CD Reviews

Thursday 30th September

September 30, 2010

The recent CDr on the Avant Whatever label by the Australian duo of Arek Gulbenkoglu and Dale Gorfinkel.

Now I should probably state upfront that I first heard this recording about a year ago, as a demo, and liked it a lot, but because it arrived at a time when issues in my family life had put Cathnor on a backburner it got overlooked badly and I never got anywhere with it. I should probably have released it, but the good news it has come out now, with the self-explanatory title Vibraphone/Snare. It has been released as a limited edition CDr of just 100 numbered copies, of which mine is number 94, so maybe there are very few, if any copies remaining. You can either move fast to buy a copy here, or download the lossless files for half the price at the same place.

So why should you bother? Well the piece of music is a twenty-one minute burst of agitated, vibrating acoustic textures carefully controlled and moulded into a fiery, uncompromising little piece of music. For much of the time we hear screaming high pitched tones, frequently electronic sounding but perhaps the result of some kind of frequency being passed through the vibraphone blocks though I am guessing wildly here. Then there is a lot of rough scraping at the snare, captured by a close mic, (maybe of the contact variety?) to amplify sounds to almost confrontational levels. Every sound has a rough, lo-fi edge to it, but the control is always there, the sounds used feel as if they have been carefully chosen and placed with precision, even when the sounds are freeform blasts of Hendrix-esque feedback. If I am making the disc sound like a harsh noise workout then apologies, it doesn’t come close to that degree of volume or adrenalin level, but its no shrinking violet either.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 29th September

September 30, 2010

Tonight I have spent quite a bit of time wallowing in the new disc by the Switzerland based trio of Jason Kahn, (analogue synth) Günter Müller (ipods and electronics) and Christian Wolfarth (percussion).

It has been a while since I have heard anything from this little Swiss enclave of musicians, but Limmat, a new disc on the Mikroton label feels like a nice return. One of the criticisms aimed at the music of these and other related musicians was that much of their music sounded predictable and samey, even getting unfairly described as E-ZAI in some online circles. Whilst that moniker was over the top and unnecessary, there is some truth in the notion that we might know what we are getting from this group of musicians before pressing play, but then, this is really the case with a great number of musicians. While I have found Limmat a really enjoyable set of three tracks this evening, it is probably fair to say that the music sounds stylistically pretty much how I would expect it to. This doesn’t mean all that much though. On this kind of release the real pleasure to be had comes from following the interplay between the musicians, the tensions, the fights and the musical friendships. Whether the sounds of the musicians are familiar, whether we could guess who is making the music doesn’t matter so much, its how these elements are used that matters.

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Uncategorized

Tuesday 28th September

September 28, 2010

OK, so another excuse post, but you have to believe me that I haven’t stopped listening to music and then writing about it since I got home from work this evening… I just haven’t had the time to listen and write for this site. Apologies for my prioritising the deadlines of paid work over this blog, something that I am very self-conscious about doing, but it only happens once a month and needs must. If all of the 250 or so regular readers here donated 50p a month then I could stop doing the other stuff and put all my efforts into these pages. Actually, if everyone donated a couple of quid a week I could give up the dayjob as well and just flood this site with my fatuous drivel. Who’s up for it? 😉

Time for a plug then, for the mini tour of the UK by The Ames Room, the jazz?(ish) trio of Will Guthrie, Jean-Luc Guionnet and Clayton Thomas. After a gig tonight in Edinburgh they play here in Glasgow on Wednesday night as part of the excellent Never Come Ashore launch party, here in Leeds on Thursday and finally here at Café Oto in London on Friday, a gig I may or may not be able to make it along to. Very much worth seeing methinks.

The above image then is another glimpse of a forthcoming Cathnor release. All being well the printers proofs of the designs should get signed off tomorrow and they will go into production. Exciting eh?

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Download Reviews

Monday 27th September

September 27, 2010

A brief review tonight then, of a freely downloadable piece of music from klingt.org, the excellent internet community and storage space that has this year celebrated its tenth anniversary. The piece is a live recording of one of my favourite improvised music pairings, the duo of Radu Malfatti’s trombone and Klaus Filip’s Llooop laptop. The recording was made in August this year at the Mulhouse Festival in France.

