Concert Reviews

Thursday 29th April – i and e Festival – Eva-Maria Houben

April 29, 2010

On the Saturday afternoon, and then again on the Sunday evening, the i and e festival, with support from the Goethe Institute put on concerts of composer Eva-Maria Houben’s music. The first concert was a solo piano recital given by Houben herself, performed at The Goethe Institute’s Merrion Square venue. She played four pieces, two longer works of her own bookended by brief pieces written by John Cage. The venue is an old converted Georgian townhouse with the room used holding around fifty people, looking out onto the garden behind.

Houben began with Cage’s 1953 piece Music for Piano 20. She played the work very slowly, with a large amount of space left between the slowly decaying notes. All in all, across the three or four minute realisation of the score there were maybe half a dozen single notes played, with lengthy, somewhat pregnant silences left between each of them. The piece immediately instilled a mood in the room, a seriousness of listening, people paying attention, feeling the negative space in the music as much as the notes themselves. Although the following two works were dynamically very different, the sensation of careful, attentive listening that the piece encouraged could be heard following on into them. The first of Houben’s own works was a 2007 composition named drei choräle (penser à satie). This piece contained far more sounds than the Cage work, but somehow the austerity of that piece, the sense of spacious slowing followed through. The title of the piece translates roughly as Three Choralles, thinking after Satie… There was melody in this piece, clearly the Satie influence could be heard, but as each chiming note decayed into silence, some overlapping, some sat in space the sensation was less of tunefulness and more of warmth and colour.

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Concert Reviews

Wednesday 28th April – i and e festival 2010 Day 2

April 28, 2010

As with the first night, the evening opened with a solo performance, this time from Olivier Germain-Noreaux playing his saxhorn. He began by taking one of several balloons from his pocket and inflating it, tying it, and stuffing it half into the bell of his instrument to act as a kind of wobbly, vibrating mute. He then set about blowing firm, deep lines of sound from the horn that were given an extra tint of metallic colour by the balloon’s presence. In places the sound he produced really roared away, but there was always a sense of precision tot he music, blocks of sound separated by small silences. Then Germain-Noreaux laid the saxhorn flat on a table and pulled what at first appeared to be some kind of flexible extended tube from the instrument, and blowing through this he created a quieter, subtly textured set of earthy and fluttering sounds. Here he kept things going constantly, his music at this point a stream of quiet but detailed hissing and humming. Then all of a sudden he blew more firmly through the “tube” only for it to suddenly inflate into a long balloon of the type magicians might craft a sausage-dog from, much to the delight and amusement of the audience. The balloon remained attached to the instruments mouthpiece (or at least one of them, it appeared to have several) during this time, and it seemed that he would inflate the balloon and then let the air slowly escape into the instrument, as if it had an opening at each end. This second half of the set was my favourite, involving quieter but more detailed, rapidly changing sounds. It also was a joy to watch unfold. If I sat with my eyes shut listening to the textures buried in the first half’s deep tones, then they were wide open for the second half, following the visual events. A nice performance all round, good to discover this talented musician in this way.

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Concert Reviews

Tuesday 27th April – i and e Festival 2010 Day 1

April 28, 2010

The most remarkable thing about the 2010 i and e Festival in Dublin might just be that it happened at all. Literally 48 hours before the opening night it looked like the festival would be cancelled because the volcanic ash crisis was keeping a fair percentage of the performing musicians from flying into Ireland. In the end everyone got there in good time and the festival went ahead with a good strong audience turn out on each evening. This was the sixth annual festival, organised by David Lacey and Paul Vogel. That the festival has managed to not only survive for such a period of time as many of its contemporaries have ceased to continue, but also grow and evolve into something increasingly creative and ambitious each year is testament to the hard work and commitment of its organisers.

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Concert Reviews

Guest live review by Dominic Lash – incidental music at Cafe Oto, 25th April 2010.

