the foreground at one point, also some whistles, etc. But mostly they're playing their main instruments.) The album also varies considerably in terms of activity level, but most often maintains a degree of sparseness: As the "Hearth" name suggests, there's then a homeyness to the result, a sort of warm space to linger... triggering nostalgia perhaps too, maybe even with melancholy or wistfulness emerging at times.... The title(s) might also suggest a correspondence with Ize, as reviewed enthusiastically here last month, another album with generally sparse or ambient orientation, but with more animated sections as well. However, the latter also tends to project a real austerity, i.e. from a kind of post-Cage non-idiomatic musical world. (In light of my comments citing "distinctly Cageian sonorities" in the previous entry, it's probably also become incorrect to combine those two adjectives, although one could instead affirm that actual "non-idiomatic" music does come to have a history, i.e. inevitable suggestions of idiom via use....) While Melt — recorded at the Portalegre Jazz Festival in May 2018 — doesn't suggest that sort of abstraction, rather returning to some idiomatic references — these musicians all having participated extensively in various other Clean Feed projects, often more "inside" in jazz terms, or following more of a subsequent alt-rock inspiration.... (I should also note that Clean Feed joined Bandcamp in 2020: I only noticed as of this release cycle, and at least as of this writing, they don't have their full back catalog there....) And I've listened to all of them in multiple projects, but the Ada Rave Trio's The Sea, the Storm and the Full Moon (reviewed here in December 2017) has involved the most extended discussion.... (That entry also included my only mention of Draksler, while I did review Rasmussen with the duo album The Hatch in October 2019.... Strangely, I'd only mentioned Santos Silva in February 2017 around a trio album with Vasco Trilla, The Paradox of Hedonism....) In any case, this is an intriguing quartet, still showing a sort of grounding in Western tonality, maybe even a folksy (or "country") vibe at times (along with occasionally more extended technique...), but also a reposeful animation of (contemporary, interior?) space. Melt enables relaxing at home.

27 April 2021

Featuring piano even more extensively, then — there are two — is Nate Wooley's new double album summation, Mutual Aid Music (recorded in Mt. Vernon, NY in June 2019). Mutual Aid Music pairs Wooley's working quartet from Battle Pieces (reviewed here in April 2015) — himself, Ingrid Laubrock, Sylvie Courvoisier & Matt Moran — with another quartet of musicians drawn from contemporary (i.e. composed) music: Joshua Modney (violin), Mariel Roberts (cello), Cory Smythe (piano) & Russell Greenberg (percussion). And although I'd also reviewed Battle Pieces 2 (in September 2017), I'd omitted a discussion of Battle Pieces 4 (the latest, released in 2019): The latter is a single track (although seems to do a full restart in the middle), and continued to raise the intricacy of interactions in the Battle Pieces series, showing both increasing musical sophistication with the basic material, and a growing sense of organic repose (& maybe even something of a cinematic quality, as a sort of window onto ongoing activity...). But I wasn't sure what to say about it, another album (& where was 3?) nominally about battles.... Perhaps I could have described it as a poetic tapestry, but the use of fixed pitch instruments, basically conditioning the overall texture across the piano gamut, didn't necessarily appeal to me as much as some other combinations (as I've probably remarked too much by now...), and of course I had no idea where Wooley was going with this. And frankly the word "battle" didn't do much for me, so I was much happier to see a title like Mutual Aid Music, and by the time I had a listen, there were already enthusiastic reviews appearing. So we'll see how much I have to add here, but I do feel as though this is the sort of summary from Wooley that I'd been wanting.... Indeed, my first extended experience with him in this space was alongside Moran in the Daniel Levin Quartet (before I moved increasingly away from composed music here), already in 2011. (And Laubrock — now a big star herself — first made an appearance here the following month, in a massive June 2011 entry.... Coincidentally when I first mentioned Courvoisier, in February 2012, it was in another entry discussing the Levin Quartet! And she's prolific herself, with a new, partially composed, trio album with Ned Rothenberg on Clean Feed, Lockdown....) I've generally followed Wooley since — & his intellectual activity is worthwhile too, e.g. the name of his label Pleasure of the Text Records deriving from a title by Roland Barthes... — but didn't find a release that really spoke to me. (When I decided not to discuss Battle Pieces 4, maybe I'd given up? Or I was just busy....) I'd tried out Knknighgh (reviewed here in August 2017) in that regard, and I'm impressed by it musically-technically, but as noted in the original ambivalent review, it's just not an album that I really enjoy experiencing on an ongoing basis. (I don't have some sort of secret love of pop music....) But what I'd've probably never guessed is that Mutual Aid Music actually derives from Battle Pieces... i.e. the latter are components of the former, such that (I guess) aid is aid to someone in battle. (This is simply not how I'd've approached this.) I guess "battle" becomes rather general in that sense... help me sweep my patio? I dunno. But there's a jazz history of conceptualizing horn exchanges as battles (or duels), and I guess the way that the "aid" tends to happen here reminds me of some kind of latter day social media "battle." (I mean, if Battle Pieces 4 hadn't been so named, I don't think I'd've thought of it that way... rather as a "symphonic" poem around piano. One might say that it develops a sort of suppleness as well, moving in & out of more reduced passages....) Wooley thus characterizes the entire sequence as part of his "social music" series — a label that would've surely attracted me at any point in this project. So I feel as though there's great resonance here (& I've been continuing to enjoy these two capacious albums...), and in fact the octet provides an opportunity to pair pianos a quarter tone apart, thus moving beyond chromatic scales per se. (And while I wasn't familiar with any of the other "mirror quartet" members, I've heard Smythe performing e.g. Xenakis, as well as featured him here with Circulate Susanna in November 2018: It's more composed music than much of what I've usually discussed lately, but makes for an interesting & relevant project including extended vocals....) The result is of course "composed music" in some sense, and also involves a bigger ensemble: Compared to the smaller groups (especially trios) that I end up reviewing here most of the time, it's been something of a change of pace to have a sequence of bigger ensembles, especially that of the massive Warszawa 2019, while Mutual Aid Music involves "only" an octet, along with its sense of mirroring — although e.g. the relation between the first & second albums, compositionally, is unclear — thus suggesting its own distinct sense of musical economy (also involving a shifting locus of participation...). Also Mutual Aid Music doesn't "really" involve electronics, but does derive some of that feel from e.g. extended vibraphone at times.... And particularly once we're immersed in a world of quarter tones, the result comes to be rather distinctive, the horn pairing "above" the piano/percussion field being complemented by various string counterpoints & textural fills: There's still that "big" sense of music aligned across a double keyboard, i.e. with less intimacy than some ensembles, and so something of an (earlier) classical vibe.... And I do want to contrast this with another "composed" release in the same basic post-jazz space, then, namely Joe Morris's Paradoxical: Mutual Aid Music suggests something between the "Type 1" & (more austere, most similar) "Type 2" articulations there, e.g. the violins lending a similar feel. With "Type 3" though, we're in a "closer" interaction around guitar, more intimate, more recalling e.g. of the Runcible Quintet (a project that similarly involves "mirroring" jazzier & more "contemporary" trios, but overlapping in the drum set). Further, Wooley's project also brings to mind North of North, again a smaller group (than on Mutual Aid Music), but featuring trumpet & violin "over" piano in dense counterpoint. Indeed, the former is generally more dense/intense, relentless maybe... with e.g. Stone Quartet Live at Vision Festival (another quartet around piano, also with two strings...) perhaps providing a more soulful precedent instead. And part of what makes Mutual Aid Music so enjoyable is then exactly that sort of sultry, jazzy feel at times... especially the kind of emotional repose that emerges. (This is a very "finished" album in that sense, more so than some of these other references, i.e. results not experiment....) And such repose seems to derive in large part from the sophistication of the "transitions" (indeed, pace the Parker discussion last month — including recalling Wooley's duo Known / Unknown with Lytton...), i.e. the concept of the music through which the musicians decide when or how to "help" each other: This concept seems to target (generic) notions of "entry" per se. So while the music can be loud at times, it's the tender moments that come to seem most memorable.... But there are also texturally striking moments as well, as e.g. both albums (of the double set) open with instantly-iconic sequences. (Mutual Aid Music comes off as two great albums, although the notes don't illuminate why the second consists of -I pieces. They're the same compositions as on the first? Why not -2? They're not obvious rearrangements of each other, although if they involve the two quartets swapping parts, I wouldn't be surprised....) The result comes to forge an increasingly captivating & enjoyable experience: And it feels good to feel more in tune with a unique & (socially) sensitive musician such as Wooley.

4 May 2021

When discussing a series of duo albums from guitarist Sandy Ewen here in December 2018, I actually spent the least time on See Creatures (recorded in 2015) from her duo with Lisa Cameron, calling it wilder & less focused. So I guess it stands to reason that this would be the pairing reprised, now with the massive double cassette See Creatures Too, the first being a weighty studio album & the second a series of live tour recordings, all from 2019. And Cameron is once again on the berimbauophone (but also credited with percussion & devices, while Ewen adds "devices" — instead of "objects"): This is apparently a monochord that she's adapted as a sort of eerie pitch bending melodic instrument (i.e. converted from percussion), coming to seem rather evocative of whale song, and so presumably inspiring the project.... And while the longer, live tracks move through broad — & sometimes relatively spare — tapestries, the studio tracks (titled as fanciful creatures presumably being evoked...) are indeed quite focused — in their way. (For whatever reason, my family also has a history of "hearing" animal sounds emerging from free improv, including especially sea creatures!) Interactions tend to be quite close too, with Ewen more as the clattery accompanist to Cameron's twisting wails, sometimes into held high pitches.... (The latter combo can recall e.g. Growing carrots..., but there's a sort of post-industrial vibe too, suggesting e.g. Coluro... the shimmering & slowly shifting tones even suggesting some of the focused & austere "ritual" interactions around Mark Wastell at times....) There's also a distinct sense that we are sometimes hearing land or air creatures instead (the latter perhaps recalling something of Stratus...), but the perspective revolves less around scenic depiction than it does interrogating creaturely-ness. (So e.g. Ernesto Rodrigues does something of this, for actually existing creatures, in his IKB series? His approach seems more spatial-environmental....) In that sense, See Creatures Too is thus more ethology (i.e. centering behavior) than ecology — & can become rather animated as well. (Or I suppose I could just call it a bestiary. And I could keep on listing comparisons for a while.... It's funny how tangents can come to re-intersect....) It thus forges its own characteristic sense of perspective(s). It's also rather far-flung in its affective stance at times (i.e. wild), and can still seem a little musically thin as a duo....