I have seen this pairing play as a duo three times, in three different countries and in three different settings. Although I enjoyed all of the occasions, the two most successful ones were each held in very small, intimate rooms. Some music, and in particular very very quiet music such as that played by Filip and Malfatti, requires a certain atmosphere and sense of place. The third performance I saw, at Glasgow’s Instal09 Festival took place in one of the larger rooms within The Arches venue, in front of around two hundred people, many of which were possibly quite new to the music. This environment, while obviously great to witness in many ways, didn’t do the duo many favours. Their extremely discrete music was lost in a sea of opening and closing doors, creaking chairs, barely suppressed chatter and persistent camera shutters. While this background of small sounds does in many ways provide a nice base into which the music is subsumed, it can be a little too much if allowed to get out of hand.

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Uncategorized

Sunday 26th September

September 26, 2010

OK, well I am off to work in a moment, and will be working right the way through the night, for the best part of fifteen hours, returning at 7AM. So I slept in for as long as possible this morning to prepare myself, and unsurprisingly I have little to say about music today. I have however had a quite inspirational couple of hours watching red kites swooping down into my neighbours’ garden to grab chunks of meat left on the lawn for them. I actually managed to get a photo of one this time as well, which isn’t easy given their speed and ability to ‘strike’ when you’re not watching. These beautiful creatures absolutely fascinate me. Sometimes nature just leaves you open mouthed in awe.

So I will need to sleep tomorrow but will try and leave an early post here to make up for my current slow production rate. I should also add here that I have been working on quite a few bits and pieces for The Wire over recent days as well, so I can assure you that I haven’t been idle. Its possible I might write something tonight as well, if I get a decent enough break in the wee small hours and have had a chance to listen as I work. I suspect not though. Until tomorrow then.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 25th September

September 25, 2010

Although I have been listening to improvised music for quite a long time now, an album originally released back in 1977 is just a little before my time. Recorded on April 1st, this disc, by the trio of David Toop, Paul Burwell and Nestor Figueras was originally obviously on vinyl for Philip Wachsmann’s BEAD label and came out when I was six years old. Although credited to the trio, Cholagogues, which has now been re-released on Guiseppe Ielasi’s Schoolmap label is made up mostly of sounds made by Toop and Burwell, as Figueras appears to have been a dancer, which his audio contributions listed as movement, respiratory and vocal sounds, plus body percussion. Otherwise, the two other musicians are credited with long lists of instruments, Toop’s mostly consisting of flutes of varying types, from standard instruments through to piston flutes and a New Guinea Initiation flute (me neither…) and Burwell playing a mixture of curious items ranging from woodblocks and gongs to water, aeroplane elastic (apparently a Max Eastley invention) and a deerbone fiddle.

The music was recorded all those years ago at a live concert, straight to a Sony cassette recorder without any dolby balancing or the like whatsoever. It has been remastered for this release by one of London’s most respected and talented mastering engineers Dave Hunt, who has done a great job to make it sound as good as it does here, but still the recording quality isn’t great. There is very little warmth to the recording, and sounds lack body, but no amount of digital wizardry could ever add something that didn’t exist on the original tape. The music is forty-two minutes long, including the applause from a small crowd at the end. The tape might be thirty-five years old, but the traditions are still there today, improv sets of around forty minutes and few people there to witness them… 😉

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CD Reviews

Friday 24th September

September 24, 2010

So, Sound Art then. I’m not a hundred percent sure what this term actually applies to (does anyone?) but certainly it gets a lot of people upset, because it suggests links to the morally and ethically bankrupt world that art and its galleries currently revolves around, but also because for some it suggests an attempt to elevate music to some kind of assumed high ground, a suggestion that is clearly very stupid and serves only to point out the idiocy of those that might believe it.

For me, music entering gallery spaces, as installations or any other kind of presentation other than a straight concert cannot all be tarred with any one single brush. While I am skeptical about the exercise simply because it very often results in uninteresting work, there are occasions when I have really enjoyed the experience of this kind of thing. For me, if the work is interesting enough, if it imparts enough upon me, be it sonically interesting or emotionally interesting then it has some value for me. I refuse to rule out the possibility of anything describing itself as “Sound art” being any good, and unless I know the specific details I won’t second guess the intentions or motivation of the musician / composer that chose to present the work in the way they have. This isn’t to say that I am not naturally suspicious of music that finds its way into the modern art gallery, I just won’t write it off until I experience what it has to offer.

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Uncategorized

Thursday 23rd September

September 24, 2010

A day off of work today, and a day off of writing for this blog as well I’m afraid, though I did manage to relax for a good part of today, a bit of a lull in what has been, and will probably continue to be for a while at least, a hectic and stressful time at work. Today around lunchtime I made the trip into Oxford to say hello to the city’s two newest residents, Patrick Farmer and Sarah Hughes, who have each arrived to try and put Oxford on the map academically, but who also will hopefully be a boost to my local area’s music scene. Its also great to just have good friends and great people so close to hand. After that I went book shopping. Just for a change.