April 26, 2010

The performance consisted of three compositions, each lasting twenty minutes. The first of these was Manfred Werder’s 2010-1, a text score being given its first performance. Werder’s programme notes suggest that he is interested in the difficulty (perhaps even the impossibility) of pinning down the concrete actuality of the sounding nature of the world (the ‘intrinsic unavailability of world’): what is actually happening in a particular sound, rather than what it represents, resembles or approximates.

With the musicians distributed around the room, amongst the (small but focused and attentive) audience, five chairs and music stands stood empty but elegantly lit in the middle of the performance space, drawing attention to the traditional spatial and visual relationship between audience and musicians, and its absence in this case. Very little happened: some sounds were generated by the musicians using their instruments, but they also made sounds in other ways. There were some incidental sounds of shuffling and rustling from the audience, as well as some background and external noise. Yet when I think of the sounds produced by the musicians, the list is actually very rich indeed: sounds of pouring water; of two surfaces rubbing against each other; cello and violin pizzicati; a long sustained pitch produced by bowing above the fingers on the viola. Julia Eckhardt on viola was, in fact, the only one of the musicians I could see from where I was sat, and thus separating incidental from intentional sound was sometimes impossible. The sounds generated by the musicians when they did occur were not fussily framed or separated from the other acoustic information: they simply occurred. The atmosphere in the room seemed to me peaceful, still, restful. At one point a fly briefly but captivatingly danced in the spotlights. Clapping at the end seemed somehow superfluous or archaic; we did so quietly.

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Monday 26th April

April 26, 2010

I got home early evening then, a very relaxing journey home for once, the only problem being that I’m now really tired after a busy few days and just feel like going straight to sleep. I did manage to write up some of the music I heard at the weekend on the flight home, and I will post reports over the next day or two. For now apologies first for the somewhat erratic and vaguely alcohol fuelled posts of the past few days, and for the lack of much content in general the past six or seven days. The next week is going to be a very busy one for me musically, both here as I have a lot to get posted up over the next few days, and with the Cathnor label, where there should hopefully, finally be some CD releases available shortly. Then next weekend I’m at another busy festival, this year’s Freedom of the City event in London. So tonight I am off to bed to recharge the batteries before going back to the dayjob tomorrow and getting as much done as I can over the next few days. Thanks for the patience.

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Sunday 25th April

April 26, 2010

Regular readers will know of my love affair with Dublin. This has been my eighth visit here in five years, and I don’t tire of the place or the people, quite the opposite in fact. I head home again tomorrow, which makes me sad, particularly after a few relaxed whiskies tonight in exceptional company. Still […]

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Saturday 24th April

April 25, 2010

So it’s late, just about 2AM and I’m back in my room after another day of great music in great company. When I return home on Monday I will start writing up the concerts, but the standard has been mostly very high, culminating late tonight with a set from Radu Malfatti and Klaus Filip that […]

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Friday 23rd April

April 23, 2010

So I made it. I left for Heathrow really early this morning and in the end I am very pleased that I did. My flight did get cancelled, but all of the passengers were fitted onto other planes, and as I got to the airport so early I was able to get moved to an […]

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Thursday 22nd April

April 22, 2010

Very briefly then… its midnight, I leave here in about six hours heading for Ireland. Its quite possible I will post again in the morning from the airport, as I often do, but we shall see. I have just packed (yes a bit late I know…) arranged everything here so I can be away and am off to bed as soon as I’ve hit the publish button here.

A quick mention must be made though of two gigs happening (most annoyingly when I am away) in London. Its not often that there is a Wandelweiser-related concert happening somewhere close enough for me to easily get to, so its kind of frustrating when two happen in different places at the same time! As well as the events over in Dublin that I am going to see, there is also a couple of concerts taking place in London this weekend organised by Manfred Werder and involving such fine musicians as Julia Eckhardt, Angharad Davies and Tim Parkinson amongst several others.