5 May 2021

And on the heels of See Creatures Too — & not long after [Untitled], recorded in 2019 — comes a collaboration album between the Ewen-Smith-Walter trio & Roscoe Mitchell: A Railroad Spike Forms The Voice was recorded in Oakland back in April 2014, and consists of a single very long & uninterrupted track, more sparse at times, but generally quite active (i.e. in keeping with the trio's usual style...). Sandy actually mentioned this recording to me in person around the time it was made, and said she didn't know when it would be released, but the time is apparently now.... (And besides being a great drummer, Walter has become one of new music's best engineers, so this is another fine production. A Railroad Spike Forms The Voice also comes on the heels of the Ewen-Walter duo album The Paradox of Tolerance, recorded & released in January this year: I didn't review that effort here at the time, and while superficially fast & active, it tends to seem more relaxed too, maybe even cathartic at times in the wake of quarantine....) Anyway, adding Mitchell obviously adds another dimension, but much of the album involves feeling their way as a quartet, often with the trio seeming to "accompany" Mitchell, who projects various lines, including stretching out for lengthier melodies. If anything, Ewen is the least noticeable for much of the album, with Smith on bass & Walter on drums seeming to "fit" more neatly into a standard free sax trio format, while Ewen is often relegated to accents (as another rhythm team member), but does become more assertive (even taking the lead) as things develop, with the most compelling quartet combos coming only by the very end. Basically this release calls out for a followup(!), but I doubt that'll happen.... I do expect it'll attract more (or different) attention to the Ewen-Smith-Walter trio, though, and that's well deserved. (Note further that the liner notes state that Mitchell had been using the trio's first album, recorded in 2011, as an example for his students of a good improvising approach — meaning specifically Sandy's, coming from a relative neophyte at the time.... And of course I felt the same way!) A Railroad Spike Forms The Voice is now out on both Balance Point Acoustics & UgExplode.

17 May 2021

2021 album releases do seem to be feeling the effects of drastically reduced musical interactions over the past fifteen months, at least as regards quantity, but milestones from major musicians have also been appearing. And Magda Mayas might not have quite the profile of Evan Parker (of course not...) or Nate Wooley, but has also just released a significant landmark in Confluence — also for a relatively large ensemble (another octet...) featuring piano, here in the person of the composer herself.... And Confluence — recorded live at Music Unlimited in Austria in November 2019 — is indeed composed music, but specifically as a series of twelve photographs, i.e. a "graphic score" that's photos of two rivers meeting in Geneva. (One such photo is shown on the cover, and is rather striking for its subtle combination of starkness & complexity, color & uniformity.... But I haven't seen the other photos, so don't know if they're from a similar vantage point or at a similar scale.) So the music is also fully "improvised" in the sense that there're no written notes, rather a response to particular imagery, including presumably that of the octet's collective name, Magda Mayas Filamental, the latter emphasizing the various strands of continuity that swirl through this flowing tapestry of nearly an hour.... The initial result of all these swirling details — & turbulence is an apt image, but only at smaller scales... — presented as a sort of "white noise" to me, with continuity per se standing out on first hearing, but the various figures buffeted along by the ensemble come to resolve, eventually even seeming almost raucous at times in their increasingly rich detail. Actually I love this album: I'm generally disappointed when it ends, and sometimes start it up again immediately. Indeed, there's often something of a startle involved when it ends, because it becomes such an immersive world: It evokes a wonderful, Cageian sense of time for me, but whereas one might describe the temporal flow of Cage's late Number Pieces as "laminar" (& I'd say that this follows directly from the "time interval" notation, i.e. in independent layers...), Filamental involves various eddies. The result is a feel for multiple, simultaneous scales of time. (And I do want to emphasize this feeling in terms of its "scientific" relevance as well: While one can measure the flow of the rivers themselves as linear & inexorable, the mixing involves a swirling, such that particular "particles" might never continue downstream. This sort of "chaos" can then be — & is — modeled via local time scales, coming to form not only metastatic patterns, but different temporal senses within the flow. Moreover, if I may continue this tangent, such patterns can come to suggest perceptual entities per se, and so ontologies of motion — i.e. "entities" whose component particles are constantly changing. Further, note that this is true of the human body too, albeit happening more slowly....) But one needn't concern oneself with such fluid dynamics, and the music is enjoyable at different levels of attention (increasingly per the "ambient" norm). And coincidentally, I'd been wondering what Mayas (b.1979) was doing lately: I first mentioned her here with Great Waitress in May 2014, and then was particularly taken by Spill Plus (with bassist Damon Smith, recorded back in 2010 & first reviewed here in January 2015...) for a while. And while one might suggest that Mayas added elements of discontinuity to the (preexisting &) smoothly textured Great Waitress duo, the "Spill" duo (with Tony Buck) seemed to be more about forging a variety of discontinuous sounds (e.g. notes struck on a piano) into a kind of flowing tapestry.... Spill could be elusive though, and I sometimes wished for more (audibly) happening. (In that sense, the octet is similar but more....) And I hadn't noticed, but the duo did also release Stereo (recorded in 2016) in 2018, a relatively rich album... still understated, but generating a romantic quality by the end (including via overdubs?): Its intimate orientation more actively seems to court the listener... i.e. becomes much less austere. Perhaps most similar in general sound to Confluence, though, is a 2019 release (recorded in 2017) by Volumes Quartet (Mayas joined by Fredrik Rasten & two Norwegian horn players...), View: The latter can seem more mechanical (i.e. projects more collective rhythm), relatively speaking, but probably would've drawn more attention from me had I heard it first.... There's also the matter of the title & how it relates to Confluence: Although I'm enthusiastic about the latter result, the process does reflect a sort of Western ocularcentrism, particularly the "divine" (or transcendent) view from above. (It's unclear from where the cover photo was taken.) Such a "view" is then completely different from the immersive feel of the music, but does reproduce the basic physical-scopic stance of scored music per se.... Further, Mayas released the duo album The Setting Sun Is Beautiful Because Of All It Makes Us Lose (on Sofa Music, recorded in 2018) with Christine Abdelnour in early 2020, and I completely missed that too: It's actually their third duo album (the others being from 2010 & 2012, so early in my project...), and I'd've probably reviewed it last year had I noticed: Both the intimacy & weaknesses (e.g. so much generalized hocketing...) of the duo format are apparent, but the sort of burbling & percussive quality, the shifting resonances, the great sense of balance... all of these come to be heard across the larger ensemble canvas of Filamental as well — in which Abdelnour (on alto sax) surely does occupy one important pole. So one can hear the Abdelnour-Mayas duo "haunting" Confluence, and then the other horn is Michael Thieke (clarinet), and so (long-time favorite) Nashaz (recorded in 2015) even comes off as perhaps the most similar album in overall sound, particularly when evoking a sort of nautical-traveling vibe, i.e. another turbulent sense of being adrift.... (Nashaz then moves into different sorts of nonlinearity, becoming more intense at times than the relatively placid surface of Confluence....) Besides Abdelnour & Thieke, Filamental is then mostly a string ensemble: There's Mayas on piano (& of course she does "play" the strings by various means...) — thus bringing another "big" album featuring piano to this space this year, although Mayas' is about as deconstructed as can be (if not quite to the degree of Andrea Neumann from Nashaz...) — plus Angharad Davies (violin), Anthea Caddy & Aimée Theriot (cellos) & Rhodri Davies & Zeena Parkins (harps). (I wasn't familiar with either cellist, but the other musicians have been featured here more than once....) So it's a group that would've attracted my attention regardless of leader, and they're endlessly inventive, continuing to project a sort of mysterious sense from the beginning of the album: Time & place become almost proxies within the articulation of Confluence, i.e. come to form a different nexus (around turbulent ontologies...), i.e. different senses of world. And e.g. twittering birds might be evoked within this swirling flow, but the basic impression is of a deep reconsideration of musical time per se, i.e. in a post-Cage vein (cf. e.g. Fourteen). Joining Ize (from last year), then, Confluence is a major post-Cage musical statement arising from "non-idiomatic" improvisation. It's somehow both quite striking (after penetrating its initial blur...) & about (engaging the basic turbulence of) the everyday.

24 May 2021

I also want to note the latest set (3 CDs, recorded at 2019 Krakow Jazz Autumn Festival) from Joëlle Léandre put out by Not Two: Beauty / Resistance follows the massive A Woman's Work (8 CDs, released in 2016), most of which is more of a retrospective of Léandre's earlier interactions, but does also introduce a quartet reappearing on A uiš? (as reviewed here this past July) including Zlatko Kaučič (drums). Kaučič — who appears to be Léandre's most frequent musical partner these days, although that might only be a matter of what's released... — is then central to Beauty / Resistance, which does seem to strike off in new directions (after the "showpiece" quality of A uiš?, not really pushing any conceptual envelopes...). In particular, although the second CD consists of a relatively short (less than half an hour) duo recital with Kaučič (in part developing novel, fused textures...), the opening disc presents a more extensive performance of an intriguing quartet combination with Mateusz Rybicki (clarinet) & Zbigniew Kozera (double bass) joining Léandre & Kaučič: Those two had appeared together on Sun Dogs with Australian percussionist Samuel Hall (released in 2017 on Sluchaj, but not reviewed here at the time despite my having auditioned it...), an album of slowly shifting "insect music" unwinding to more mellow "anthropological" horn lines & chimes. Sun Dogs does develop its own vibe, then, and I also hear the novel quartet lineup around Léandre as an appealing combo: It embeds her predilection for bass duos, adding percussive support & horn resonance over the top (in a sort of pyramid, I suppose). The resulting ensemble sound is then not completely different from e.g. Sudo Quartet, but also embraces later generations of technique.... And there are indeed some great moments to that 2019 Krakow performance, especially from the start, although it does seem to lose inspiration around a move toward more spacious lines.... (I still think it's an excellent quartet concept around Léandre.) There's also more applause than is usually included, and I'd say that's a weakness of this production in general. And the third disc, a duo performance with Rafal Mazur (acoustic bass guitar) of a little over half an hour, is full of applause (& banter), even in the middle of the performance. (I've come to appreciate some retained applause at times, but this is definitely too much for continued enjoyment.) Anyway, Mazur is a performer who's intrigued me since reviewing Tidal Heating (with Vasco Trilla) in February 2017, although his instrument is more difficult to balance than some in larger groups, meaning that this duo suits him.... It may be the most consistently compelling here, then (pace both polish & novelty...), e.g. building real intensity around dual arco, not to mention contrasts & vocalizing.... I don't know if they'd played together before, but Mazur & Léandre seem also to have real rapport.