This evening I went over to Julie’s for dinner and stayed very late indeed, so my only exposure to music today was the very odd sounding symphony I listened to on the radio on the way home. I picked it up on an odd French speaking AM station that I accidentally tuned into, so I can’t just go and look at the listings and see what it was, but if anyone can identify a full scale symphonic composition that suddenly breaks out of dense melodic strings into a section containing just a cowbell and an old car horn before returning back again, please let me know. I don’t really want to buy the music, I just want to be sure I wasn’t asleep at the wheel having a peculiar dream.

The five new Cathnor releases crept a little closer to release today as well, and as is customary right now when I have nothing better to write about the above image is another glimpse of one of the forthcoming sleeve designs. A CD review tomorrow I promise!

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Listen Series

Wednesday 22nd September

September 22, 2010

Just when you’d all forgotten about it, or feared that I may have forgotten about it, The Listen Series resurfaces! I will admit that after my initial excitement about the project I just haven’t had the time to commit to it, and have had this new piece of music sat in the backburner for far too long. Here though, at last, is the second ‘release’ in the series, a short free improvisation by Massimo Magee. I hope that this relaunch will now trigger some renewed activity for the series, and already I have a special project lined up for the next release.

I’m not going to comment on Massimo’s music, though suffice to say that I like it a lot, and that it embodies his strongly felt views on improvised music fully. Let me know your thoughts on the music in the comments below!

The dedicated page for Massimo’s release can be found here. A new page for the Listen Series, where the first piece, by Alan Jones can be found, is here.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 21st September

September 21, 2010

The only Alice Coltrane album I own, and so therefore also the only one I have listened to, is Journey in Satchidananda, an album which for some peculiar reason I once got sent years back when I renewed my subscription to The Wire magazine. While my musical tastes have generally wandered off in other directions I do remember really enjoying the richness of that album, a kind of warmth and dense layering of sound that appealed to me a lot in my mid twenties. Its kind of fitting then that my head was turned towards tonight’s CD by an email recommending it to me by The Wire’s current editor- fitting in that the CD in question, the disc by the Australian/European Hammeriver septet is dedicated to the spirit and music of Alice Coltrane, and attempts to re-envisage the feel of her music through this new CD. It is actually a thoroughly beautiful album.

The disc is released on the Russian Mikroton label and features recordings made back in 2007 by the group of Clare Cooper, (harp) Chris Abrahams, (piano) Christof Kurzmann, (lloop) Tobias Delius, (clarinet and tenor sax) Clayton Thomas, (double bass) Werner Dafeldecker, (double bass) and Tony Buck (drums). The music is described in the liner notes as composed by the group, but while it feels like their has been some degree of mutual agreement on the general feel and shape of at least some of the five tracks, perhaps even some definite direction on one or two of them, I doubt that there was very much of anything written down, and the detail of the music at least is all improvised.

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CD Reviews

Monday 20th September

September 20, 2010

When I first listen to a CD, I almost always put it on without paying any attention to the sleeve notes or press release, and usually in the morning before work, while I go about the day’s early chores, washing, ironing, putting CDs into envelopes etc… So I don’t pay as much attention to it, or to the details I may have about how it was created, the instrumentation involved etc, as I would in the evening when I listen much more closely with the intention of writing about the music. So early today I played through tonight’s CD a couple of times, letting it pass me by as a just-OK disc of computer generated feedback and white noise detail. The sleeve notes later revealed what I was listening to to have begun life as something more interesting, though the question of whether the end result is any more listenable once this added information is known remains to be asked.

The disc is the fifteenth release on Mattin’s Free Software Series label, which will eventually be available as a free download from the label’s website. It is named Noise&Capitalism.txt and is credited to NOISH, who apparently is a computer musician named Oscar Martin. If the title rings a bell, then you may remember that the book edited by Mattin that came out last year had the same name, and it is the text of that book that has lead to this music being generated. Although the diagram on the sleeve that shows the process used is a bit vague, it seems that Martin took a pdf of the book’s text, fed it somehow through a laptop into a cheap radio cassette recorder, presumably somehow processing the pdf as an audio signal, maybe using an automated text reading voice. He then used a combination of  digital and analogue transformation processes to feed the work back into a computerised audio file, which is then presented on this CD.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 19th September

September 20, 2010

This release then contains that one dreaded element that tends to turn me off of any given improvised music release, the human voice. The Rope and Duck Company are the trio of Emma Roche, (flute) Una MacGlone (double bass) and Aileen Campbell, from whom the vocals come. The music on Waymarkers is generally speaking somewhat understated, almost pastel in its tones, the bass mostly bowed in a very pleasing manner, the flute occasionally slipping into soft, semi-folky lines but mostly applying an active stream of colour into the album’s less fraught moments, spitting little stabs of tone elsewhere. The voice though, no matter how hard I try to listen to it as no more than another abstract sound source, troubles me.