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Wednesday 21st April

April 21, 2010

OK so I have decided that I need to take a few days off from posting properly here. For the same reasons as I explained last night I am struggling to find the time to get everything done right now, preparing to launch three new CDs and trying to sort a few things out with my parents before I fly (fingers crossed…) to Dublin on Friday. So I have to be honest, it is unlikely that I will post anything of any value tomorrow evening, mainly as I have to be in bed very early so as to be up in the wee hours to head off to what will undoubtably be a crazy Heathrow Airport, not something I am looking forward to much, but I am certainly very excited about getting to Dublin, seeing a lot of good friends again and listening to some fine music. Tomorrow’s post will probably be much like this one then, so I don’t blame you for not stopping by to read it!

When in Ireland I will continue to post every day, but how much I write will depend on whether I find an easy wi-fi connection or how much typing on an iPhone begins to wear my thumb out. I have been listening to a lot of good CDs this week, many of them on Another Timbre, but the new Max Eastley album, The Unami/Krebs on Erstwhile, a pile of stuff by Jeph Jerman and a disc by Nick Hennies and another by Fergus Kelly have all been spinning a lot, maybe I will be able to write a couple of reviews when traveling, but we shall see. I deserve a holiday anyway… Tonight’s pic is the cover image from another of the forthcoming Cathnor releases…

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Tuesday 20th April

April 20, 2010

Another content-free post tonight I am afraid. I am working really hard late in the evenings right now trying to get everything in place for the imminent release of three new Cathnor full-lengthers. Their arrival here has been delayed yet again by all of the airspace closure stuff (though I deal with a pressing plant with a Lancashire address apparently they are pressed abroad and flown in…!) but now that all of the airspace stuff seems to be slowly sorting itself out hopefully I can announce their availability soon. In the meantime I have three press releases to write, a website to completely update and a number of other things to get done, so my time is having to be spent in that direction right now. I have been listening to a number of albums, so there will be reviews here soon, alongside the promised Listen piece(s) and the first TWE interview, I can only get so much done at once however, and the priority right now has to be the Cathnor stuff, these releases have waited long enough as it is.

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CD Reviews

Monday 19th April

April 19, 2010

There are of course a number of issues with writing reviews as well as running a label. The most obvious ones are to do with conflicts of interest, perceived or otherwise that might occur when I write about a musician that has a CD released on Cathnor. The informality of this blog allows me to get away with writing about music by Cathnor musicians easier than elsewhere, though I will usually add a caveat to the text, or at least whenever I remember to do so. There are other problems though, often related to the fact that quite often when a new CD arrives I have already heard the music some months before in demo form. So can I write nice things about a CD I possibly rejected as a Cathnor release at an earlier date? Yes of course I can, but it makes things a little awkward.

In the case of Carliol, the new album by John Butcher and Rhodri Davies on the Ftarri label, I’m faced with a new scenario again. I heard this music about a year ago, as a demo, at a time when I really was not looking for new potential releases as i had already comitted to enough to keep me going for quite a while. I really liked the music though, and listened to the demo a lot, finally deciding that I should offer to release it, even though the timing wasn’t good. It needed to be heard. Anyway when I finally did offer to do so it turned out I was a few days too late and the music had found a home at Ftarri. In truth this worked out fine as I should not really have been offering to do anything at that time, and I knew the music would be well looked after by Ftarri. Now though, a year later with the very beautifully presented CD playing on the stereo I wonder just how objective I can be about the music now I have my reviewer hat on? In theory if I felt the music was good enough to release on Cathnor then I can’t have anything bad to say about it…

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Concert Reviews

Sunday 18th April

April 19, 2010

So to last night’s concert then. Quite a dofficult concert for me really, though it is hard to explain why. I had a very nice evening yesterday, beginning with a late afternoon stroll around a few London bookshops, a quiet dinner alone in a not too commercial noodle bar, a relaxed concert in an amazing sounding space followed by a couple of drinks in good company in the pub up the road and a beef and stilton pasty on the train home. In theory the complete recipe for a great evening, and I had a great time, but for some reason I struggled to get into the music.