25 May 2021

And then I should note Thip, by a trio of Sam Weinberg (tenor & soprano saxophones), John McCowen (Bb & contrabass clarinets) & Henry Fraser (double bass): I only learned of this tape release (of nearly an hour, mostly recorded in Brooklyn in April 2019, with a final outdoor track from October 2020...) via Keith Prosk on Free Jazz Blog, and he already wrote a nice review, so maybe there's little point to offering further discussion here, but particularly as I'd reviewed Grist — by a trio of Weinberg & Fraser with Weasel Walter — back in October, I do want to note Thip explicitly. Specifically, while Grist features "prismatic rhythmic variations around short figures" (per my prior discussion) & suggests "blunt gestures" with "relentless combinatorics" amid "different patterns of repetition" (as I'd compared the quartet Bloor at the time...), Thip is generally an a-rhythmic (& unmeasured) exploration, with intertwining horn calls playing with spatial echoes at Issue Project Room. (In this, although it does involve bass rather than an all-horn lineup, it recalls the Spectral trio, especially their album Empty Castles, as first reviewed here in July 2018.... On track #3 here, though, there's an extended bass solo, and that does project a different vibe from the more spatial horn-oriented explorations, even suggesting idiom per se, i.e. noir....) In some ways, it's thus a completely different (even opposite...) exploration, yet shows many of the same traits that impressed me about Grist, namely strong senses of gesture & intentionality. (To this is added extensive exploration of resonance, not only via echo, but driven via line per se. And I'd contrasted the recent Mutations already in my review of Grist: In fact, the former — incorporating resonance shifts from the horn, amid a strong rhythmic framework — comes off as something of a triangulation of these two albums....) In that sense, although the sorts of techniques & sonorities recall e.g. many Creative Sources albums, the latter tend to conjure more naturism, e.g. suggest "found" sounds, fragility & decay, while Weinberg & Fraser continue to project much more sense of intent (& erection) per se, albeit around twisting & unmeasured resonances (& so, still, ultimately fragility). Indeed, the (new) label includes a good description: "While there's a density to the music on Thip, there's also a kind of elasticity and patient suspension; a confident sense of form and a deliberate unfolding." In that sense, Thip moves beyond impressionism. And then the final track (as noted) was recorded outdoors, so presents a different (& noisier) vibe, now including Joe Moffett on trumpet (e.g. from Earth Tongues, as first reviewed here in April 2015...), in a similar sort of horn exploration around bass pivot.... (And I should note that although I didn't initially recall McCowen, he was actually the "other" US musician, along with Theresa Wong, on the cross-cultural quintet album from China, Crossing A River By Rope, as mentioned here back in March 2020....) Anyway, Weinberg et al. continue to make some serious noise (although Thip was actually mostly recorded prior to Grist) — so to speak....

Then the "Tripticks Tapes" label (from Maine), on which Thip appeared, was new to me too, and as the inclusion of a quote already suggests, made an impression: As the name suggests, it's actually another cassette label, and I'm unlikely to get involved with that aspect, but it's also digital via Bandcamp.... And has already released albums by e.g. Phicus (from Barcelona) & Patrick Shiroishi, plus another album that I want to note here in more detail, Scar's the Limit. The latter is a live recording from Cambridge Mass. in November 2019, a spontaneous quartet performance prompted by a visit from Tatsuya Nakatani. I first mentioned Nakatani here around 3 on a Thin Line back in 2013, and have generally followed his releases since, although they haven't seemed very intentional. And Scar's the Limit is a rather noisy affair involving Forbes Graham (trumpet), Jim Hobbs (alto saxophone) & Victoria Shen (electronics) — with Nakatani immediately into quite a clatter, while continuing to emphasize clanking metals throughout. Hobbs — whose coy bio suggests that he's from the exact same (awful) place as I am — is also rather noisy stylistically, and pairs well with Nakatani for extended stretches of mostly-duo interaction.... (I guess I hadn't actually noted Hobbs here, but did hear him relatively early in this project, i.e. with other prominent US musicians of his generation in Aych, etc. The others here are new to me.) There's also the electronics (more centered on the shorter second track...) & sampling, so it can be hard to tell what is "fresh" sound, but the long first track seems to revolve mostly around these noisy & "accented" duos (& hockets, etc.). So what is the relevance of a noisy style like this? To me, it suggests navigating the world today... in this case, finding one's way in a presumably friendly environment, yet not at all a serene one.... (Such "navigation" of musical obstacles can be considered as an AACM theme.) So I'd be interested to hear a quartet like this refine its concept. Scar's the Limit doesn't feel planned at all, though, while such spontaneity does yield some excitement....

1 June 2021

Continuing on London's OEM Records after the quartet album Disputa e Guerra... (reviewed here in September 2020), Marco Scarassatti (viola do cocho, Roland Kirk horn) returns with the duo album Zero Out, recorded in Lisbon in June 2019 with Abdul Moimême. I've also mentioned Moimême a number of times at this point — & Scarassatti & Moimême had already appeared in a quartet album together on Creative Sources, Rumor (released in 2015, but not reviewed here) — going back to a sprawling April 2012 entry: I'm not sure if he'd refined his musical setup at that time, but now he's standardized a simultaneous rig of two electric guitars, more or less acting as the "percussionist" within a sort of "horn duo" vibe here, but also forging & projecting a distinctive sense of space across the strings. Indeed, the clearest comparison is probably with Sandy Ewen, including due to the sort of "architectural" image that emerges (including via objects), while the do-it-yourself "melodist" vibe from Lisa Cameron e.g. on See Creatures Too (as just reviewed here last month) corresponds as well. But whereas the latter album engages more of a sense of whimsy, Zero Out comes off as rather more somber.... Still, the sort of mock ethology that figures the creatures on See Creatures Too does (also) project an underlying ecological vibe, while Zero Out is more realist, i.e. opening with a track titled Desolation. (I tend to recall Traintracks... immediately for its post-industrial scene, but that album retains a more particular mood.) E.g. Stuart Broomer then hears Zero Out as a sort of symphony of postmodern Brazil, figuring contemporary desolation eventually into more of a song around the Roland Kirk horn (sounding much like didgeridoo), i.e. as a prospective new voice, calling for new world(s) (& as I've been putting it, following Agamben/Wittgenstein...), new forms of life.... The opening track does become relatively minimalist — while the middle track, Silence, is the shortest & most densely contrapuntal for some reason (i.e. as a sort of pivot?) — while the finale can be a bit repetitive as well. There's some great sonic imagery & evocation, though, as Zero Out comes off as a relatively short album, but a relatively short album continuing to imagine what comes next (& from one of the most urgent global scenes of environmental & so indigenous destruction, rendered only that much more perilous by consequences & "opportunities" of the pandemic...).

14 June 2021

I also want to mention L'amour, a trio album around actress-vocalist Catherine Jauniaux, just released by Ayler Records, but actually recorded back in December 2016 (& after a 2015 tour). And I mention the 2015 in part because that's when Light air still gets dark was recorded with Isabelle Duthoit, showing a sort of parallel interest in interiorizing vocal production, i.e. locating the voice (farther) inside the body — along with related elements of extended vocal technique. Duthoit increases that sort of equivocation by mixing in clarinet, but L'amour includes Xavier Charles separately on clarinet, often using held tones amid a sparse texture (although the trio does become rather crunchy at times too...). And I'd actually mentioned Charles (again) when reviewing Le Rnst this past March, although I've never truly featured him in an entry... starting from The Contest of (More) Pleasures (reviewed here in July 2015). The other member of the trio on L'amour is then Jean-Sébastien Mariage (electric guitar), and I hadn't mentioned him before. But I'd mentioned Jauniaux (starting from December 2013) with Birds Abide, there in a different trio with string players Barre Phillips (who has a new album with Butcher & Solberg on Relative Pitch, by the way...) & Malcolm Goldstein. Besides that association then, what makes L'amour striking for me is its sophisticated affective modulation, often via rather stark or minimal means around the voice. (It's also released online in separate tracks, together with a single track of all the individual tracks, so that's unusual.) In some ways, its sort of "open" quality recalls a recent French quartet album on Ayler, Neigen (reviewed here in January), but L'amour doesn't really involve an evocation of (atmospheric) space: Rather it's a sort of post-dramatic depiction, and as someone who has to "think" to understand the words, I'm surely not getting the same sort of "immediate" reaction to the semantic content. (And the album does contain more intelligible lyrics than most I feature here: Intelligible lyrics — in circumstances of repeated listening, anyway — do seem to wear on me more often than vocalization, which I seem to enjoy in more situations.... But this can also seem like a "mistake" on my part.) Still, there's a powerful rethinking of basic (romance) narrative being conveyed here: The typical (affective) starkness tends to set any motion in relief, but there are various climaxes as well, sometimes emerging subtly, sometimes inflected by simmering noise.... Various shifts & arcs are, of course, beyond or beneath semantic content, yet intertwining (as a sort of 21st century trouvère production?). The result then suggests an interrogation, more broadly (& quite musically), of human interiority.

20 June 2021

577 Records & its Orbit sub-label continue to release a variety of material, including the upcoming album Implositions by a trio of Matthias Müller (trombone), Ricardo Tejero (saxophone) & Vasco Trilla (percussion). Implositions was recorded in Barcelona in February 2020, and consists of three tracks, each involving a "restart" of their basic "implosition" idea (think "implosion"), conceptually involving filling a sort of "negative space." Such a notion seems to involve a post-Cage mode of operation, projecting a sense of sound (all acoustic, in this case) being "sucked" into silence... although Implositions is not generally silent (or even sparse — although it's quiet...). There's a sort of agitating quality, perhaps, and certainly a Cageian interrogation of filling time, including drawing upon a kind of inhuman backdrop (i.e. space & silence itself). (There's e.g. a suggestion of gravel from the percussion, recalling e.g. the "geology" music of Earth Tongues & its two brass & percussion ensemble....) There's thus a sort of understated variety to these tapestries, but also an interrogation of (minimalist) continuity — as so many recent albums featured here, plus e.g. Eclogue, an electroacoustic no-horn trio around Australian percussionist Tim Green (also imminent on 577 Orbit), have been.... There's also ringing chimes & a sort of nautical feel at times (also a theme in this space...), a kind of quiet simmering, suggesting a sort of meta-stability.... In the end, I apparently appreciate its sense of "filling time," though, as I do tend to be disappointed when Implositions ends.... And I've actually been hearing quite a bit of Müller lately, so I'll be extending this entry around more of his recent productions.... However, of course I've also mentioned Trilla many times in this space (including e.g. with Ernesto Rodrigues, whose influence perhaps hovers over Implositions as well...), and he has e.g. a new duo album too, i.e. with alto saxophonist Liba Villavecchia on FMR (including electronic manipulations by the end), in another sort of tour-de-force of creatively extended traditional percussion.... And I did mention Tejero in a September 2016 discussion around Stones of Contention.... But Müller actually first appeared in this space with The Jersey Lily, a quartet album with Frank Paul Schubert & English improvisers (as mentioned in a March 2015 Creative Sources roundup), and then again with the trombone trio tribute album Konzert für Hannes (reviewed September 2017), but most recently with the trio Triche! (recorded in 2019 & reviewed January 2021), featuring Peter Vrba on trumpet, with Éric Normand on electric guitar often acting as a sort of percussionist — thus perhaps recalling Implositions (or indeed the concluding Nate Wooley set on With...), although in that case starting from more of a North American rock vibe.