This is, for all intensive purposes a good, solid improv album that slips between its busy, talkative passages and a fair amount of calm. Its all acoustic, very nicely played and there is a nice sense of the trio listening well to each other throughout as the music tends to flow and develop well without any disjointed parts, often suggesting composition though clearly this is not the case. the problem then (and please, I understand completely that this is entirely MY problem) is with the vocal element. Why is it that anything that sounds easily like a human voice on an improv CD of this kind almost always puts me right off? In other forms of music I have no problem with vocals, and this kind of irrational concern does not worry me with any other form of instrumentation, so why just the voice? What is it in my head that allows this issue to spoil what is clearly a good improv CD for me? Is it because I hear so many voices in day to day life that I feel the need to escape them in music? Do I unwittingly harbour some kind of snobby disregard for what could be seen as a ‘lesser’ form of making music? I hope not, but I fear I may never know.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 18th September

September 19, 2010

A number of different, coincidental elements brought me to write about the music I have been playing tonight. The trio of Axel Dorner, Leonel Kaplan and Diego Chamy recorded their album for Creative Sources named Absence way back in 2003, and the disc was released not that long after, which is when I bought my copy. Then recently, as I have written about the two Chamy/Dorner duo albums that have appeared over recent months, Diego sent me a further copy of Absence, not realising I already owned it. I added it to the list of items to write about, noting to give away the extra copy I now have to an interested reader. Then a few days back I heard from Leonel Kaplan, who, following my posts about Bhob Rainey’s bandcamp site from where he sells digital downloads, also pointed me to his similar site, which includes some additional recordings by the trio that made Absence.

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Uncategorized

Friday 17th September

September 17, 2010

This is rather frustrating. My BT Internet broadband connection, not for the first (or second or third for that matter) time has failed and I am having to write this post on my iPhone and post it via the 3G link. I had begun to write a review tonight of an old CD, a 2003 […]

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CD Reviews

Thursday 16th September

September 16, 2010

By the end of this week I will have topped sixty-five hours hard slog in the dayjob. Tonight I was so tired I found basic things like standing up and keeping my eyes open so complicated that I had to rest a while before I could even think of turning a computer on. I’m not up to writing a review however. I have been listening quite a bit to Michael Moser’s Resonant Cuts release, an impressively packaged double CD on the Editions RZ label, but its one that takes quite a bit of absorbing, and a couple of listens through followed by an exhausted stream of drivel wouldn’t do it justice.

Apologies to anyone I have not returned an email to over the last two or three days, I will catch up on Sunday if not before. Tonight’s post image is another glimpse of a forthcoming Cathnor sleeve, one of five which should go to press on Monday.

Bot much else to add, but here’s a plug that probably won’t be of much use to that many readers here, a solo concert by Matt Davis held way down in Penryn, near Falmouth in deepest Cornwall  on the 28th October at something called the Zed Shed. the concert will include realisations of scores by  Chris Burn, Christian Wolff, John Cage and Pauline Oliveros alongside a solo improvisation. I would really like to get along to this, despite it taking place some five hours away from here, simply because I love that part of the country and have not seen Matt play for ages. Alas I suspect I will not be able to make it, but if anyone reading this might happen to be down that way I suggest its one not to be missed.

A better post tomorrow then, off to sleep now.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 15th September

September 15, 2010

Another thirteen hour day at work, not easy times right now. So tonight a brief review of what was originally a 7″ ‘single’ release back in 2006, but now exists as a cheap if not free download from Bhob Rainey’s website. I wrote about another downloadable album involving Rainey last week, the Nmperign + Beins & Dorner album that I obtained from the same site. This time, there is no option to download the music for free, but with the minimum fee to get the music just $1.98, (about £1.30?) in lossless format nobody can accuse Bhob of ripping anyone off. You can of course choose to pay more, which I did, but given that there is only about eleven minutes of music in total here exactly where the ‘acceptable’ amount would be I have no idea.