There were three sets last night, all of them involving musicians I have seen play recently in other places and have enjoyed to one degree or another, but for some reason I struggled to concentrate last night, and thus failed to really connect with the music like I usually do. What’s more, I struggle to work out why. Perhaps I could blame the venue, a still working church in East London, complete with all of the usual paraphernalia one might expect from such a place, enough to annoy me to some degree, but in truth I found myself somewhat in awe of the place again, amazed at its slightly odd brickwork and bright red pillar construction and the incredible acoustic resonance of the place. The seats were very uncomfortable, as you might expect, but still I don’t think I can blame the church for disrupting my enjoyment of the music. They’ve already got enough to be blamed for anyway …

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Saturday 17th April

April 18, 2010

Tonight’s image is of one of the sets of suspended strip heaters in St Mark’s church in East London, where this evening I attended a concert of mostly improvised music. It was a lovely warm day in London today, but strangely colder in the church (they aren’t meant to be comfortable places…) so the heating was put on, which made me happy because as the strips heat up and cool down they make fantastic cracking sounds that are then thrown around the huge space because of the incredible acoustic properties in there. Its 1AM now, so I’m going to go to bed and write about the concert tomorrow, but this evening, as I got tot he church far too early I sat and listened to Seymour Wright, Paul Abbott and Daichi Yoshikawa soundcheck a while, which sounded good, but then, their conversations when they stopped playing, coupled with the heating which had just been turned on made for one of those lovely listening moments that come along from time to time. At this point there was no music, just low spoken voices and the crackle of the heating above my head all amplified around the space, and sitting quietly I really enjoyed the moment. Anyway, a nice evening in good company, more tomorrow.

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CD Reviews

Friday 16th April

April 16, 2010

At the end of my first week in my new role I feel pretty tired, so I am pleased to be off this weekend. Tomorrow night I will be attending this concert in London, say hello if you are there. Tonight I have a plate of very nicely made macaroni cheese and a particularly good chablis to relax with, and I’m probably not in the mood to think too hard about music, but here’s a post anyway! Because of my state of mind I chose the new CD by Taku Sugimoto and Moe Kamura to write about tonight. This CD, named Saritote II, the second in a series, is just a fraction over ten minutes long and contains nine very short little songs, so light listening really, just what I need this evening.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 15th April

April 15, 2010

So to Sounding Music then, the new album by AMM. The release contains the recording of the quintet performance from last year’s Freedom of the City Festival that I wrote about here. The AMM group on that occasion was made up of regular members Eddie Prévost and John Tilbury alongside recent frequent collaborator John Butcher, the American composer and previous occasional AMM collaborator Christian Wolff plus the young London based cellist Ute Kanngiesser, a regular at Prévost’s weekly improvisation workshops and here the first woman to appear on an AMM record. I have listened to this CD almost constantly since I received it on Monday, perhaps I have listened to it through some fifteen times already. Going bacl over the post I wrote following the concert in question I have picked out a few of the thoughts I had at the time. I mentioned in the comments after the post that the music did not feel ground-breaking, but it did feel like AMM Music, perhaps more so than on any of the other occasions I had seen the group since the departure of Keith Rowe. I also mentioned that while he fitted well into the group, Christian Wolff seemed to play the disruptive role in the set, taking things out of what might be perceived as “safe” AMM territory more often than not.

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Wednesday 15th April

April 14, 2010

OK, so I said I would write a review every night this week, but unexpectedly I was taken out to dinner tonight and at half past midnight I’ve not been home long so there isn’t much time for me to listen and write, sorry. I have spent the day listening on and off to the new AMM album Sounding Music anyway, so expect a write-up of that listening experience soon. I also hope to spring a bit of life into these pages this coming weekend as well with one, maybe two new additions to the sadly neglected Listen Series, plus the first in a series of TWE interviews, which I am very proud to be doing. Watch this space for more on these here soon. All of this blog activity and there will also be three new Cathnor CDs released very soon. The Cathnor website will announce them as soon as I have them ready to go. All very exciting.