And then I wasn't actually aware of the triple album release by the Superimpose duo (Müller with Christian Marien on drums & percussion) on Slovenia's Inexhaustible Editions until I started work on this review for Implositions, and while the latter seems to be the stronger interrogation around the sorts of post-Cage tapestry concerns that I've been following here, Superimpose With surely must be noted as well. The three different albums (of this imposing triple release) involve three different trios, i.e. a different musician joining the Superimpose duo for each: John Butcher (continuing to be a fixture in this space...), Sofia Jernberg & Wooley (likewise) as noted. And the "outer" albums were recorded during a January 2018 residency (Berlin), while Jernberg's was a "make up" session in March 2018 (Ljubljana) — & so all are prior to both Triche! (Vienna) & Implositions... — & all generally take up matters of continuity around the 'bone-drums duo, usually in sparse textures emphasizing legato & various articulations (e.g. vibrato). And I'd noted Marien here around the trio album Nulli Secundus, in another extended November 2013 entry — but Müller & Marien actually already released another trio album (last month) on Relative Pitch, Formation < Deviation with Eve Risser: The latter was recorded back in November 2017, and so predates the residency for With, not even noting "Superimpose" per se. (They're named the Cranes Trio for that release, so perhaps more is intended? The album appeared with Confluence, i.e. as another slowly evolving texture around piano, more tonal in this case, and I'd decided against reviewing it independently at the time, although it does play with various feelings of tautness within its ebb & flow of subtly shifting moods....) With itself seems to maintain more of a conscious ritual mood, perhaps most "traditionally jagged" with Butcher, but often seeking a generalized sense of accented legato, there while interrogating a variety of "typical" improvisational textures. Jernberg's set then involves extended matching of growling vibrato, in lines that almost seem to develop in parallel (i.e. separately), but do build to various intense moments. (And of course I first noticed Jernberg on the similarly titled With Sofia Jernberg by Lana Trio, as reviewed here in June 2018...!) I do find the Wooley set harder to summarize, a sort of hailing of impending intensity, but also suggesting more of a conscious sculpting (v. the "found" textures of Butcher), a kind of twisting vibe, sometimes becoming more percussive in general.... (The latter is, as noted above, back in the world of two brass, i.e. along with Triche! & again e.g. Earth Tongues, although there with tuba as the lower brass.... It also features a more exploratory feel where sometimes little is tangibly happening.) Anyway, per the extended notes (dated 2019?) to this release, it's the fruit of a "constant musical process" involving more than 100 concerts (from which these three were selected), and is well worth hearing for its explorations around extending a trombone-percussion combo: It's the fourth album from Superimpose, starting with Superimpose (Creative Sources, 2007). And apparently leads into more activity from Müller....

22 June 2021

The quartet album Live in Madrid was released back in 2013, and made an impression on me (as reviewed here that November): The Grid Mesh trio around Frank Paul Schubert (alto & soprano saxophones) & Andreas Willers (electric guitar) had expanded to a quartet, bringing on Johannes Bauer on trombone & changing to Willi Kellers on drums.... And I don't know the details, but Grid Mesh is back (after the untimely death of Bauer), with Christof Thewes (whom I hadn't mentioned, but who's appeared with Mahall, Roder, etc.) on trombone. Their basic material is still more rock oriented than much of what I discuss here — although a comparison with e.g. the classic machinic miniatures of Pool School can surely be made... — but their sort of melodic interweaving is particularly appealing, and indeed reflects the kind of simultaneous activity that I was seeking around the beginning of this project. The latest album, descriptively titled Four, was then recorded live in western Germany in February 2020 (& released on Creative Sources, after Live in Madrid had appeared on Leo Records...): There's generally a more rhetorical vibe projected, presumably based on years of performing together, but there's also a quietly ethereal quality that seems to serve as a backdrop & font for the emergence of the (often) more rock-conditioned lines, i.e. the latter as definite evocations of idiom (& including some sultry jazz...), but projecting almost a sort of symphonic form (across the four movements). There's thus a suggestion of pointillism early, and even a bit of a nautical feel (surely a theme here...) by the end, but also an impression of thematic material emerging from electronic gain per se... perhaps figuring a sophisticated sort of "rock ascension." (The overall sound & activity level of the ensemble can be compared e.g. to the recent Tales From quartet, also featuring trombone & rock influences — in that case more punk than metal, & so building a less formal or rhetorical intensity....) The result often suggests an extended dialog, particularly from the founders, but also involves different 2x2 configurations within the quartet. Their "grid mesh" concept also provides, apparently, a system for extending interlocking lines, including in a kind of unwinding that ultimately seems to affirm the band's togetherness — operating at times almost via smoothly coordinated affective gradient. And some of the (newer &) more pointillistic combos can be appealing, but the band is particularly striking when playing melodically with coordination at speed. They might even come to suggest some of the "effortlessness" of the polyphony from classic/Dixieland bands (albeit via material that's not quite from a jazz songbook)....