I was attracted to this music tonight, the two sides of the Two Bites of a Bitter Sweet single for a couple of reasons. First of all, being originally a vinyl release I didn’t ever bother buying a physical copy, but then also the two five minute long tracks here are electroacoustic pieces that were prodiced around the same time as Rainey was working on his collaboration with Ralf Wehowsky I don’t think I can see you tonight, which remains one of my favourite albums of its type. As much as I really enjoy Nmperign a lot, I suspect I enjoy Rainey’s work in this vein even more.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 14th September

September 14, 2010

At the Install Sound website, the label that released the CD I have been listening to this evening, there is a paragraph about the music that describes some of the sounds used as (paraphrasing) “benign- the kind of sounds you only notice when you are alone” I thought this was a beautiful notion, and being someone very interested in the way different people listen to different sounds it really hit a chord. There are indeed sounds that I hear when alone, maybe in the dark, maybe when walking by myself, sounds that if I was asked to describe them, or even figure out where they came from I might struggle, but they are there, making up the constant soundtrack to life, colouring in the silences.

it is these sounds that the duo of Simon Whetham and mise_en_scene attempt to mould into the thirty-seven minute long piece composition that forms their CD Eineandereweltstrasse. In the summer of 2008 Whetham went to Berlin, and made a series of field recordings, many late in the evening in the city. He and his collaborator later sculpted the recordings into the music presented on the CD.

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CD Reviews

Monday 13th September

September 13, 2010

Tonight, after a couple of days listening to wailing saxophones and trying to make sense of music’s history, a brand new CD made using digital reworking of tape machine improvisations. The disc in question is called 15 tapes and is a new release by Giuseppe Ielasi on his classy looking Senufo Editions label, wrapped up in a beautiful letterpress sleeve created by none other than the king of the letterpress sleeve, Ben Owen.

A few years back I was a big Ielasi fan. His Plans CD, alongside his exceptionally good Fringes label were amongst my favourites. Somewhere down the line though I lost touch with what he was doing. I don’t think there was ever a CD that I didn’t enjoy to one degree or another, but somehow I stopped keeping up with his work. Recently though it was good to hear from him, and we traded a few CDs that included this new release, which is a really charming little set of miniature recordings, under twenty minutes in length total, and just what I needed on a night like tonight.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 12th September

September 13, 2010

Now, the music I listened to today may come as a surprise to regular readers. A very thoughtful friend recently sent me a couple of home-made compilation CDs of what I can only probably describe as music belonging to a loose jazz trajectory, mostly from the seventies, and all involving brass of one kind of another. The discs were put together with my taste in mind, hoping to turn my ears to music that I (and probably several others reading here) had paid no attention to before. So I was very pleased to listen and learn.

The CDs contain music involving either Roscoe Mitchell, Leo Smith or Steve Lacy, and in some cases more than one of these at a time. There is more than two hours of music here pulled from a number of albums, so its difficult for me to appraise each track individually, but I can certainly give an overview of the music and try and pick out a few recurring themes I spotted and enjoyed. Overall, i found the music refreshing (yes, despite its age) and thoughtful, particularly when viewed (heard) with the release dates very much in mind.

Perhaps the one track that made me think the most, and thus also impressed me the most, was the opening piece on the first disc, a brief three minute track by Lacy, actually the only piece by him here, and something I really wasn’t expecting given the little I had heard from him before. The piece is named The Cryptosphere, taken from an album recorded in 1971, the year of my birth, named Lapis. Although almost forty years old, this music sounds completely contemporary to me. It begins with a slow, closely miked rhythmic scratching sound, as if Lacy’s sax is being rubbed slowly rather than blown over, and later we hear breathy, noteless hisses from it, all “extended” techniques we hear so often in music these days. In the background though, playing quietly as these abstract explorations sit on top is an old straight-up jazz record, maybe involving Lacy (but I suspect not). So while the tuneless, experimental stuff scrapes and burbles away it sits in direct juxtaposition to the traditional jazz behind it, the two forms of music at once both working well together and highlighting the differences between them. The use of the record playing as Lacy improvises (I’m assuming this is improv) is not at all dissimilar to how samples and field recordings, as well as radios used as found object generators can be heard in contemporary experimental music. That this is forty years old however just underlines the old adage that really very little is genuinely new.

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Uncategorized

Saturday 11th September

September 12, 2010

OK, well I was up at half six, left the house at half seven, began work just after eight, and then got home again, some fifteen hours later late tonight, having barely stopped all day. This ridiculously long day was pre-planned, but even then it was still really hard, Driving home tonight in the dark wasn’t easy. I ended up finding some unidentified (and really bad) symphony on the radio really loud just to stay awake. What’s more, I also have to be up at six to drive my parents a couple of hundred miles to deepest Sussex.