So as ever when I have little to ay I try and promote the work of friends. A couple of plugs here then, one for the concert at St Mark’s Church in Myddleton Square in London featuring Benedict Drew, Seymour Wright, Daichi Yoshikawa, Paul Abbott, Stephen Cornford and Samuel Rodgers. Looking forward to that one, as it looks like I will be able to make it along. St Marks has a fantastic resonance to the place, wonderful acoustics. Details here.

Also here is a link to a page of writing, with a downloadable pdf and Mp3 file by Tisha Mukarji. When I saw her last she handed me a great little book she had written, about 50% of which appears on the pdf. The book is titled Auscultation, named after the medical practice of listening very closely and carefully often with a stethoscope. Her writing really hit a note with me, so its nice to be able to share this link.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 13th April

April 13, 2010

I was somewhat taken by surprise the first time I played Noth of the North, a recent release by Mark Pichelin, Xavier Charles and Ivar Grydeland on the SOFA label.I had not stopped to read the sleeve notes when I put the disc into the player, and was not aware of Pichelin at all before doing this, so given that I knew Charles’ and Grydeland’s music quite well I assumed I would be met with instrumental improvisation of some kind. In fact the first three of the nine tracks here don’t seem to have any recognisable instruments on them and each features field recordings (or phonographies as Pichelin describes them once I had got around to reading the liners). It turns out that the first seven tracks here all involve recordings made by the French field recordist Pichelin during a trip to the far Northern parts of Norway in June 2006. So we hear murmured conversations, vaguely watery sounds, some kind of animal (maybe a pig?) snuffling and grunting and some far less vague, definitely very watery recordings. These three tracks all pass quickly, the longest of them just over three minutes in length and are all quite nice, well recorded and presented by Pichelin, but if there is any sign of Charles (who is credited with clarinet and harmonica on this album) and Grydeland (credited simply with banjo) on these tracks then my ears can’t spot it.

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CD Reviews

Monday 12th April

April 12, 2010

Tonight I listened to another Creative Sources disc though, one of the most anticipated from the new batch this time, a quartet recording by Ernesto and Guilherme Rodrigues (cello and violin respectively) alongside Carlos Santos’ electronics and on this occasion Martin Küchen’s saxophone. Regular readers will know I am a big fan of Küchen’s music, or at least the one side of it I know well, he also plays a lot of free jazz. His new trio release with Seymour Wright and Keith Rowe is another great one I’ve been playing a lot and really must write about soon. How he would work alongside the familiar sound of Rodrigues senior and junior was interesting to me. Opening up the CD sleeve as I first played this disc a week or two back I also discovered the brief but thoroughly interesting liner notes were written by none other than Brian Olewnick, which only added to my interest in the music contained on the disc.

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Sunday 11th April

April 11, 2010

If the picture above looks like a boring picture of an empty racecourse with the city of London in the distance well then that’s because that is exactly what it is. For a good part of the day today that image is what I could see, as I was indeed sat right at the back of the main stand at a mostly deserted racecourse, with just my newly upgraded iPhone 3GS, my trusty iPod, two books, one of Wallace Stevens’ poetry and the other a set of conversations held between Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, plus a simple notebook for company. I drove my parents there in the early hours as they were working for the day in one of the conference rooms, and took them home again in the evening, but the rest of the day was spent killing time and trying to write. Fortunately a walk into the nearby town revealed a handy coffee shop which supplied me with fresh coffee and some human contact, but otherwise I spent the best part of the day with just the music on my iPod for company.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 10th April

