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Tuesday 31st August

August 31, 2010

OK, so I feel a real fraud for doing this, but I need to duck out of writing about music properly for a second day in succession. Today went as planned, but I didn’t take into account the severity of the toll it would take on my body. As you will know if you could be bothered to read last night’s excuse for a post, I was tired when I went to bed after a tough day. Then I slept for a total of two and a half hours before having to get up at a little after 3AM to drive my parents to the airport (about 120 miles away) and then return home in time to head off to work. Though today was nice and sunny, the early hours of the morning were full of thick fog that made driving treacherous. Quite a bit of guesswork was involved, and its lucky there wasn’t much other traffic about at that hour. Work was tough again, as it has been every day recently, and so at nine o’colock this evening I finally drove back home, and I have to say that I was so tired that I barely remember the journey at all. I do remember turning off the new International Nothing album (which I had hoped to write about tonight but will do so tomorrow now) because it was just too lazy and languid, which, when you are desperately trying to stay awake at 60mph is the last thing you need music to be.

So I got in, fell into the bath, and promptly fell asleep there. When I woke about an hour later I was just so lacking in energy I fell into bed, and only now, at approaching half midnight have I sat up with the laptop to pen this excuse. Sorry. At least Wombatz likes reading this kind of nonsense…

One plug then, just so as to not waste your time completely- Here is a great new blog type archive / resource put together by David Papapostolou. It feels as if there have been a few of these kinds of thing started lately by musicians, which is really good news if you ask me. Its great to be able to understand an artist’s work more fully, fill in some of the gaps between the “standard” recordings etc… bookmark this one.

Tomorrow’s post has to be better. It can’t be any worse after all.

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Monday 30th August

August 30, 2010

Sorry I know you don’t want to hear it, but I had a very tough day, working on a bank holiday, came home with a screaming headache in a real temper, and fell into bed for a couple of hours rather than do anything constructive. In about five hours I have to be up again to go and drive my parents to Gatwick Airport, a four hour round trip, after which I have to go to work. So tonight I’m afraid I have little to write again. Some good news for fans of free improvised music and pictures of good food though – There have been updates at Paul Abbott, Ben Drew and Seymour Wright’s rather wonderful Flat Grey Marked Suspended Pole Holds Tree (yes I think the title of the site definitely changes every so often!) site. There are now seven lengthy sessions of music that can be downloaded from the site.

As I have written before, don’t download the music expecting finished CD style “statements”, the site works as an archive of the trio’s meetings, both musically and otherwise, and the audio selections are just documents of some of this process. The wonderful thing for me is to follow the music from the first sessions through to tthe seventh, listen to how things have changed, not just through the choices of sounds made, but in the dialogue between the three. One of these days when I have a spare ten hours or so I’m going to do just that. Yeah right, ten minutes would be good right now…

Back to reviews tomorrow, albeit sleepy, tired ones…

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CD Reviews

Sunday 29th August

August 29, 2010

The disc that caught my ear tonight came out some time in the last eighteen months. Its an eight track album named, curiously, Whistle Pig Saloon, by the duo of John Ferguson (electric guitar and effects pedals) and Robert van Heumen (laptop, joystick and controllers). The music is a fiery, hectic array of rapidly changing, often very interesting bits of sound, with a strong sense of “guitariness” throughout, but dispersed, processed and chopped up enough to make you keep doubting. The music is thoroughly electroacoustic, with (I think) the guitar sounds being used as samples by van Heumen, who threads them back into the music. So we hear the guitar, which is rarely played in a traditional manner anyway, and then we get the guitar fed through an array of wild filters back into the music. The end result is a mass of textures and colours that come thick and fast, broken up by little interludes, but a real assault on the senses when they really get going.

Whistle Pig Saloon probably isn’t an album to put on if you feel like a relaxing night with some restful music. I am reminded by Otomo’s early improvisations, rapid cuts from one sound to another but with a use of feedback and natural electronic distortion to apply a kind of glue to hold it all together. While everything is very frantic, I tend to find myself enjoying the parts where structures are allowed to build, such as the section at the end of Somatic Listening when a squealing loop of feedback from van Heumen is pushed into the background by an impromptu bluesy finger picked section from Ferguson. Generally these little passages where the musicians settle into something interesting don’t quite last long enough for me, and the sensation of being bombarded by a constant flow of aggressive shapes and patterns can get a little tiring after a while, though the technical ability of the musicians to produce such a mash up of material in real time is impressive.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 28th August

August 28, 2010

The disc in question is the fourteenth CDr release on Mattin’s Free Software Series label, by the Peruvian self-styled “noisy laptop musician” Christian Galarreta. This release will doubtlessly be available as a free download from the label’s site as well, though at the time of writing it has not yet appeared there. The disc is named Computer Music is Dead, which would appear to be a tongue in cheek reference to an old Mattin album named Reductionism is Dead. Neither of these statements is particularly true, but then maybe they aren’t meant to be. The music here on this CDr though was certainly not reductionist, though the list of free software used suggests it was definitely created on a computer.