So please accept my apologies for a second night on the trot of excuse posting. Tomorrow, once the driving is over, I will then spend much of the day killing time before I drive my parents back the other way again, so I will take along the laptop and iPod and see if I can’t write something more interesting. I actually have an intriguing post in my head, just need the time and mental coherency to get it out of there before I forget it…

I don’t even have the brain capacity tonight to think of anything to plug, so I will instead point you vaguely in the direction of the image above, a sneak preview of one the sleeve of the five forthcoming Cathnor releases.

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Uncategorized

Friday 10th September

September 10, 2010

Bleurgh. A horrible day again today, a very long and tough shift at work that will only be topped by tomorrow, when it looks like I will be working something like a fourteen hour shift. So tonight I need to get to bed rather than sit about in front of a computer screen, so I am going to try and make a start on David Toop’s new book for a while before trying to get some rest.

The image above by the way is by way of noting that by the time I get up tomorrow its quite possible that this site will have received its 150,000th visitor. This of course means nothing at all, but I will allow myself an extra strong coffee in the morning to celebrate quietly by myself…

Another man with a busy day ahead tomorrow is John Butcher. I already plugged his show at the Kings Place venue tomorrow night alongside Eddie Prevost and John Edwards, but if you missed the link here it is again. It turns out though that during that day he will also be playign the Colourspace Festival between 1pm and 5pm on Clapham Common alongside such luminaries as Ansuman Biswas and Rhodri and Angharad Davies. I can’t really find a sensible web page to link to, but go to the Rookery Road access point to the common and you should spot the event. I really wish I could be in London for these shows, but alas on this occasion I cannot. One further gig that I do plan to attend again involves John Butcher, this time in a duo with Rhodri at the London Review Bookshop on the 18th October. Details here. Apparently there isn’t a lot of room for a big audience at the LRB, so booking tickets in advance is advised.

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Concert Reviews

Thursday 9th September

September 10, 2010

I don’t get to all that many poetry readings. Poetry has always felt like something of an isolated artform, both written in isolation, and (as it has always felt to me) better read in isolation. I’m not sure why, but I always struggle when I attend a poetry reading of some kind, perhaps my usual live music listening habits are so different that I need to readjust, but somehow, some way, I can never focus on what is being read. It always feels too fast, I always want to go back and hear parts again, reevaluate them, as I do when I read.

Tonight I attended a mixed media event designed to respond to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and American poet of whom I have read only very little. Before the musical piece that closed the evening there were three or four poets that read work either by Dickinson, or written/chosen in response to her poems. Sure enough, with the exception perhaps of the opening reader, who chose translations of 19th Century Chinese poetry written by women, which were naturally very brief works, all of the readers seemed to go too fast for me. As soon as I began to digest a line the next one was almost over. While I understand that rhythm is important to poetry, if the reading is to be fast then I personally need to hear the piece more than once. So I felt like I was trying to catch fish with my hands tonight. Every now and again I’d grab something, find something quite beautiful, but before I could grasp it fully it had gone.

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Download Reviews

Wednesday 8th September

September 8, 2010

OK, so to the music I have been listening to tonight. Way back in 2000, the Nmperign duo of Greg Kelley and Bhob Rainey visited Berlin, and while there recorded an “informal” quartet recording alongside Burkhard Beins and Axel Dorner. Two years later the recordings made it onto a vinyl only release from the Twisted Village label, which sold out long ago. I didn’t ever buy a copy, primarily because of its existence only as an LP, and the recording has always been something of a gap in my collection of music from this period, which is otherwise missing very little. Recently though Rainey made the recordings available as lossless downloads from his website, alongside a good deal of other albums. Normally he charges for downloads of music, but here, because the music had originally been released, and because a number of people who bought the vinyl might well now want a lossless digital version, Rainey has made the music available for free to anyone that already bought the album. Anyone else can still get it for nothing, or they can pay the price of their choice. Rainey encourages these people to “Do the right thing”.

This is an interesting release for a number of reasons. First of all, irrelevant to the actual music, I wonder how many people that did not originally purchase the music paid anything for this download? I would really hope, given the general nature of people that have any kind of investment in improvised music, that the vast majority paid something. But then, all the time new CDs appear on soulseek and the like within days of their release, so perhaps my positive view of people is unfounded. Then, I also wonder how much the average person paid? I personally gave five dollars, around £4, which, for a lossless, newly remastered download complete with artwork seemed a fair enough price? I would have though that a download should be cheaper than a physical object, but then there are a whole load of overheads involved with recording and presenting any kind of music, so much less than this might be inconsiderate?