28 June 2021

Tapestries involving some sort of continuous development, perhaps (subtly) moving through various stylistic realms, have become a theme in this space. Indeed, I was considering some general ideas around these trends in the course of preparing the previous discussion (around Implositions...), but that thinking was largely short-circuited by the arrival of Anthony Braxton's massive new set, 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017: Leave it to Braxton to have already penetrated this trend in a deep way, and so I'm going to offer some extended thoughts on "gradient logics" — the ZIM music orientation (& although I assume that the M in ZIM stands for "music," Braxton himself repeats that redundant construction). The ideas confronted in the music are thus quite timely, but 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017 is also relatively "rough around the edges" for a Braxton release: It's a massive download (in high resolution), or else a blu-ray disc, which is sensible enough in today's environment (& the blu-ray does apparently come with a free download code, since they can be impossible to digitize oneself...), but also seems to show ZIM music at various stages of development, including some (practical) differences in ensemble & even some (live) moments too close to the microphone.... Were more recording sessions planned for this release prior to the pandemic? It's hard to say, but it does suggest more of a "working out" than Braxton's typical recent productions, i.e. polished sequences of approximately an hour each, paired in (sometimes also large) parallel sets. Here things aren't quite parallel, but rather show a progression, and the sets average more like 50 minutes — until the last two (in London), which are about 50% longer. And there were already many reviews at the time I noticed this release, but since ZIM suggests truly new material for Braxton — & neither an opera nor a broader immersive experience in general... — I do want to offer some thoughts on various aspects: Besides this notion of "gradient logics" (i.e. constant change, but not that constant...), though, ZIM forges a unique ensemble of musicians too, and I want to start there. Braxton notes that ZIM Ensemble follows ZIM Quartet (the earlier efforts of which are apparently still to appear...), and so it's possible that the latter consists of the four musicians who appear on each of these 12 performances, Braxton himself (reeds), Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), Dan Peck (tuba) & Jacqui Kerrod (harp). However, balancing tuba & harp against the two horn players? I'm not sure how that'd go, but 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017 boosts the group to a sextet or septet (as Braxton says the music is for "seven" musicians) — & for one extended studio run, to a nonet via "attachment parts" (as they're called in the notes). The latter tracks (Nos. 6-9) thus add stars Ingrid Laubrock & Stephanie Richards, but all sets include a second harpist, as well as Adam Matlock (accordion & aerophones) on all but the opening track, Tomeka Reid on Nos. 1-4 & 6-9, and Jean Cook (on violin instead of cello, per Reid...) then on Nos. 10-12. And I was unfamiliar with Matlock & Cook, although the latter had already appeared in larger ensembles with Braxton. (Reid is, of course, increasingly well known, e.g. featured here in Geometry of Caves, a production that doesn't seem all that far from the Braxton universe....) And I'd actually been following Peck for a while here, since September 2012 with doom band The Gate... & do enjoy the breathy bass here (& elsewhere). The combination of tuba & harp can be quite striking (albeit often intertwined by the more assertive accordion...), making for an intriguing ensemble (even if it weren't Braxton...), and then with the doubled harps, it almost seems as if Braxton is single-handedly creating a demand for harp players! (I now have to hear e.g. the double harp configuration of Confluence, recorded in 2019, as being influenced by the ZIM Ensemble....) I hadn't really noticed Kerrod either (from South Africa, also an electric harpist), then, but she's actually already had a duo album released on AngelicA with Braxton, Duo (Bologna) 2018 — on which she's credited as Jacqueline Kerrod — recorded the day before the three London ZIM dates, performing a relatively thin (but nicely melodic) "first species" Ghost Trance piece.... Joining Kerrod are then (separately) Shelley Burgon, Brandee Younger & Miriam Overlach: I hadn't heard of any of them either, but Burgon experiments with electronics (& is, like Matlock, a New Haven resident...), Younger is more involved directly with jazz, and Overlach is a professor in Europe performing classical music.... Here, though, their professional differences seem largely to be subsumed within the double harp "backbone" of these pieces, which along with tuba, comes to sound rather like the SuperCollider software participating in the massive landmark set 12 Duets (DCWM) 2012 — & there's no question that Braxton is capturing some of that sound world here with acoustic musicians. And I've been particularly appreciating the sound combos, including moving on from e.g. a piano-based ensemble to emphasize the double harps (instead of guitar, I suppose...), while the accordion tends to seem like a "gradient instrument" all by itself (& I'd half-expected to find the term in a Pauline Oliveros title, but didn't...) — and substituting violin for cello seems to work just fine, i.e. its role is more as color than as structure, and the violin does actually seem to prompt Braxton to explore more lower registers (including around tuba).... I should also note Ho Bynum specifically — especially since his own music has yet to really resonate with me — as he does continue to be an excellent foil for Braxton here, i.e. as the other multifaceted "head" of the ensemble, he's endlessly inventive. The horns especially benefit from the higher sound resolution as well, and do incorporate various extended techniques at times (i.e. more so than usual for Braxton) — even some vocalizing, especially on the London tracks. (This is uncredited, but much of it must be Braxton himself?) And then Ho Bynum had already appeared on the related releases 10+1tet (Knoxville) 2016 & Trio (Knoxville) 2016 (as reviewed here in one entry in May 2019): The compositions there are actually numerically between those of the first & second 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017, and are also listed as ZIM music in Braxton's catalog, but I didn't hear them in the same way. Rather, the ensembles are more in line with previous Braxton ensembles, and per the review, I heard the music more in the mode of a collage, specifically temporally via notions of travelogue, i.e. as moving through stylistic areas. Indeed, the first set/composition on 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017 seems relatively crude in this regard as well, with the project really taking off with the second (which nonetheless seems to begin relatively tentatively...). A "travelogue" does suggest (constant) motion, though, so what's the difference? What I hear is a refinement of musical motion concepts, and this is not straightforward, as Braxton's characteristically wacky notes suggest: That something is constantly changing suggests that change itself changes, etc. etc. (Note e.g. that Braxton figures change within a melody itself, i.e. moving from "I love you" to indifference & beyond.... There are thus "affective gradients" in this music, including at the level of line.) One might thus figure (conceptually, politically) according to "problems of transition" more broadly, but this notion of (ontological) motion remains (specifically) quite current: I'd already noted e.g. philosopher Thomas Nail in an April review of Move in Moers, and want to return to his book Being and Motion as a reference here (although I don't agree with everything he says, especially when it comes to the modern period...): One thing that Nail illustrates is that if one wants to take notions of constant change seriously, there are many (philosophical) consequences, and Braxton's "gradient logics" are then similarly multifaceted. (Nail will assure any game reader that Braxton is not taking things too far....) As I'd suggested around Warszawa 2019 then (also in April), Move in Moers tends to feel so "particle-ized" that it leaves us nowhere to be, nowhere to dwell — it simply moves on, immediately. Warszawa 2019 (incorporating various electronics, notably unlike 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017...) does allow a kind of dwelling, though, and I'd begun to ponder how or why: For Braxton, I believe this is what he means when he talks about "reaffirming experiences per the Tricentric model" & ZIM music thus seems to involve a sort of porosity (a term I'd apply now to Warszawa 2019 — particularly in view of Evan Parker's contrasting legato temporalities — with Braxton felt similarly via Ghost Trance Music...), and I'll note further that he notes the vortex explicitly as a sort of gradient. Braxton is also confronting dimensionality here (meaning lines...), and the "swirl" can actually trouble such a sense (i.e. via chaos, turbulence) — as it does (including by ramifying temporalities...) on Confluence. (And in my recent review of Confluence, I should've also noted Setúbal, inspired by the estuary there, per at least one discussion, and showing perhaps a similar inspiration around swirling flow... via a more compact ensemble.) These "water" themes can also suggest a sort of "found" motion, though, while (also per recent prompts here), Braxton's seems more consciously erected. Particularly via the background of constant change then, 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017 thus seems to offer something of a fusion of the two concepts that e.g. Joe Morris has interrogated in Locale & Switches... i.e. the former, being quintessentially Braxtonian, emerging through the latter (including via a sort of temporal porosity originally figured via GTM...). In that sense, an eddy becomes ontological (re: Nail), i.e. can become a place to dwell. But in any case, we're still in the world of postmodern stylistic multiplicity, i.e. the collage form generally, on which Braxton might be said to be offering various different perspectives-in-motion. Of course, Braxton had already figured such musical collage-multiplicity in broad terms via his Echo Echo Mirror House Music (& e.g. the triple album 3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011, discussed in a lengthy review of DCWM here in April 2016...), and although I'd offered some appreciation for his approach there, I never did find the result to be affectively satisfying. Rather, it seems almost numbing, as the various recordings & reflections seem to lay down (per Koselleck) "sediments of time," i.e. provide the feel of accumulating (emotional, historical) detritus, i.e. feel increasingly layered & even (correspondingly) calcified. And although ZIM Ensemble is quite active & multifaceted itself, it does induce less of a sense of fog, i.e. suggests navigation per se: In fact, it involves having pre-concert meetings to discuss how to approach moving through the score (which is apparently generally in the mode of "too much," i.e. not unlike Switches), i.e. not of layering complexity, but of resolving it for any particular performance. (I'm not sure if this approach is really necessary, but it obviously works! Otherwise, ZIM follows EEMHM in projecting a sort of jazzy feel at times, as well as in seeming to begin & end at arbitrary moments, i.e. in the middle of something....) Braxton also mentions Scelsi twice(!) in his cryptic notes, but apparently that's not really about transforming one note into another (which remains largely outside of his music...), but has to do with the "gradient" between improvisation & composition, i.e. flows of the former into the latter & back again.... (All of this seems to involve a quest for musical freshness that the EEMHM really seems to lack....) And various affective-emotional gradients figure these changes at times as well, i.e. beyond ontology. (Per Braxton's notes, to interpret the notation is already to engage in improvisation....) And as suggested already, this project also changes within itself: The individual pieces were recorded in composition order (mostly in 2017, but with the London sets from nine months later, in 2018...), and so a discussion of the individual sets is obviously going to mix considerations of the different compositions with those of the different performances, and especially of learning the material: As noted, #1 already seems relatively tentative in this regard. #2-4 turn to the studio, though, and really seem to forge a style... not so far into #2. #5 is live again (& I assume Reid couldn't make it...), and really sizzles (sometimes including e.g. the sort of "carnival" atmosphere that can animate the EEMHM...). Next are the larger ensemble (studio) sessions for #6-9, and per the notes there can be as many as 12(!) "attachment" parts, i.e. suggesting real big band potential, although the renditions are often already lush with only two.... (These bigger tracks are also great, although I tend to enjoy smaller forces more, just as a personal thing.) And then there are the three London tracks (from three consecutive dates), and they seem to turn in another direction: #10 seems to figure something of a stylistic recap, but ends up flatter, and then #11 is the most diffuse production I can remember from Braxton... my feeling is it's partially an attempt to evoke the English style, i.e. "insect" music & AMM.... That eleventh track ends up seeming rather distended to me, and not very successful, but #12 takes up these ideas again, beginning from an intense "affective slide" & keeping a welcome sense of tautness to its interrogations around notions of silence.... (I might describe the latter approach, per previous remarks, as a sort of linearization regime. And we'll see what happens, but if this were the only ZIM project, I don't think I'd be featuring it with similar enthusiasm....) Previous ZIM renditions do quiet down to smaller forces at times too, though, involving various gradients around dynamics etc., while as per previous Braxton efforts, they definitely seem more actively oriented toward sound than silence.... But this massive set of sets also projects broadly complex affective tapestries, i.e. continues to engage (strongly with) the emotional register. And it often sounds exciting too (novelty & theory aside).

2 July 2021

I also learned about Turquoise Dream, a new "string quartet" album around Marcelo dos Reis (acoustic guitar) released on JACC Records, from an extended Free Jazz Blog entry, so perhaps there isn't much to add here. However, I do want to note it not only for its appealing textures, often in lush sound, but for its parallels with longtime favorite Chant: The latter is a quintet album around João Camões, mostly classical strings, with the exception of Pedro Carneiro on marimba. (And that means I should note the new duo album from Carneiro & percussionist Pedro Melo Alves, Bad Company: It's rather intricate & austere for Clean Feed... drawing on contemporary classical music, as does Carneiro's participation on Chant.) For Turquoise Dream (recorded in November 2019), there's then Marta Warelis on piano (another sort of string...), Warelis having appeared here with Piano Trialogues (reviewed in November 2019, when I said that her track featured "a sort of delicacy that emerges" via more aggressive motion...) with Hein & Nillesen. But Camões also first appeared here (in November 2015) with Open Field String Trio (& their album with Burton Greene, Flower Stalk), featuring Dos Reis (who remains quite popular at the Free Jazz Blog...) — & both then include FMP legend Carlos "Zingaro" on violin for these two albums (with Helena Espvall, recently of some Ernesto Rodrigues projects, rounding out the lineup for Turquoise Dream on cello & effects...). And such parallels continue into a focus on various (expanded) string textures, as well as sort of extended (simmering) gatherings of energy in some passages (i.e. senses of waiting...), contrasting with more climactic contrapuntal interactions. However, Turquoise Dream often conjures a rather different affective vibe, specifically around notions of (historical) romance & Iberian guitar... as evocations of Middle Eastern (including Sephardic) music resonate at various points through the dreamy textures. (And Dos Reis had first appeared in this space a couple of months before Open Field String Trio, i.e. with Chamber 4 — a quintessentially "humanistic" & conversational album.) That sort of "human" emphasis then differs from the naturalistic evocations I tend to take from Chant — to which I hesitate to apply the term "realism," but it's overtly less dreamy. Along with its sometimes intricate counterpoint & off-center ostinati, especially around pizzicato, Turquoise Dream then also features emotional swells & broad, coloristic evocations, i.e. in more of a traditional (classical?) musical tapestry. (Whereas Chant might be said to evoke primitivism, despite its frequently high density.... Still, there's a kind of transfiguration. And a darker sound.) The sophisticated tapestry seems almost to suggest Hollywood at times, via a sort of eerie soundtrack sometimes tending toward austerity (or spaciness...), and with the "sudden" pacing of a dream (around human drama). (While a generalized feel of wind chimes does dominate both albums in some stretches... becoming melancholy for Dos Reis & company. Or industrial for either.) Perhaps one is intended to awake ultimately into a different global world from the one increasingly dominated by industrial waste & denial....