There is a text on the back of the sleeve written in Spanish, and for the second day in succession, there is no English translation! (I’m not complaining here at all by the way, just amused at the coincidence) There are two pieces here, the first of which is a live recording, complete with whooping and applause at the end. The disc begins very very quietly indeed, leading me to turn up the volume and prick up my ears. Soon though a harsh buzzing drone emerges and gradually rises in volume until I found myself reaching for the volume dial again, this time turning it right back down. This sound, which is granted full of detail and oscillates around a bit is not dissimilar to the noise you get if you plug speakers into a computer’s audio input socket, a kind of rasping, ugly white noise. This distortion continues to grow, breaking up a little here and there on the surface to add some interest to the otherwise consistent drone. The actual sound though, the noise we are forced to tune our ears to is essentially ugly, and in my humble opinion, a little unpleasant to listen to. Maybe that is the point however, perhaps it isn’t supposed to be easily digested, maybe it isn’t supposed to sound ‘nice’.

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CD Reviews

Friday 27th August

August 27, 2010

Ah, what is it about Diego Chamy and Axel Dörner’s sleeve designs? Another great, if slightly unsettling one, this time for their What matters to Ali CD that came out nearly three years ago now on the c3r label, but was sent to me very recently by Diego, partly because the music here was recorded just the day before some of the music from the recent Super Axel Dörner release (reviewed here) was recorded. So although this album has been around quite a while now, and was recorded back in 2006, it seems relevant to write about it now.

This disc is another that features Dörner’s acoustic trumpet alongside Chamy’s percussion and spoken words, though here the speech seems to be limited to just a barely audible, far-off passage recited on and off for a few minutes at the start of the single forty-one minute piece. In the sleeve notes it appears that the words are written out, in the Spanish tongue they are spoken in. Amusingly, the liner notes, which are otherwise in English, thank someone for their work translating the text into English, though the musicians then decided not to print the translation.

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Uncategorized

Thursday 27th August

August 27, 2010

So late tonight, (very late in fact, I am beginning to write here at half past midnight) I have dimmed the lights and put my new turntable to use again, not playing anything new I can review I’m afraid, but playing the Melos Quartet’s recording of Schubert’s wonderful Death and the Maiden string quartet, a favourite piece of mine. Its been nice listening to music on vinyl. On a purely sonic level, I can’t really say that the music itself sounds any better if played on a turntable, not yet anyway. The standard comment that the music sounds “warmer” played this way is hard for me to evaluate given that so far I have only played old discs that I have not heard CD recordings of. Soon though I intend to do a compare and contrast exercise with three versions of the same piece of music on different formats. Should be interesting anyway. There is however a certain human aspect that comes with playing vinyl records that I have been enjoying a great deal. The shaky hand that takes the cartridge across to the record, that crack of static as it finds its place in the groove, the physicality of watching a disc spin, these are all very enjoyable elements to playing vinyl records. Aside from this its great to be handling twelve inch sleeves again as well, though it must be said that all of the albums I have played so far have been wrapped in quite terrible examples of design.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 25th August

August 26, 2010

Another of the recent batch of releases on the NonVisual Objects label tonight, a split CD release by the American field recordist / composer Asher and the English digital composer BG Nicholls, who appears here under his working name Fourm. The release contains roughly half an hour of material from each artist, with Asher’s half titled Selected Passages and Fourm’s set.grey. If spilt discs like this often don’t often work because of a mismatch between the two musicians involved, that isn’t the case here as both artists work in quiet, minimal areas.

Asher’s half an hour is made up of five short pieces titled Untitled Passage I-V. According to the liner note, Asher Thal-Nir stayed on a small college campus in Vermont during the winter of 2006, and while there made a number of recordings of his surroundings, and some of the instruments at the college. He chose in the end to not use the majority of the recordings he had amassed, putting aside the sounds of footsteps in snow, wind, ravens, local weather reports etc and worked only with recordings he made of one of the pianos in the college. Asher then took these recordings and reworked them gently, Applying some treatments on some of the tracks, but also shaping the sounds compositionally to make these five short pieces.

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Tuesday 24th August

August 24, 2010

Home late from work, having to be up early again in the morning, listening to albums I am writing about for somewhere other than here, trying to paint CD sleeve images and still suffering with a bad back means no review tonight I am afraid. I know I would be complaining about being bored if I had half as much to do as I have right now, but even so I feel under quite a bit of pressure at the moment, so much to do, so little time to do it.

As I hate to leave you with completely content-less posts, Clicking here will take you to a link to an unreleased track from the same sessions that produced the imminent new album from one of my very favourite groups, the Chip Shop Music quartet of David Lacey, Paul Vogel, Martin Küchen and Erik Carlsson. This track, although unmastered and not included on the final album is still pretty good if you ask me. I will doubtlessly write about the new album soon.