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Download Reviews

Tuesday 7th September

September 7, 2010

Just a brief post tonight then, a short review of a free download by a new name to me- Stefan Fraunberger, whose Gilgit – Czernowici release consists of two unedited and unprocessed field recordings recorded in Gilgit, which I believe is in Pakistan, and Czernowici which I think may be in the Ukraine. The first recording was made of Gilgit at night, the second was recorded in a Jewish Cemetary.

On the suraface the Gilgit recording does not seem to reveal very much, and appears to be just a bad recording full of hum and hiss with the occasional car passing. Listen carefully though, (headphones worked best for me here) and there is so much going on. There is indeed a constant roar of something right the way through the recording. Its hard to say what this is, perhaps a rushing river a little distance away, perhaps something man-made, a factory or even a very busy road, but then the presence of occasional passing cars seems to render this last option unlikely. Crickets, or some other similar insects can be heard adding a constant, gentle rhythm to the recording, and we then just hear slight incidental sounds, the occasional calls of human beings, cars, strange whistling sounds, and other bits and pieces that are hard to identify. This piece sounds great. Its restful and calming to listen to, but if you put the effort in there are all kinds of unanswered mysteries to ponder over in there as well, just a lovely sixteen minute recording that maybe won’t change the world in any way but gives the listener a few minutes to stretch their ears, and sometimes that’s enough.

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CD Reviews

Monday 6th September

September 6, 2010

Tonight a compilation CD that has just been reprinted in its second edition after the first run, pressed in 2007 sold out. Given the names involved I’m amazed I hadn’t heard of the CD until now, particularly as enough others clearly had to buy up the first pressing! Still, better late than never. The disc is named Lontano – Homage to Giacinto Scelsi, and it contains thirteen tracks by contemporary improvisers and electroacoustic composers specifically recorded for the CD. Scelsi was known for his use of improvisation as an initial compositional tool, a way of reaching a certain transcendental state he could not achieve through writing. He also, and particularly in the later years before his death in 1988, wrote music that focussed on the quality of sounds themselves. These elements lend themselves easily to the musicians involved here, and while the direct link between the music on this CD and Scelsi’s composition isn’t always immediately clear, there is a consistent feel to the album of rich, clear sounds, with bowed and chiming metal often appearing.

The album opens with an electroacoustic composition by Sebastian Roux and Eddie Ladoire. Only the former name here is familiar to me, Roux being linked to IRCAM, but their piece here is nice, a gentle musique concrete composition involving field recordings, hissing, crackling abstraction and ghostly whistles, carefully tuned together. All very quiet, restful and meditative. There then follows a great little five minute track from Rafael Toral, which seems to be a live improvisation that somehow involves tiny stabs of buzzing electrics vibrating resonant metal objects, maybe a gong. Its as if an electric current is played using some kind of rough oscillation device and passed through something metal so that each burst of electric sound is echoed in the slowly dying embers of the gong. Its very simple, superbly executed and thoroughly beautiful, perhaps the perfect homage to Scelsi’s music.

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Uncategorized

Sunday 5th September

September 5, 2010

Well here’s a new problem for the blog, I bought, and then subsequently listened, to an old vinyl LP today, for which I cannot find an image online anywhere, and 12″ sleeves are too big to fit under my scanner. So I had to take a photo of it, crop it and then use that. This vinyl business is time consuming you know!

So I don’t have much to write today. I had a great afternoon wandering about Oxford with Julie, visiting a record fair that didn’t seem to have any records, visiting bookshops in which I amused myself moving copies of Blair’s autobiography into the Crime sections, and rummaging through the great classical music vinyl selection in Oxfam, where I made three purchases. The first of these, a double album recording of Wilhelm Fürtwangler conducting the Viennese Philharmonic in a performance of Bruckner’s 8th Symphony, is the record I have played through twice tonight. The others, as yet unplayed, are a recording of SDchubert’s Piano Trio No.2, featuring the cello of Pablo Casals, and a disc of two late Beethoven quartets performed by the Italiano Quartet. All three, disappointingly have dreadful sleeve designs, the Bruckner being the worst of all.