8 July 2021

Turning to the lengthy trio album Water Reflections, recorded on a single day in studio in Camaiore (Italy) in September 2019 & released recently by FMR, I'd initially thought that I was unfamiliar with all three musicians. However, it turns out that I'd actually heard both Guy-Frank Pellerin (soprano & tenor saxophone) & Matthias Boss — sometimes credited as "Bossi" — (violin, voice) together with Marcello Magliocchi on The sounding door (released in 2015 on Plus Timbre). That ritualistic album didn't make much impression, but for Water Reflections, those two are joined by Eugenio Sanna (amplified guitar & objects, and with credits going back e.g. to Fluxus, but not someone I'd noted before...) to forge a much more distinctive style: The stated idea is more or less that the three musicians are performing simultaneous complementary aspects, basically fitting together to articulate one musical figure (as if in one voice...). It happens quickly & intricately, and the first few tracks are quite striking.... Water Reflections is also a long album, and so the obvious reference for me is the trio on Hunt at the Brook (also from FMR), yielding another series of richly detailed articulations, already with a varied rhythmic emphasis amid a sort of close, conversational focus. That earlier album also maintains affective tautness in slower passages, though, while Water Reflections seems to move into a more exploratory mode by the 5th track (of 10), and after some great "nuts & bolts" passages rethinking musical ensemble, gets to sounding more in the mode of skulking about waiting for something to happen.... Then the final track, commencing only after a full hour has elapsed in the album, starts off seeming like something of a country tune, including some wacky vocals (after a bit of vocalizing on a couple of earlier tracks...) & a more traditional fiddle solo... although that track (the longest, as it happens, also adding Marco Carvelli on trombone...) does return to some of the simultaneous, figural style before its end. All of these performers also appear to be on the older side (i.e. unlike those on Hunt at the Brook...), so this seems to be a hard won style. (My overall impression is indeed not unlike that of yet another FMR album, Strings, as reviewed here in January 2019, where the first few tracks — of a long album — are great, before moving into a more exploratory style that doesn't particularly cohere... and also starts to seem more typical of improvised performance in general. In other words, it seems that they had some ideas ready for some tracks, and then winged it.) But the sort of "nuts & bolts" musical interaction they've forged, particularly in the first few tracks (the longer 2nd being a "gem..."), definitely seems worth hearing. Where might these guys go from here?

12 July 2021

And while researching the performers on Water Reflections, I also found the new album Xin on Plus Timbre, by a quintet around Francesco Cigana (drums, percussion) called The Fifth: The reference to Magliocchi above is then meaningful (& not only because he's released many albums on Plus Timbre...) in that The Fifth recalls Runcible Quintet, or at least how I'd heard it (as first reviewed here in May 2017...), i.e. as two "interlocking" trios around the percussionist. That group (whose style has moved on, e.g. accommodating a quartet format for half of Four...) doesn't take things as far as Cigana & The Fifth, though (at least that I know...), as the latter involves rehearsing separately as two distinct trios, i.e. only coming together for a live "event." And so Xin was recorded live in Padova in February 2019, coming to nearly 50' of music (in a single track), but seeming to pass quickly.... Xin is also another sort of "continuous tapestry" performance, involving a slow build from the interlocking trios, but also some sort of potent affective exchange. I.e. whatever sorts of "procedures" they've been practicing separately apparently involve accepting affective input & cross-fertilization. I was quite impressed by Xin in that sense, and have found it to be consistently effective at mood modulation. And I'm not actually sure which are the two trios, but I'm going to assume there's an electric bassist in each (& not the two together): These are Nicolò Masetto & Marco Valerio, and they're joined by Giulio Stermieri (Fender Rhodes) & Alberto Collodel (bass clarinet). The synth is then more about effects, coming off almost like a horn, rather than in a keyboardistic way.... (And I certainly hadn't heard of any of these musicians before.) There's also evocation of idiom on Xin, and that does yield a bit of a rock vibe at times, but the result is pan-stylistic & doesn't really dwell in particular areas: The sort of low "monocord" of the electric bass does add a distinctive sound, then (along with e.g. breathy horn), regardless of rock or funk evocations (& I'd be happy to hear it more outside of that context... it basically reminds me of rudra veena...). The audience is obviously a bit stunned too, as there's a long pause before applause erupts. (And I'd been a little stumped for a sonic reference, but parts of [Untitled] do come off similarly at times.... I could've compared Sandy Ewen with Eugenio Sanna above too.) From the accompanying comments, it also appears that Cigana (b.1986) intends to continue this project. Will the "gimmick" yield reduced returns over time? I don't know, but do also feel as though it's more than a gimmick... dealing with a sort of tribal intersection, perhaps, i.e. combining established groups rather than only individuals (as something we really need to learn to do better in general...).

13 July 2021

My first encounter with violinist Biliana Voutchkova was already together with pianist Magda Mayas on The Afterlife of Trees, a quartet album with Ernesto & Guillerme Rodrigues, about which I wrote a rather rambling review in December 2017.... Strangely, I didn't mention Spill Plus in that review, although I'd appreciated Mayas there just a couple of months before. Mostly I went on trying to make my own sense of the Rodrigueses & the Berlin scene: I'd wanted to appreciate The Afterlife of Trees more than I ultimately did, because there were aspects that appealed, but also a rather narrow focus (without much counterpoint), especially from the beginning — although eventually developing into intricate braided lines. Since then, I've continued to follow Mayas — including with recent favorite Confluence (recorded in 2019) — while Voutchkova has attracted increasing attention (including) elsewhere as well. So now they've returned with a new album Spoken / Unspoken, recorded in Berlin in January 2020 (& released on Confront), and introducing a trio named Jane in Ether with Miako Klein on recorders (while Voutchkova is also credited with voice). And I wasn't previously familiar with Klein, but she obviously adds a sense of breath (as well as e.g. percussive pops at times...), versus the additional strings on The Afterlife of Trees. Spoken / Unspoken then feels like something of a preliminary album, but also has distinct appeal: The opening track makes an immediate, brilliant impression, projecting a greater sense of "dimension," but also a distinct sonic conception. (The basic trio constitution could be compared to e.g. that on Ize, also featuring some similar extended spans or layerings at times, but also more temporal tension....) As typical of Mayas, piano is often subtle (including sharp, bowed tones...), but also forms something of a backdrop to the ensemble as a whole, e.g. becoming percussive at times etc. (E.g. "rhythmic glissandi" stand out, including in exchanges across the trio.) The long second track, though, featuring some subtle vocalizing per its title, involves more in the way of waves & shifting layers (& swells...), i.e. a more singular focus again (although also involving some of the style of track #1...), so feels a little smooth/slow to me (& perhaps e.g. akin to Great Waitress, with whom I first heard Mayas...). The final three, shorter tracks then have something of a machinic quality, and do explore some intriguing "nuts & bolts" textures. Indeed, my overall sense of Spoken / Unspoken is not unlike that of e.g. Sawt Out, with its similarly Berlin-based exploration of extended techniques, even radicalizing particular vibrations & couplings. I do hear the latter as more dense in ideas, though, certainly more abrasive, but I also feel myself wanting to say "more potent," which raises questions of whether I'm simply responding more to its masculinity.... I guess I'm not sure. Further, it's worth noting the "twisting" sorts of paths that Spoken / Unspoken articulates following various interval relations outside of traditional tonality, e.g. recalling James Tenney's Critical Band (recently released in another recorded interpretation from Edition Wandelweiser, probably not coincidentally...) with its constantly shifting ethereality (particularly in some later tracks) — or similarly Rodrigues & e.g. Stratus, with its almost weightlessly shifting strands of color.... But whereas Rodrigues usually suggests impressionism, Jane in Ether feels more assertive (despite their frequently calm aspect), i.e. with more of a sense of conscious creation than depiction of found objects (i.e. as part of a trend toward "erected" music that I've been noting of late, that being even less common in this sort of world of microintervals...). There's also a kind of general starkness, despite quite a bit of activity much of the time, suggesting a quest for essences, figural (& generally three-way) in this case. (Tenney's study of psychoacoustics was also so as not to overwhelm the listener with novel activity, and a similar balance seems to be conscious here as well.) And thus there's, perhaps, less of an interrogation of fragility than one often finds in other naturalistic impressions.... (And is this album ultimately calming or subtly disturbing? There's a sort of luminous presence, even a kind of "electronics" feel at times, i.e. as generated acoustically, but I guess a sort of unsettling quality as well....) So maybe Jane in Ether is only getting started together, but Spoken / Unspoken does still feel preliminary is in its development of a broader expressive concept per se. I.e. it still seems to be pulling ingredients together (although the opener, Yugen, is already especially striking & evocative).

26 July 2021

A recent Philip Zoubek rundown at the Free Jazz Blog — beginning with a favorite of mine from last year, Ize — reminded me just how long I've been listening to the pianist & synth player in a variety of contexts (as mentioned since December 2011 here!), but without really honing in on his musical personality: Perhaps "protean" is the right term, and that rundown did highlight e.g. a more traditionally jazzy quartet with Frank Gratkowski (albeit moving to more abstract or extended passagework at times too...), Torbid Daylight (recorded in February 2020). And the latter took me to Impakt Köln, where Zoubek is a member, the collective releasing a few new albums of late (although I'd auditioned some earlier too, e.g. with Nicola Hein).... My orientation then shifts to another recent Zoubek album (not noted at FJB!), Werckmeister Musik (recorded in November 2019) featuring Carl Ludwig Hübsch & Etienne Nillesen. (Of course, Hübsch was also on Ize with HMZ....) That's because the release I want to highlight here is the (somewhat similar at times) Live at mœrs festival '20 (from that May) by a quartet of Hübsch (tuba & objects), Nillesen (extended snare), Marlies Debacker (piano, clavinet) & Florian Zwißler (synthesizer): That album introduced the latter two performers to me, and although it includes two keyboardists (with "synthesizer" listed without details...), including starting from a big piano arpeggio, it made a definite impression. Debacker is perhaps the star (as the synth contributions are more difficult to pick out...), and indeed had already released an album with Hübsch, in a trio with saxophonist Salim Javaid (recorded in November 2018, two weeks after Ize), called This: That album seems (even) more preliminary, but explores an airy sort of trio texture (not so unlike Jane in Ether from the previous entry), including some jazzy references & various escaping resonances. It's sparse, especially early, but has something of a radiant quality as well.... (And note that Javaid is also a member of Impakt Köln, along with three fourths of the quartet on Live at mœrs festival '20 — minus Hübsch, whose participation nonetheless seems to be a strong indicator of musical interest these days....) Live at mœrs festival '20 doesn't really reference idiom, though, instead developing (a) rather distinctive style(s) on its two tracks: Indeed, the tracks are labeled as Caution parts I & II, and so perhaps that should be given as the name of the album, i.e. as suggesting a sort of rendering of more frenetic activity into something more subdued. There's moreover an eerie quality, perhaps ominous on the first track, producing a pulsing (& sometimes rhythmically jerking, including various hockets) underwater sort of feel, and eventually a tendency to move in "parallel" layers, i.e. everyone into longer, overlapping waves (e.g. held tones via rubbing piano strings & drum).... There's still often a sort of sparseness, however, including a strong sense of breath from Hübsch (making the better audio quality of download versus streaming noticeable for me) — almost similar to parts of e.g. Coluro, with its various calls & timbral spanning.... A sense of drama generally maintains too, a sort of quasi-distant howling, wheezing out in images of desolation... restarting in the second track with a lively "jungle" scene of grinding, chirping, rumbling (with more specifically noticeable synth...), again moving into a sort of "chorus" in quasi-parallel lines (a sort of heterophony...), becoming very animated & coming to suggest a sort of industrial fusion. (I.e. as in Coluro — but the rustic evocations can also be strangely suggestive of e.g. Disputa e Guerra..., a New World album, as reviewed here in September 2020....) And eventually into another quiet ending, leaving one listening to silence — a short album, but often quite striking (even pace the similarities with e.g. the more substantial Werckmeister Musik, i.e. its frequently dissonant sense of flow...).