Sorry for the brief post then, something better tomorrow.

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CD Reviews

Monday 23rd August

August 23, 2010

I did manage to listen to some music tonight, the fourth and last in the recent Duos with Brass series of releases on the Another Timbre label, a series that has so far produced a number of heartily enjoyable acoustic improv recordings. This one comes from the French duo of Matthias Forge (trombone) and Olivier Toulemonde (acoustic objects) and revels in the gloriously un-French title Pie ‘n’ Mash, but then given that this music was recorded early this year in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England perhaps the title isn’t a surprise 😉

I have always really enjoyed the music of Matthias Forge, both on the occasions I have seen him live and on the few CDs I have heard. His trombone playing, which is mostly noteless and yet somehow extends beyond mere hisses and splutters into sudden explosions and semi-percussive moments is full of life and energy. I know Olivier Toulemonde’s playing less well, but here he combines superbly with Forge. The duo seem a perfect match for each other. Exactly what the acoustic objects are that he plays I am not certain, but there are plenty of scrapes and rattles of a metallic nature, some bowed sounds and the unmistakeable sound of a small ball bearing spinning in some kind of circular metal lid. the single thirty-nine minute piece here is generally quite quiet and subdued, but also bursts into little patches of frenetic activity where the two sets of sounds blur into each other, scratches and pops and fizzes all mingling together. At its best moments the music sounds like the results of a pig snuffling and snorting its way around a contact mic buried in a scrap metal yard… there is a lot of chirpy playfulness and real pleasure to be heard in this music.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 22nd August

August 22, 2010

I heard this recording a good few months ago, and so it feels familiar listening to it again now it has a full CD release. That I have also listened to quite a bit of Blechmann’s music and even more of Murayama’s in the intervening months has only enhanced this feeling. The disc is named 347, a reference to La Cométe 347, the Paris venue in which the music was recorded. The brief liner notes to the disc mention the musicians desire to “improvise listening and organise sonic space together in a delicate way”. There is also a quote from Cage on the back-

“Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise
When we ignore it, it disturbs us.
When we listen to it, we find it fascinating”

This quote suggests that maybe there is a lot of external noise to be heard on this recording. There isn’t really anything that sounds obtrusive, and I can’t actually tell if the music was recorded in front of an audience or not, but there is certainly a sense of space in the recording, a kind of distance between the two musicians that comes through not from the way they respond to each other, but in the spatial arrangement of the musicians. It feels like they recorded in a big, empty space with a high ceiling and long unadorned walls, such is the resonance of the sounds here, not really echoing, just a sensation of a lot of heavy air in the room between the two musicians.

The two do what you might expect if you know their music. I really enjoy Blechmann’s minimalist roars and rumbles. I’m not sure how his sounds originate, whether they are processed from field recordings or entirely computer generated, but I suspect (and I’m guessing having never seen him live) that a fair degree of additional grit and filter is added to his elongated sounds after they have left the computer, perhaps through some manipulation of the speaker cones that play the sounds back. His contributions are as subtle and patient as ever then, sometimes existing when you don’t notice them, building up and growing out of the dense air in the room into huge clouds of fuzzy abstraction.

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Concert Reviews

Saturday 21st August

August 21, 2010

One question occurred to me last night when I was sat in the quite ridiculously ostentatious surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall dressed up in all of its BBC Proms garb- I wondered what Cornelius Cardew would have made of his music being played here. There must have been somewhere between two and three thousand people in the building last night to watch the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra perform Cardew’s music alongside work by Cage, Skempton and Feldman. The BBC were out in force, broadcasting the show live on Radio 3, and the hall did their bit to make the concert as annoying as possible, selling programmes that contained exactly twice as many pages of advertising as information and instructing staff to run around the hall stopping anyone from taking any kind of photographs at all. I’ve never felt quite so out of place as I did here last night, and never before have I felt the need to keep my eyes closed during a concert quite as strongly as I did last night.

The irony is of course, that the Cardew piece being played was written for a large 50+ piece orchestra, so if it was ever to be performed in the UK it would require something like this degree of grand outlay. Cardew wrote the piece played, Bun No.1 for Orchestra as a student, and is quoted by his biographer John Tilbury as saying he named it so because he felt writing the work for orchestra felt like giving an elephant a bun at a zoo. This suggests that Cardew was going through the notions with the piece, fulfilling his academic obligations with this post-Webern serialist piece while he went on working on more experimental works. if this is true then it feels even more peculiar that it is this work that appears on a Proms bill, some thirty eight years after any other Cardew was performed. So how would Cardew have felt about one of the works he was least interested in being performed on such a lavish occasion? We will never know, but while I enjoyed the chance to hear the piece, (I never have done so before in any manner) something didn’t quite feel right about it all to me.