April 10, 2010

So after one week in my new role I feel less tired and stressed, but worryingly slightly bored. I’m sure it won’t last and I am enjoying the break from hard work while I can, but its nice to come home from work at a more sensible hour and be able to write about music without the haze of exhaustion affecting my judgement. This evening I have been listening to another 3″ disc, except this one isn’t actually a 3″, but eighteen minutes of music recorded onto a 5″ CDr. If this sounds a strange thing to do then maybe you haven’t ever purchased a lot of 3″ CDrs- they are in fact more expensive than their full size relations…

Anyway, the disc in question is named Undercurrent and is a live recording made by Simon Whetham in Brighton just over a year ago, and released here on Paul Khimasia Morgan’s Slightly Off Kilter label. Regular readers here will have read my writing about Simon Whetham’s music before, He is a relatively prolific composer who creates vaguely concrete-ish collages of field recordings, invariably using a computer to edit and arrange pieces he has captured on his travels. As far as I am aware though, all of the releases I have listened to before have been studio pieces that Whetham has composed and arranged on a computer at home. This release is a recording of a live set. The question I then find myself wondering then is how much of this music was improvised in the moment, and how much prepared in advance.

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CD Reviews

Friday 9th April

April 9, 2010

Californian composer Michael Pisaro’s music has long been a favourite of mine, and so just recently its been great to see his work garner a lot of positive attention, none more so than Yuko Zama’s remarkably in depth explorations of his recent music as can be read here. Given all that she and others have written about the recent 3″ disc July Mountain released in a small edition, and by now I imagine out of print on the Engraved Glass label I struggle to wonder what I might add. The fact that Michael, alongside his collaborator on this release Greg Stuart has a full length disc ready for release on my Cathnor label just make sit even more difficult for me.

That the music that forms July Mountain is really very beautiful will be no surprise to anyone that has heard Pisaro’s compositions before, so in many ways I can move on from that fact and perhaps try and work out why. The piece is a twenty-one minute composition for field recordings and percussion, but as with all of Pisaro’s work the score in itself is a work of art, a carefully arranged set of timed placements of the various elements, meticulously plotted over several pages of charts and finely detailed instruction. It also helps that Greg Stuart, the percussionist and close collaborator of Pisaro is extremely talented and very much in tune with the composer’s ways of working. The score for July Mountain can be downloaded here, and I encourage you to study it carefully so I won’t list everything it includes again. There are twenty field recordings spread methodically through the piece though, with ten of them sounding at any one time and their appearance and disappearance staggered, so as one ends another begins. The recordings are all to have been made in mountain or valley areas, and we hear birds twittering, cars and aircraft passing, distant voices chattering, the wind etc… Alongside this there are 143 separate recordings of persussion sounds divided into ten different groups of classification ranging from brushed drum sounds to falling rice grains to sinetones projected onto resonant surfaces and then recorded, through to a standard piano. Each of these sounds is placed carefully into the music by Pisaro. Even the piano sounds, which are split into 32 chord strikes, each one recorded separately and then panned through different stereo channels are arranged with precision timing, the first appearing at the eight minute mark, each further one occurring at twenty-two and a half second intervals thereafter.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 8th April

April 9, 2010

There is something strangely exciting about sleeping in a hotel room in a city centre. I think because these days I mostly do this while visiting places to attend concerts I am usually in a good frame of mind anyway, but am I the only one that takes great pleasure from listening to the late night hubbub of the city below as I first fall into bed, safe and sound behind a locked hotel room door but with a kind of murkily filtered roar present somewhere at the limits of audibility, or if I am staying in Huddersfield quite a bit louder. There is that kind of indeterminate low hum caused by the sound of distant traffic in different directions, the gaggle of human speech, the odd raised voice here and there but mostly just a blur, industrial sounds of one kind or another, etc etc… Listening from the safety of your pillow to this detailed ambience which is again submerged to some degree under the hotel’s air conditioning and plumbing at work is one of life’s little pleasures to me.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 7th April