28 July 2021

There's also a new album from Daniel Thompson's Empty Birdcage Records that I want to note as well, also short after Ha th wa (as reviewed in March): Crunch was actually recorded the following month, June 2019, and doesn't involve Thompson. Rather it's two horns "pivoting" on a sometimes percussive piano (the instrument appearing here once again, following e.g. Live at mœrs festival '20 from the previous entry...), i.e. Hutch Demouilpied (trumpet, flutes) & Sue Lynch (tenor sax, clarinet) joining Matt Hutchinson in an improvised meeting as part of a John Russell celebration (within an improvisation series he started) — & so something of a followup to Thompson's short solo album John (released this past April).... (There's also Solo by Steve Noble as the previous release, and that's worth hearing especially for its held tone technique....) In any case, unlike Ha th wa, Crunch is an acoustic album, and features a sophisticated melodic-harmonic style (a sort of post-dodecaphony enabling an affective density...) offering strong emotional engagement. There're laments & feelings of melancholy & nostalgia, remembrance more broadly, but also a broader palette moving through various moods, i.e. from tenderness into a sort of carnival or even horror (briefly) vibe, through some sultry jazz, in a sort of emotional kaleidoscope (that nonetheless moves at a rather human pace). (There's perhaps a post-Tristano feel developing eventually out of the extended techniques as well, a sort of limpidity at times, a kind of classical vibe balancing the intensity of the opening shards....) And I've actually come to appreciate these shorter albums, more like one side of an LP, in that they do provide enough material (especially at this density) to feel as though one's heard a "statement." (In that, then, these shorter albums can be contrasted with some recent examples of longer releases where I particularly enjoy a few tracks, but the rest starts to seem almost like filler.... And since prices can easily be varied for download purchases, there's not really even an issue with offending a listener's sense of economy.... The notion of individual tracks — & there are three, each a little different in emphasis, on Crunch — is also taking on a different meaning, perhaps, in the context of growing shuffle play, but I digress....) I was also completely unfamiliar with Demouilpied, but e.g. on a Squidco search, he turned up being mentioned around the Horse Improvised Music Club in a paragraph about longtime favorite Ag — although that text doesn't accompany the actual album. Lynch appeared here most recently with Grappling with the Orange Porpoise (reviewed here in July 2020), while I hadn't mentioned pianist Hutchinson, although he's appeared e.g. on some FMR releases.... Together they make Crunch a potently affective "little" release, a chiseled & multifaceted homage (for a musician whom I didn't "know" particularly well, I should probably also say).

9 August 2021

And Ernesto Rodrigues is starting to release more recordings from this year: I want to note especially the "string quartet" album Fantasy Eight (another shorter release, recorded in Berlin this past May), but also the "similar" followup to the quartet album Dis/con/sent (recorded in May 2018, as reviewed here in October 2018), Ulrichsberg (also recorded in May, but two weeks earlier). Starting from the latter, Dis/con/sent already had a direct followup in the digital-only Kühlspot Social Club (as mentioned here in December 2018, in an extended entry around violinist Dietrich Petzold), but this group (including Ernesto & Guilherme Rodrigues with Matthias Bauer on bass) obviously felt a need to continue, here in a less "noisy" rendition than e.g. the jagged bowed metal sounds of Dis/con/sent.... Indeed there's often more of a classical vibe, sometimes even tender or romantic, moving more into the ethereal & featuring (as expected) weird counterpoints. And there's more of a classical vibe to Fantasy Eight as well, featuring Julia Brüssel (violin, previously unknown to me...) & Klaus Kürvers (double bass, frequent Rodrigues collaborator...) joining the Rodrigueses in a similar quartet. Fantasy Eight also features short & evocative track titles, and might be regarded as something of a textural study, but the results are not only quite sophisticated technically (with a considerable level of ensemble coordination, given that this is improvised music), they retain an affective tension more or less throughout. (Perhaps I should also note the latest extended tapestry from the large IKB ensemble, Titanus giganteus: Once again, I don't really hear ethology per se in this beetle-inspired piece, but it's also unusually taut & vivid after some brief opening scuffling, so a highlight in that series, perhaps emerging from the excitement of being able to play together again, in that case just this past June....) One might compare such a series of miniatures with e.g. those of Vulcan by Stellari String Quartet (an ongoing group?) & its sense of ensemble, but Fantasy Eight projects its individual ideas more clearly & concisely. Beyond the classical counterpoint, then, the group also features various glissandi & twisting shapes, i.e. makes great use of the string resources, forging various webs of sound & affective relation — & more in an "erected" mode than "found," pace similar prior comments here. Rodrigues continues to perform in a variety of string quartets, but Fantasy Eight seems to take particularly conscious steps to develop a collective repertory (together with emotional resonance...) per se. (And I should probably also note that Kürvers was most recently mentioned here, also in the same December 2018 entry noted above, with Hexagon, another string album, also featuring various string bending around classical counterpoint....) I don't know the provenance of half the group, but there's also a sort of 20th century Eastern bloc feel to the string technique here, amid a relatively meaty sense of ensemble. Through its sophisticated harmonic combinations, Fantasy Eight thus also comes off as more substantial than its modest length.

10 August 2021

I also want to note a new album from the trio Toned, Tricky, appearing on 1039 Records (associated with the "Pool Improvised Music Series" — about which I'm generally uninformed). This is actually the third album from 1039 (& this time without any kind of recording date documentation...), the first being First Blush involving Chris Pitsiokos — also brought to my attention by Downtown Music Gallery — along with drummer Kevin Murray (also from the Bay Area & also just releasing another new album with Toned's horn player, Tom Weeks...). Tricky is then an explicit followup to The Private Sector (reviewed here, more extensively, in April 2020), Toned's first "major" release, but far from their first (available) album. And The Private Sector featured a sort of "kitchen sink" approach to material around electronics, immediately very aggressive, even wild with sampled voices, etc. But Tricky, while also rather (superficially at least) aggressive at times, eschews much of that sampling activity for a more precisely controlled approach that even seems to adopt concepts from minimalism. Indeed, Nathan Corder is credited on both guitar & electronics here, rather than simply on "electronics" as on the other albums already mentioned (& his participation on Monopiece + Jaap Blonk had me thinking that he came from a keyboard background, but maybe not... — that album also featuring very clear sound, but "another" guitarist in Matt Robidoux), while Leo Suarez continues with a variety of subtle (or unsubtle) drums & percussion. Tricky then sometimes comes off as more of a "horn trio" around Weeks (who shows a variety of extended technique...), but can also seem to become absorbed by e.g. repetitive guitar figures shifting the texture. Intensity does tend to maintain, if subtly shift & stretch, including via what feels like an abundance of bent tones & rumbling slides (basically from everyone, not unlike with Monopiece...). (Evocations vary from e.g. jungle to industrial, usually in compact figures.) In other words, although this feels much like a "traditional" free improv sax trio at times (even becoming tender by the end, after opening in more of an abstract hocketing mode...), we've actually been on tricky ground (including regarding pitch). The result can also seem surprisingly focused (particular tensions, once again, being carefully maintained & manipulated...), especially given Toned's extravagance elsewhere, forging a different sort of "encompassing" feeling. And that feeling does eventually leave one listening to the (now almost profound?) silence (even or especially after the noise?). It turns out that Tricky is then quite a coherent album — particularly as Toned increasingly comes to distill a sound unlike anyone else's.

11 August 2021

Favourite Galaxy has actually been out on Creative Sources for a while now, but with the vagaries of batches & shipping & the like, I've only recently had a chance to hear it. And seeing as it's a lengthy, leisurely album anyway, I've also taken a little extra time to write this entry. But the attraction here is certainly the voice, and in particular a quartet tapestry — absent fixed pitched instruments — that provides an opportunity to slide pitches in all directions. (In an additional sense, then, Favourite Galaxy follows the albums of the previous two entries....) Within that context, as alluded, Favourite Galaxy can be rather spacious, and can come to seem long — although it does project a calming quality overall (for me anyway). Perhaps the best comparison is with Factorial by 4! (also on CS, around vocalist Patrizia Oliva & including electronics...) in terms of its sort of spacious mystery, but despite a similar sense of post-Cage starkness, the latter album is more apt to seek extremes. Indeed there's an interiorizing quality to Favourite Galaxy — a subtle sense of "locale" perhaps? — akin to the way Isabelle Duthoit seems to modulate her voice (farther) inside her body on Light air still gets dark. But whereas that album suggests a sort of acoustic pyramid of interaction, (after a quicker, opening flurry) Favourite Galaxy becomes more like a four-cornered handkerchief, a tugged & fluttering musical fabric (with maybe even a subtle, late Xenakian quality to its open weave...). And I was also completely unfamiliar with the members of this quartet, the album being recorded on consecutive dates in Berlin (apparently?) across February & March 2020: Lorena Izquierdo is the main vocalist, sometimes joined by Aziz Lewandowski, who's mostly on cello, along with Kris Kuldkepp on double bass & Felix Mayer sometimes sounding like a growling vocalist on trombone. (On their Bandcamp site, they adopt the clever m-i-l-k moniker, but aren't listed that way on the album....) Individual tracks are then strangely evocative, although do tend to blur into an undifferentiated whole during the course of the long album, mostly slow & subtly articulated & a little monochrome (per the cover)... maybe a little thin for me at times, but involving some great four-way activity at others. The quartet also features close attention throughout, including to various details of texture & timbre. (And I should probably also mention another 2021 Creative Sources album to feature a vocalist in quartet — consecutively numbered in the catalog, in fact — i.e. Chiara Liuzzi with her second album from Elica, there again including electronics & ultimately giving off more of a "pop" vibe within what's nonetheless an intriguing conception, i.e. featuring inspirations from different physical senses on the different tracks: I didn't feel as though Multisensory Improvisation captured synesthesia per se, though, so much as suggests unidirectional inspiration. Still, I welcome more in these general directions....) Given the comparisons, I suppose it's the all-acoustic character (as on many CS albums...) that's part of what stands out about this album, but also the sort of placidity that can seem to arise out of quietly extending distending, shearing activity. (I guess this happens basically by wearing us out... making at least this listener slowly lose interest in pitch fixity & just go with the flow?) And then that this activity is continually being "personalized" by the subtly dynamic human voice.... Particularly given that these were unknown musicians, I'll be interested to hear what they do next, as Favourite Galaxy makes for an intriguing introduction.