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Friday 20th August

August 20, 2010

Tonight I’m in London, to attend the John Tilbury / BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Proms performance of Cardew, Cage, Feldman and Skempton. Because it’s a late start (10PM) and therefore late finish I booked a really cheap hotel room to crash in overnight and head home in the morning. Now as £20 a night hotel […]

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Thursday 19th August

August 19, 2010

Wow, today was a good day. I finally got a day off of work after putting in at least a ten hour shift every day for the last seven days in succession. I celebrated by waking late, reading for a while before taking a trip to the post office and then meeting up with Julie. We went into Oxford to do some crucial, important shopping (Julie needed an umbrella) and stuck around for dinner later. While wandering about the shops however we found the vinyl records department of the Oxfam shop, somewhere that had somehow passed me by before, and after perusing the well stocked racks I bought four albums, a double disc set of Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony, two Schubert albums, one of them predictably a recording of the String Quintet I didn’t already own by the Amadeus Quartet, the other a recording of the Death and the Maiden quartet by the Melos Quartet, plus a record of Webern’s complete quartet music, complete with one of the most frightening record sleeves I have ever laid my eyes on. Along with a whole bunch of supplies from the art shop to enable me to paint (yes, paint!) a CD sleeve design this weekend I went home happy with my purchases.

But hang on I hear regular readers cry, why buy vinyl when you don’t own a turntable? Well, after picking up the records, feeling bad that I had these new discs but no way of playign them, we wandered off to the hi-fi shop and I bought a turntable. Yes, at last, much to the relief of many of my musical acquaintances, I did the dirty deed and bought a Pro-Ject Genie 1.3. This one here for those that are interested. Over the last couple of years I have accumulated a little pile of maybe twenty or thirty vinyl discs here, partly through picking up old classical recordings at car boot sales and charity shops, but also because a few bits and pieces have been sent to me by kind people that did not know I didn’t have anything to play them on. So now I will be able to go back over those few items and write about them alongside the CDs, and the downloads. If someone could add a few more hours tot eh end of every day that would be good…

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Download Reviews

Wednesday 18th August

August 18, 2010

So my hopefully weekly review of a freely downloadable piece then- tonight a recent(ish) release on Tim Blechmann’s Moka Bar net label, the catalogue of which can be found here. before discussing the music, one thing I like about Moka Bar- similar to Homophoni, Blechmann doesn’t overdo the number of releases available just because the overheads are low. In the four or five years that have passed since the net label began, there have only been six releases. While maybe this could show a degree of apathy towards the venture it more likely shows a healthy restraint, particularly as Blechmann himself appears on a good percentage of the recordings. The music also comes with a pdf file which can be printed off and folded up to make a sleeve for the disc you make from the audio files. This last detail I like a lot, it shows that degree of care and attention I have mentioned before in discussions about downloadable music.

The music I have been listening to tonight then consists to two tracks by the quartet of Blechmann, Klaus Filip, and Dieb13 all from Vienna, where the music was recorded back in 2006, plus Ivan Palacky, visiting from the Czech Republic. For this recording Palacky played his amplified knitting machine, Dieb13 a set of turntables, and Filip and Blechmann a laptop apiece. I like the work of all of these four improvisers, and so was eager to listen to these studio pieces when I downloaded them a few weeks back, but you know the story, too much music, too little time etc, glad to have burnt them to a CD to play out loud on the stereo now however.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 17th August

August 17, 2010

If, through the opening to last night’s post I could possibly have been accused of reinforcing the whole improvised music-superstars-hierarchy thing by citing the musicians I wrote about as my favourites with their particular instruments, I will try and reverse some of that tonight by writing a review of a CDr given to me by a musician I had never heard before, a Sony generic disc with titles written on with a permanent marker, wrapped in a cheaply and roughly made, computer printed sleeve. The disc is the first of three somewhat homemade releases on David Grundy’s Woe Betitde records label. I also had to copy the music onto a different disc before I could spend any time with it because the CDr included wouldn’t play in my CD player. If this seems a lot of effort to go to for an album by a musician I don’t know the music of then it is worth remembering that I was given this CD free to listen to, and when such a gesture is made, then its not so hard to find the will to put the effort in. I just wish I could do the same for every disc I get sent in a more reasonable amount of time.

This disc then is a solo album named Unbidden containing two improvisations for electronics by Grundy himself. Fittingly, given my opening paragraph here the album gained its title from the fact that nobody really knows David’s music that well, and nobody had asked for these recordings to be made, or for them to be released. They are here though, and they are actually rather enjoyable. The composer might be a little surprised to read me describe the work here in this way though, given that in his liner notes he states that he finds the music quite punishing to listen to, and so therefore cannot promise the listener any more luck. “punishing” is an interesting word to use here, as the music, and the first piece in particular makes use of harsh, searing sinewaves and oscillations at quite a high volume and with consistent intensity, making for a really quite visceral listening experience, although one that does contain quite a lot of detail and change.