April 7, 2010

Ok so some music… I will admit, that after giving it a few spins a week or so back it was Brian’s little review of the Birgit Uhler / Gregory Büttner 3″ CD called Tehricks on Gregory’s 1000Füssler label that encouraged me to dig this one out of the pile and play it some more. I’d quite enjoyed it on first listen, though I am a fan of the 3″ format in general and tend to find myself gravitating towards music released on cute little discs (this one, being red and semi-transparent is particularly cute) more than most. However, reading Brian’s review I noticed something I had not spotted before as I had not paid any attention to the accompanying press release- Büttner, who works with a laptop played his sound contributions to this set of three short pieces through a series of tiny speakers placed inside Uhler’s trumpet and so used as mutes. This is a clever little idea, probably not original, though apart from Seymour Wright and Martin Küchen’s penchants for putting radios into the bell of their respective saxophones I can’t think of a recording example of this being done before.

So, when I first played this through a few times, while it did occur to me that the sound of the two musicians was very nicely balanced I had no idea about the method used for creating the music. Listening back now though, with this additional knowledge I do think that the laptop sounds we hear have an acoustic edge to them, a resonance you would expect from being placed in such a vibrant position. Am I hearing things though? Does this new information really make me hear things I did not before? I listened carefully the first few times around so why did I not pick up on what I hear now on those occasions? If I was told that the duo recorded the music stood in an underground cave would I then hear different elements again? How much of what I hear is really there, and how much just a case of my brain tricking itself into what it wants to hear? I am very much interested in this area of thought, whether a certain kind of “applied” listening can reveal different things in a piece of music. I suspect here that I can indeed detect elements of the sound that result from the recording techniques that I didn’t pick up on directly beforehand, but then I also wonder how much I mentally amplify these elements above and beyond what there really is to hear.

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Tuesday 6th April

April 6, 2010

No post tonight I’m afraid. I am somewhat exhausted this evening, though not because of work for a change. My Father has been unwell for some time, first with a stroke, the impact of which he is still learning to cope with, but also most recently through the discovery of a tumour on his lung, the status of which we are still awaiting test results on. Today he also collapsed, only briefly, but in a heap at the bottom of the stairs in a state that caused my Mother much concern. He is OK and the fall seems to have been just a reaction to new medication, but its been a trying day.

So tonight I came and sat down, feeling stressed and weary, and put a CD into the player but just didn’t have the energy to really listen. Its funny really, how listening is supposedly one of the senses that we cannot switch off. We are not supposed to be able to stop sound attracting our attention, as with our noses and our sense of smell we cannot completely close our ears as we can close our eyes. Yet the deeper concentration needed to listen to music as I have learned to do, the degree of focus required cannot be achieved if your mind is distracted, if your thoughts are not entirely with the music. I could play a CD, and possibly write something about it, but I doubt I would be listening properly, and I imagine my writing would reflect that.

So I’m off to bed in silence this evening. For those more able to focus their ears here is a link to a new free album by Olaf Hochherz released on Mattin’s Free Software Series label. The above photo is one I had taken to use for a potential Cathnor website redesign. It has no direct link to this post other than being something I was about to drop into my IMac’s Trash bin when I realised I needed a photo for tonight’s post.

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CD Reviews

Monday 5th April

April 5, 2010

So I spent today listening to Luigi Nono’s music for much of the journey, though initially I had tried to listen to Regen, the disc I am to write about tonight, another Creative Sources release, this one some four years old and by the duo of Christoph Schiller (spinet) and Harald Kimmig (violin). Although its a somewhat dated release now I only bought my copy earlier this year at a concert involving Schiller that particularly impressed me. It was one of two discs I purchased, on Simon Reynell’s recommendation, the other I reviewed here, and I promised that once I had spent time with both I would let him know which I preferred. So here we are.