12 August 2021

Even more recently out on Creative Sources, I want to note the quintet album Aggregate Glows in the Cold as well: As it happens, I'd already reviewed Watergrove Part 2 here back in February, that album featuring three of the same performers in David Birchall, Adam Fairhall & Michael Perrett. And Watergrove Part 2 was recorded — outdoors — in September 2020, while Aggregate Glows in the Cold had already been recorded (in studio) in February 2020. (As noted in that prior review, Birchall recorded a series of performances from outdoor scenes last year....) And then there're some instrument changes: Fairhall is still on accordion, whereas Perrett is on bass clarinet for the Creative Sources album, joined on that instrument by Yoni Silver, and by Otto Willberg on double bass. (Willberg had appeared with Birchall e.g. on Live at Ftarri, a rather different album. And farther afield, Birchall also recently appeared on the Steep Gloss label, with Click here (and there) for more information, a trio album including Sam Andreae — on sax for Live at Ftarri, but no-input mixer here, in a twist — & vocalist Yan Jun from China, all in an internet recording via "noise" environment last November....) Birchall is also credited on electric guitar only for Aggregate Glows in the Cold (although the instrumentation generally remains subtle), versus the "banjo etc." of Watergrove Part 2 (an album out on Confront, featuring a quartet rounded out by Francis Comyn on percussion). While I'd first mentioned Silver — in the February 2018 review of Ag — with the duo album Home with Steve Noble (who then added Silver to his ongoing duo with electric bassist Farida Amadou for Space 111, released a few months back in Cafe Oto's lengthy Takuroku series of "lockdown" performances...).... In any case, Aggregate Glows in the Cold involves quite a bit of slow simmering... almost the feel of Suspensão at times (to cite a CS staple...), already suggesting a sort of "outdoor" impressionism (despite some possibly "indoor" track titles?), that most of these performers would then continue to explore, in a more focused (perhaps) setting.... The quintet does come to develop a sort of relentless, grainy background intensity of its own, though, amid a basic (experiential) smoothing.

17 August 2021

The Judson Trio is Joëlle Léandre, Mat Maneri & Gerald Cleaver, and their first album, An Air of Unreality (recorded in 2015), appeared only on LP. That was frustrating for me — & few LP releases these days seem to come without digital availability — but I did eventually hear it.... And now, there's lots of Judson Trio, with the release of the double album Light and Dance, more than two hours of music! The latter was recorded in January 2020 in France (mostly in Paris), i.e. not long before quarantine, and bears the fruit of a ten concert tour (two of which contribute to the first, live CD), as well as a studio session in its midst (as the second CD). Whereas the first Judson Trio performance, i.e. that appearing on LP, was apparently relatively spontaneous (& well, it's improv...), coming to play amid the audience at Vision Festival, Light and Dance seems substantially more planned — & of course, very substantial. Indeed, it's a difficult album to get a handle on, pressing forward with detailed technical interactions, i.e. unlike some other recent Léandre releases that seem celebratory in general & more typical of past improvisation practices.... And Léandre's explorations of string interactions with Maneri also have a substantial history at this point, beginning (as far as I know, or at least from early in my project here...) with the Stone Quartet, their second album Live at Vision Festival (recorded in 2010) not only originating from the same festival as An Air of Unreality, but opening with an extended & detailed string duet (that the other two musicians come to join & enlarge, in an organic tapestry...). So, despite seeming like the "junior member" of that quartet, Maneri is thus already relatively in the middle — & of course, has a lifelong history with microtonal string technique — and so his explorations with Léandre seem only to be getting started: There's also a duo disc (recorded in Paris in 2011) included on Léandre's massive A Woman's Work set. And then this work with Cleaver, with time to reflect & expand during 10 concerts in 10 days.... Cleaver seems to be accompanying the duo much of the time, though — even as, at other times, he's in the center of things or even soloing: The string duo does draw on some percussion figures during their dialog, and Cleaver certainly takes up their ideas (including in a tour-de-force solo percussion "summary" of the studio album as the last track...), but there isn't a lot of what I'd call real, three-way interaction. (Things are balanced instead, as noted, by putting Cleaver to the fore sometimes, and of course he's an intricate orchestral colorist already: Some of these passages come off almost like a percussion concerto, as I'd noted around Sediments in a December 2019 review. And I'd noted some string duos with percussion in that review as well, including Judson — as well as Natura morta, Spinning Jenny etc., but those other albums tend to take on a more traditional trio format, i.e. simply with a bowed string in the "sax" part....) Indeed, there's a focus on what I've been calling nuts & bolts interactions, various detailed techniques around string figures & extended playing, usually accented by percussion, but often honing in on the string duo in particular, exploring: In this, the "backbone" instruments obviously lack formal equivalence (as Léandre also performs in so many bass duos...), but don't tend to stay stratified by register either. And an intimate mood tends to maintain generally, but not with the kind of affective charge typical of so much from Léandre: The opening track of the live album (Wild Lightness) brings that kind of passion, and the live album in general features more affectivity, but the studio album (Bright Dance) — with its detailed recording & strong sonic presence — can seem almost clinical. The latter proceedings, in particular, remind me of e.g. Udo Schindler (also a Scelsi follower...) & e.g. Mycelial Studies (as reviewed here in August 2019...), in that there's great technical detail & a richness of musical ideas (& a huge volume of material), but they remain relatively uncontextualized in terms of emotional content or context. The term "studies" thus applies, especially in terms of the string duo here. The intent thus seems to push the envelope technically, particularly around Maneri's longtime exploration of microtones. And the result is extensive, projecting a radicality at times, but also running through various typical evocations, i.e. from jungle to industrial (e.g. as recently noted in a review of Tricky, otherwise a very different album...), but also various shearing & twisting, the "distant radio" feel of extension, (acoustic) evocations of static, grain, various pulses, slapping, dissonant ostinati.... (So perhaps our contemporary musical ecology becomes a sort of carnival? For better or worse....) And as noted, the string duo tends to remain rather focused & intimate (i.e. doesn't suggest e.g. a landscape...) — differently from e.g. Sudo Quartet, where a similar trio is embedded in a quartet with trombone, but ends up projecting far more space & even a more traditional melodic vibe... including via Léandre's trademark ecstatic vocals. The latter are missing from the studio album on Light and Dance, though, and tend to exist more in the realm of a whisper (or low roar, including at least one other low voice) on some of the live tracks... as a kind of simmering. That's not to suggest that raw physicality is absent from Light and Dance, however, only that it augments a sort of technical intricacy... sometimes yielding intensity, but sometimes simply continuing the exploration. And so — perhaps not so unlike Cleaver (whose percussion summary can seem... grave) — I'm attempting a summary: The two albums — & they should probably be heard as two different albums, Wild Lightness & Bright Dance (multiple tracks each) — then hold (technical) interest over repeated auditions, but also rarely grab me or take me elsewhere. (Hints of worldliness do emerge at times, but tend to submerge quickly.) Instead, Léandre's latest double album seems almost preliminary to something else, and so hopefully we'll get a chance to hear what that is....

20 August 2021

Five Shards — recorded in a London studio in December 2019 — is an album I'd actually mentioned in this space back in July 2020, during a review of Grappling with the Orange Porpoise, thinking it'd be imminent: Instead, Thanos Chrysakis (here on laptop computer, synthesizers & piano) apparently decided to wait, so as to have a release for 2021. (A Certain Slant of Light, a duo with Chris Cundy, was recorded a week prior to Five Shards, and released in 2020. That album is more intimate, even melancholy, producing a heightened feeling of passing time....) But I'd already mentioned Five Shards because its quartet of horn players around Chrysakis includes Adrian Northover & Sue Lynch (the latter on flute here, as well as tenor sax...), who appeared in the quartet on Grappling.... (And I went on to mention Northover again in a review the following month, i.e. around the related The Perpendicular Giraffe Compartment, etc. And Lynch was already noted with the trio Dial in the same discussion last July, but then again here earlier this month, with the more directly expressive trio Crunch....) The obvious Chrysakis reference for me is then 2019's Music for Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinets & Electronics, in that case with three low reeds around electronics & keyboard, but that album also has an overall progression that I've found (consistently, affectively) satisfying. (A Certain Slant of Light has, perhaps, more of that particular vibe.) Five Shards then also includes brass players — meaning e.g. there're more pinched sounds available, raspberries etc... — Dawid Frydryk (trumpet, effects) & Edward Lucas (trombone). And I'd also noted Frydryk with Dial (likewise in preparation for this review...) — & then, subsequently, Lucas with the Earshots duo & High Laver Reflections (with Eddie Prévost, reviewed November 2020...). But Five Shards is also relatively incoherent for a Chrysakis production, as he's generally a master of drawing out e.g. a main line & organizing a (chaotic) form. Here, though, the music comes off not so much as a symphonic progression, but as a swirling impressionist collage, indeed almost as a sort of sound painting to be appraised at a distance.... On the ground, so to speak, the music is immediately bracing — perhaps even recalling an album such as Sawt Out & its sense of taming noisy (acoustic) eruptions — then seems to take us through a calming arc, only to invoke more angles & arcs in later tracks — which also all seem to be embedded in a continuous musical tapestry, but marked by the entry of something new from Chrysakis. (E.g. the central track is marked by the entry of the piano, soon taking on some of the recent ecological "austerity" vibe of e.g. Ize or the two new Melt albums... but then ending up building a climax, in probably the least appealing part of the album, later to move away in a sort of angled, shearing down-motion....) And so track #2 features high pitches, while track #4 features a low rumble — both suggesting a sort of undersea ecology at times (perhaps recalling e.g. See Creatures Too, as reviewed here back in May... perhaps with a UFO thrown into the mix too). There's thus an orientation on various sonic extremes, which tends to be mediated by a variety of dramatic arcs. Versus Music for..., then, Five Shards suggests something quite ambitious to start (including wild glissandi...), but doesn't come together with a similar mastery — or rather, it's a different sort of album (i.e. more "visual?" as streaks of "color..."), ending up being more of an affective rollercoaster than an album invoking overall mood modulation. And it ends abruptly. The result, though, is still a sort of garden of horns, cultivated by Chrysakis, and with various striking (textural) moments. He's continuing to build a palette of detailed horn grains & timbres, here coming to a relatively wild overall picture.

31 August 2021

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