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CD Reviews

Monday 17th August

August 17, 2010

There are some instruments, which, if you asked me to name my very favourite musician that played said instrument, I would struggle to be able to think of one name. The saxophone springs to mind, as does percussion, or electronics, there are so many great musicians working with these tools I just couldn’t be pinned down to one name. With the trumpet and violin however, I can do this quite easily. Although there are an awful lot of really great trumpeters out there, I don’t know if there is any one that has consistently given me so much pleasure as Axel Dörner. If naming one trumpeter didn’t take long, then its even easier to pinpoint a violinist. Angharad Davies has, for me, been the most consistently interesting violinist that has crossed my path over the last couple of decades. The difference between the two names above might be their recorded output. While Dörner has appeared on dozens of albums, Davies has appeared on far fewer, a factor being slowly corrected as time goes by, but I think it is still very fair to say that given her ability and standing in the improvised music world she remains under-recorded. So a new duo disc by this pair then, was always going to push the right buttons for me.

if you know the music of these two improvisers, then there are no surprises here. The music captures a recording made by Simon Reynell at a West London house in December 2008. It sounds as if the two musicians just sat down and played together, not attempting to adapt their style or technique at all, just playing to see what might happen, drawing on the experience they had of playing occasionally together over the last decade. So the individual voices are there, Dörner at his most muted and breathy, but also completely acoustic, Davies working (I think) completely with the bow, mostly on the strings, prepared at times with small clips, but also bowing the body of the violin so as to find grey tones to match the trumpet’s hiss and hum…

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Uncategorized

Sunday 16th August

August 15, 2010

Sorry- I left the house at 6.30AM this morning to go to work, and in the end did not return here until gone eleven o’clock tonight, having been roped unexpectedly into a work social event this evening. So now I am home, very tired indeed, my eyes stinging from a lot of driving in the dark, and quite frankly not in the mood to do anything other than collapse into bed just as soon as I have finished this mug of camomile tea… I really had intended to write this evening, but alas it isn’t going to happen.Today was the fifth of nine straight (and long) days of dayjob work I am having to do without a break, and I am working on four Cathnor projects as well right now, so please accept my apologies for missing a couple of days of review writing amidst all of this hectic activity.

So, as I have little else to say, I should say a big Happy Birthday to two of my favourite readers, Graham Halliwell, who if I remember correctly turned fifty today, and Brian Olewnick, who passed that milestone long ago, but still seems to have enough of his faculties to write wonderfully well, a good example being his recent review of the Antoine Beuger related concert held in New York earlier this week. Two friends I don’t see very often, who have possibly never met each other, both warm, kind, charming and humorous people separated by a few thousand miles of water. Brought together in one blog post thanks to the wonders of the internet, and the imagination of an amateur writer who can’t think of anything else to write about tonight.

P.S. I looked for a picture of a birthday cake with a saxophone on it for Graham, but that’s the best I could find… 😉

Something better tomorrow!

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CD Reviews

Saturday 14th August

August 14, 2010

Another draining day today that ended with another headache, this one induced by not really drinking enough while working. Its just about passed by now, but as I am up early in the morning for work yet again I will try and keep today’s review to a minimum. I have been listening tonight to a CD I have played a few times over the past couple of weeks, another release from the very prolific English field recordings manipulator Simon Whetham. Simon’s work has fallen through my letterbox quite a few times over the past year, and while on occasions I might have criticised it for it has sounding too much as one might expect it to sound, it has always been music that has been constructed with great care, attention to detail and a strong sense of focus on an overall composition. The release I have been listening to this evening is a new disc on the White_Line Editions label entitled Greyscale: Restricted Access. The first part of the title indicates that this piece is the first in a subseries on the label entitled Greyscale, the second part a reference to the places in which Whetham recorded the sounds here- three disused industrial buildings in Eastern Europe, the kind of places that are usually hard to access here in the UK. The sounds are sourced from an old disused factory in Tallinn, Estonia, a decommissioned power station in Riga, Latvia and an old military station on the Russian border.

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Uncategorized

Friday 13th August

August 13, 2010

No sensible post tonight I am afraid. I got home from work a bit late due to being stuck behind a horrific looking accident on the main route home, arrived finally with a bad headache, dropped half of my dinner on the kitchen floor, bashed my head trying to pick it up again, (which helped the headache no end) and finally made it into a sitting position (with a big sigh) around ten o’clock tonight, at which point I set about answering the twenty nine emails I received today (why am I so popular today? Friday 13th maybe?)