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Concert Reviews

Sunday 4th April

April 4, 2010

Now regular readers here are probably fed up with me writing about Paul Abbott, Seymour Wright and Ross Lambert. Certainly these three names crop up quite often in my live reviews, and rarely do I have anything other than gushing praise for their work, so feel free to stop reading here if you don’t want more of the same. Tonight’s show though was something really quite different. This trio involves Paul Abbott working with film elements rather than sound, or actually as well as sound, as he still contributed a fair bit of the aural element of the performance, just as in their own way the other two musicians added to the visual. The trio set up in the centre of Oto, arranged in a triangle with a large white wooden board laid flat on the floor between them onto which images were projected from above. Rather than just use the board as a screen though the three then threw, balanced or carefully placed assorted items onto it, interacting with the imagery directly. Also nearby an old computer monitor wedged into a plastic box, screen protruding outwards showed the same video in whichever direction it ended up being moved, kicked, knocked over into, and a strange six foot high wooden rectangle painted black (very much resembling the monolith from 2001: A Space Oddyesy!) stood apart from everything else, and was moved from time to time, as if to obscure the view of different audience members at any one time.

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Saturday 3rd April

April 3, 2010

Yes, you guessed it, meagre pickings on the post front again tonight as I have been in London for a concert. What a concert though… For those that are bored with me writing excited reports about the music of Paul Abbott, Ross Lambert and Seymour Wright, don’t bother reading these pages tomorrow. Tonight’s performance from this trio as one half of a bill at Café Oto (sadly I couldn’t stay for the other half) was really inspirational though, an audio/visual experience quite unlike very much I have witnessed before. The teaser photo there captures Seymour scraping the screen of an upturned TV squeezed into a plastic crate with the mouthpiece from one of his saxophones. If you would like to know what this was all about, I will try and describe it all tomorrow, though I suspect my report won’t come even close to doing it all justice. Until the morning then…

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CD Reviews

Friday 2nd April

April 2, 2010

So today’s listening and consequent writing didn’t quite go to plan. Since I recently received nine new discs from Creative Sources in the post I figured I would work my way through some of the remaining discs left from the last parcel Ernesto sent last year, and as much as I dislike doing it, the plan was to write a series of capsule reviews a la Brian’s so to get up to date and write longer pieces on some of the new discs. Well I set out with this in mind, and put the first disc into the player, a CD by Sylvain Chauveau named Touching Down Lightly, and then somehow I didn’t listen to anything else the rest of the day. This CD is really rather beautiful indeed. The disc contains one piece of solo piano music, lasting forty-eight minutes, played by Chauveau, who I know nothing other than his website lets me know, but it would appear he has quite a number of solo discs available. It is both inevitable and predictable that a review I might write of a solo piano work I like reminds me of Feldman, but Touching Down Lightly really does. The music drifts along at a mostly slow pace with carefully picked out notes allowed to hang in the space and dies slowly, often very slowly indeed. There are little repeated patterns, lengthy spaces left between segments and a kind of melancholic grandeur about it all. If these traits don’t allow me to mention Feldman then I guess nothing will…

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CD Reviews

Thursday 1st April

April 1, 2010

I’m on record as saying, probably more than once that Potlatch is, in my opinion the most consistently strong label around today. These days Jacques Oger probably only manages a couple of discs a year (I know the feeling) but they are just about always really strong, even when the musicians involved are not that well known to me, last years Narthex release being a good example. I know the music of Battus and Sehnaoui Abdelnour quite well though, and should declare an interest here in that I have recently agreed to release a CD involving Pascal. Ichnites is, for all essential purposes a straight up improv record, and a pretty good one at that. Battus plays “rotating surfaces” a form of instrumentation he goes on in the liner notes to explain involves small motorised components rescued from the insides of old Walkmen used to excite assorted surfaces. Sehnaoui Abdelnour makes life much easier by just playing alto sax. However it is inevitable and doubtlessly predictable for me to say that despite their perceived differences it is in places hard to tell the two sets of instrumentation apart. There are five tracks here, the first four all weighing in at roughly ten minutes in length, the last, titled voies & allures (ways and paces?) lasting half of that.

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