By the time I had eaten dinner, finished the correspondence, scribbled some thoughts on a sleeve design I had been pondering over all day into a sketchbook and sunk a caffetiere of coffee I did try and put some music on, but my bad head, general exhaustion and sense of stressed out irritation hasn’t put me in the right mind to listen to music I’m afraid. There is music playing- I am trying to work my way through the remainder of the last batch of Creative Sources releases I was sent ages ago and say something about each of them in one long post this weekend. This kind of grouped-together review policy is something that I usually try and avoid, but in this case if I don’t take this route then I’ll never get it done. So I am listening, and I am thinking, I’m just not writing. Anything of worth anyway…

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Download Reviews

Thursday 12th August

August 12, 2010

So the Loris recording then, which, as mentioned yesterday can be found as a free download Mp3 file at the Compost and Height site. I think the file is a high resolution Mp3 as it sounds a pretty good recording to me without the usual signs of heavy compression, but then I haven’t heard a lossless version so its hard to tell if anything is missing. Knowing the musicians in the group however, and knowing the care and attention they pay to such matters I doubt I could ever tell the difference. Anyway this live recording, made in Hamburg earlier this year weighs in at ninety seconds short of half an hour, complete with applause at the end, and some audience shuffling at the start, the distant sound of someone with a very loudmouth outside in the street and serial audience coughing throughout. Although a very clear recording, it could be the presence of these external sounds and passing traffic that lead the trio (Patrick Farmer, Sarah Hughes and Daniel Jones) to issue this music as a download rather than pursue a CD release, but I personally enjoy these sounds in live recordings as they provide a sense of place, some kind of idea of the tension in the room rather than just a clinical presentation of the music.

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Uncategorized

Wednesday 11th August

August 11, 2010

I want to ask a familiar question tonight, one I’ve asked before here but a few things occurring over recent days has lead me to think about again this evening- What is it that makes us treat downloaded music as somehow second rate to “properly” (i.e. physically) released music? Its possible I should be directing this question just at myself, but I don’t think I’m the only person that constantly forgets to listen to music I have downloaded, and somewhere, subconsciously still prefers to hold a physical object in my hand.

A week or two back I received an email from Patrick Farmer, who asked in his usual very polite manner if I would consider reviewing any of the freely downloadable music available from the excellent Compost and Height net label that he runs alongside Sarah Hughes. He noted that there were very few reviews ever written on the music included there. When I stop and think about it, even though I once pointed readers of The Wire to C&H as a source of good free downloads I have never written a review of any of the music here or anywhere, and though I have on occasions championed freely downloadable music in these pages I don’t do it enough. Then a couple of days back I received a very nice email from a very kind person that complimented me on my sleeve design work. The email included this line: “In this download age music is ceasing to be special. Your discs show the love of music,and do justice both to the artists and the customers.” Now I am not reprinting this here to boast that someone likes what I have done, but to draw attention to the question of downloaded music “ceasing to be special” and if music released on CD with carefully designed packaging is actually doing any more justice to music than a simple link at a website.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 10th August

August 10, 2010

Its one of Brian’s often returned to questions I know, and so I feel slightly conscious asking it again here, but why is it exactly that we each connect with field recordings differently, and some work for us while others don’t? Is the notion of personal familiarity important here? Do we need to know sounds personally to connect with them? I don’t think this is necessarily the case, though it might help. I grew up around railways, and their sounds have an important place in my childhood. So if someone released a CD of freight wagons being pushed around a goods yard, or the familiar rumble of old diesel locomotives late at night I would probably be very taken with it. Recordings made at harbours though, despite my recent enjoyment of such places, may not connect in the same way. Perhaps that could be one reason why I find Harbour, a new disc by Lasse Marc Riek of untreated field recordings made indeed at harbours to be missing some key ingredient.

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CD Reviews

Monday 9th August

August 9, 2010

Tonight, another only semi-official release on the Copy for your Records label run by New Yorker Richard Kamerman. This disc, a CDr sent out by Kamerman to those that showed an interest features a short, (just twenty-two minutes) live recording from November 2009 of Tandem Electrics, Kamerman’s raw electronics duo with Reed Rosenberg, whose first album I wrote about way back here. The set here is best described as rough and ready from many different perspectives. The electronics we hear sound on the edge of breakdown, all twisted, faltering circuitry and perhaps some elemental computerised synths, plus small chattering percussive sounds, probably the result of Kamerman amplifying the small motors and electric engines he likes to work with.

The sounds have a gritty, earthy edge to them. Even the silences here are undercut by gentle monitor hum, and so much of what is presented as music might easily be mistaken for the sounds of musicians setting up for a soundcheck, plugs being put in and out, blasts of feedback etc, but it is this raw energy that gives this music its edge. It feels as if there are no frills, no unnecessary aesthetic niceties, just the barren, simple elements required to make electronic music, using instruments discovered and adapted rather than bought for the purpose in hand. There are samples in there as well, voices open the set, and a strange looping guitar-like dirge, lost in the muddy exterior of the recording ends the set, and at the halfway point there is a strange computerised little tune, just a couple of seconds long and a bit like the start up chimes of a computer running an operating system I’ve never heard of before. Much of the second half of the recording is also forced down under a constant, somewhat oppressively piercing and whining tone that rises and falls in intensity, and at its loudest and most intense had me reaching for the volume dial.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 8th August

August 8, 2010

Tonight I have also been listening to a really curious CD that I have been trying to wrap my head around for a few weeks now. The disc in question is a new CD by David Papapostolou named Sivom de la Droude and released on Phil Julian’s Authorised Version label. David first came to my attention a few years back when I heard some recordings of him playing with Daniel Jones that later blossomed into proper releases. After moving to London from Bristol, Frenchman Papapostolou hooked up with the vibrant scene revolving around the Eddie Prevost Improv Workshops, and so could be found playing regularly, sometimes in front of an audience, sometimes not, mostly performing with a cello laid flat on a table rather than the laptop he had started out with. He hasn’t released much on CD though, but now this new disc has arrived I am quite surprised by it, consisting as it does of no improvisation as such at all- the disc contains four field recordings, or rather four tracks that we shall call field recordings for now.

Sivom de la Droude (Babelfish isn’t helping much here, any ideas anyone?) contains four recordings that Papapostolou describes as “situation-specific events” For these pieces, David has placed a microphone inside a saxophone resting on its bell, or in a glass jar. These have then been placed in a garden, a car boot, on a veranda and at a window. What we hear then is very quiet, distant and murky. Papapostolou states that the recordings are not designed to match a listener’s expectations of this kind of music, pointing out that the sound quality is poor, and what really matters here are the processes that have gone into creating the pieces, and that it is this that gives the music its character and edge.

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Uncategorized

Saturday 7th August

August 7, 2010

As promised, a brief post then as I am off out in a moment and won’t be back in front of a computer before tomorrow, I’m still not sure where we are going, probably just into Oxford for a slow walk around some old buildings or something, but that said it has been raining pretty hard here this morning, and although it has stopped I wouldn’t want to put too much on it not starting again. This morning I listened to a single CD, a recording of Janos Starker playing Kodaly’s Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello. Why exactly I should choose such an appasionato piece of music influenced by Hungarian folksong to accompany a grey, quiet, rainy Saturday morning’s coffee and scrambled eggs I don’t really know, but the second last chapter of Stewart Lee’s book went down as well as breakfast did with such a soundtrack. Days like today remind me how lucky I am really. When the biggest decisions we have to make each day are over the suitability of cello music at breakfast then things can’t be too bad. Now it has started to rain heavily again. I can see an afternoon of playing scrabble indoors on the horizon.

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CD Reviews

Friday 6th August

August 6, 2010

This evening’s CD of choice has been another in the recent Another Timbre mini series of “Duos with Brass” recordings, this time the all acoustic combination of Christoph Schiller’s spinet and Carl Ludwig Hübsch’s tuba. The music is indeed all acoustic, but in the liner notes written by Hübsch he describes some of the sounds he makes as “mechanically created electronic music” a description that essentially doesn’t make any sense, but does perhaps lend some kind of meaning to the way these two musicians, like in the case of the Hayward/Fabbriciani album I wrote about a couple of days ago, use their instruments merely as tools to create as wide a range of sounds as possible, escaping their histories, and starting instead with a new palette. For once on this recording I think I can always tell the two musicians’ contributions apart, but this time I am often stumped when trying to figure out how either of the musicians came up with the sounds they use.

I have written about Christoph Schiller’s music a few times here before, and described his spinet, an instrument I have never known used in free improvisation before, This slightly adapted traditional relation of the harpsichord is used by Schiller as much as a stringed instrument as a relation of the piano, but he adds eBows, fans and other non traditional items to the strings to pull out a wide range of tonal, as well as percussive sounds. Hübsch is new to me, but he has a very delicate touch with an instrument that he himself describes in the liners as having “the clumsiness of an elephant” In actual fact elephants are known to be very gentle and sensitive creatures, and Hübsch’s playing is similar here, usually quite muted, raging between breathy hisses and low smooth tones, far from clumsy, full of refined craft and thoughtful placement. There are tiny sounds, passages of longer tones, scratchy, fidgety periods, soft, textural exchanges and moments of near silence.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 5th August

August 5, 2010

So tonight an album of hydrophone recordings. Now before you all run a mile expecting the usual stream of moans from me about just how many underwater albums I seem to get to listen to these days, this one is a little different in that it works more in the Lee Pattersonesque area of recording plant and insect activity in still, perhaps stagnant water rather than capturing the sound of water moving itself. This makes for quite a different album. The disc in question sis named Cables and Signs (Ten underwater field recordings) and is a CD by Frenchman Thomas Tilly-TÔ for the Fissur label.

A few years back now I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a couple of hours with Lee Patterson as he recorded the sound of underwater insect life at a lifeless pond somewhere in Derbyshire.  The sounds Tilly presents us with on this album are very close to my memories of what we heard on that afternoon. As then I was shocked at the sheer density and variety of sounds to be heard just by placing a hydrophone into the right patch of water, so the music on this new CD confounds our expectations of what we expect to hear on this kind of recording.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 4th August

August 4, 2010

Tonight’s CD is the second one in recent days that comes wrapped in an oversized, and shall we say ‘striking’ sleeve. Diego Chamy and Axel Dorner’s new album, their second release as a duo (though with Leonel Kaplan added there is a third disc out there from a while back on Creative Sources) is titled, amusingly, and slightly provocatively, Super Axel Dorner. It has arrived courtesy of the great Absinth label.As you can see from the image here, the sleeve is mostly bright pink and contains a picture of Diego Chamy staring out at us. The design, as with the album’s title is amusing, but it seems there is a strong comment being made here about the notion of improvised music “stars”. Axel Dorner is indeed a great player, perhaps even a super one, and a good number of people will be attracted to this release because of his appearance on it, but the duo seems to be laughing at the idea of celebrity in this area of music. They possibly also point towards the ridiculous aspect of all of this by placing a picture of Chamy rather than Dorner below the title, perhaps (I am guessing at all of this) bringing to our attention that only really the names matter when namedropping, and that the faces matters not. Its a clever design anyway, that when coupled with the title makes a statement even before the CD is put into the player.

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Concert Reviews

Tuesday 3rd August

August 3, 2010

No CD review tonight, for a number of reasons. Firstly, my back has seized up again today after I made the mistake of doing some hard physical graft at work this morning. So I feel in a very hot bath and started drinking alcohol the minute I got home. Also, Stewart Lee’s new book arrived in the post today and a peek at the first few pages ended up in me reading a hundred or so more, its that good (dry, honest, intelligent, hilarious and vicious in equal parts) Then I felt the need to listen to Luigi Nono, and so dug out the great Roberto Fabbriciani lead recording of Das Atmende Klarsein, and, dragging myself away from the book finished a proposed sleeve design and sent it off to musicians.

Rather than just fob you off completely though, I thought I would try and reflect on a concert that took place almost more than two weeks ago now, a performance of music by Antoine Beuger by Dominic Lash and David Stent in the conservatory of the house they both live in in West Oxford. This was the second of a little series of these semi-private performances under the title of Music in a Domestic Setting by Dom at his home. The setting is just great for this kind of music, a room backing onto a suburban garden that is just separated enough from traffic and city noise and just full enough of birdsong and insect sounds to be able to capture the best of both. On this occasion there were only four of us in the audience, but it is so nice to listen to music this intimate in such small numbers, and not have to worry about the musicians getting paid, or the venue losing interest in this area of music…

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CD Reviews

Monday 2nd August

August 2, 2010

Nella Basilica is the title of a new album on Another Timbre by the duo of Robin Hayward and Roberto Fabbriciani. It comes as part of the newest batch of four AT releases, all of which are acoustic duos, and more specifically each involves a brass instrument of some kind, thus creating the informal “Brass” series to follow on from the equally imprecise piano and guitar series from the same label. If the name Fabbriciani is a new one to improvised music followers then maybe this isn’t a surprise, given that this disc captures his first ever improvisation release. The flautist is better known however for his realisations of many works by Luigi Nono amongst a long list of contemporary composers. Reading his CV is impressive, he has worked directly with just about everyone, from Cage to Kurtag, Stockhausen to Scelsi. His website even hints that he might have a fanclub. I’m not sure anyone else I’ve ever reviewed here can say that! Given that he plays on my favourite recording of Nono’s wonderful Das Atmende Klarsein I may well try and join myself…

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CD Reviews

Sunday 1st August

August 1, 2010

Now, so much about this project seems shrouded in a degree of mystery and/or misdirection. Online, it all seems very simple- the group have a website that lists the three musicians and their instrumentation, with Coti K credited with contrabass, Ilios with oscillators and Veliotis the cello. However on the CD sleeve itself, not even the group members’ names are listed, let alone any instrumentation, and if there isn’t a saxophone playing on the final track then I’ll eat my hat.

Now, given my previous experiences with these three excellent musicians I expected this music to be all about rich drones, and well, about two thirds of it is, but there is more here besides. Mohammad state that they got together to make music that follows the principles of intermodulation, but also to study the ideas of kullu wahad, which appears to be an arabic concept referring to being “all one”. Apparently there is also a Greek informal use of the term as well, that suggests something of a messy state. How genuinely important these concepts may have been to the group, and how much of all of this is tongue in cheek is hard to tell, though certainly the idea of “all-one” could easily be applied to this music. It displays a remarkable degree of cohesiveness across the three musicians.

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