So how have I been enjoying playing vinyl? Well it is difficult to say. I really enjoy the physical interaction with the music that vinyl brings with it. From the hum from the speakers when I lift the tone arm (I don’t think they should do this, probably a loose connection somewhere, but I quite like it!) to the crack as the needle hits the groove, to the act of ending the music by lifting the arm free again, its a nice feeling to be this close to the music, to watch the needle run around the disc. It makes a nice change from watching a CD drawer close and then nothing more.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 4th September

September 4, 2010

Throughout the day my soundtrack was the new album on the Homefront label by the Irish/Swedish quartet Chip Shop music, made up of Erik Carlsson, Martin Küchen, David Lacey and Paul Vogel. Now as regular readers will be aware, I consider the members of this group to be friends, and at least a couple of them very good friends, so I will leave it to you to decide if this fact renders my views on the music irrelevant. I suspect that it does, but I’m going to share them with you anyway.

Despite the fact that quite a few miles separate the two halves of the group, Chip Shop Music have played together a good few times now, and with more concerts planned they are very much an established, ongoing concern. This is their second album, titled quite brilliantly You can shop around but you won’t find any cheaper, and their music feels like it has matured and developed since the first album, released a couple of years back now. On this recording, Carlsson works, (I think) with an entirely acoustic percussion set-up (he has used electronics before) Küchen keeps to his trusty sax, Lacey works with what I imagine is an arrangement of amplified small percussion and objects, and Vogel works with field recordings and other laptop sounds that he treats both within the computer and also as the sounds leave his speakers by placing objects over and around them. If he also plays the clarinet on these recordings I struggle to hear it. Maybe its there and I mistake it for Küchen’s output.

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CD Reviews

Friday 3rd September

September 3, 2010

Tonight I have been listening to another new release from everyone’s favourite little Glasgow based improv label Iorram Records, a CDr release called A&B by the duo of Susan Alcorn (pedal steel guitar) and George Burt (electric guitar). To rewrite the press release a little for a moment, the duo first played together in 1998, when they realised they had similar “safe” beginnings with the guitar- Alcorn playing in country and western bands in the USA, Burt in folk and jazz bands in Scotland. The music on A&B, while not necessarily uncategoriseable, doesn’t fit into any of those genres.

If I’m honest, I’ve struggled to really get completely into the music on this CD, partly because of the tiredness that has racked my body all week, but also partly because while I really like some parts of the disc, others leave me with a slightly unconnected feeling. Alcorn’s lap steel has a lovely warm sound, that when used simply, just colouring the air softly with tones works really well against Burt’s more angular, gritty guitar sounds. A little too often though they busy things up a bit too much for my linking, as the music often spirals off into spinning kaleidoscopes of rapid string picking and plucking. With the exception of a bit of grainy distortion from Burt here and there, and a nice passage of Roweian items pushed between strings shuddering from Alcorn on one track, we hear mostly standard notes played, Alcorn tending towards the longer, held pitches, Burt the shorter, rapidly flowing variety.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 2nd September

September 3, 2010

I’m on a bit of a healthy eating kick at the moment, coupled with a “stop eating snacks at all time of the day” diet. So this morning, before work I was in a shop looking at different boxes of porridge available to buy for breakfast. Of the many options on the shelves, most tried to add a new twist on good old porridge, some adding fruit, some honey, one even mixing in chocolate and banana in the same box (ugh). In the end, faced by all this choice and variation I settled for plain old Scottish porridge oats, which I will enjoy for breakfast tomorrow.

Listening to the first International Nothing album last night may well have influenced my decision in the supermarket today. Sometimes it is the simple, subtle things in life that work best. Adding extra elements often just overcomplicates things and detracts from your enjoyment of the basics when they are just done really well. For me the album Mainstream felt like the shelves of porridge today, a really lovely, deceptively simple article spoilt very slightly by the addition of extra elements. The new International Nothing album, named, ironically, (and brilliantly) Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything is, for want of any other ridiculously overstretched metaphor, a great example of a really well made bowl of good quality, simple porridge.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 1st September

September 2, 2010

When The International Nothing’s first album, Mainstream came out back in 2006 I somehow managed to miss picking up a copy. I heard the music, or some of it anyway, when Alastair, my co-presenter on audition brought his copy in to play on the radio one week, and so I think I assumed I owned my own disc, until recently I noticed it was the only gap in my collection of releases from the Improvised Music from Japan group of labels. Perhaps it was the album’s proximity to the Magic I.D release that came out around the same time, involving a similar cast of musicians that put me off making an immediate purchase. I wasn’t a huge fan of that group’s first album. So this disc, which centres around the clarinet duo of Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, but also includes their Magic I.D colleagues Margareth Kammerer and Christof Kurzmann on separate tracks alongside the bassists Christian Weber and Derek Shirley wasn’t high up my purchasing list back then, and subsequently got forgotten. Then, a few weeks back when IMJ’s Ftarri label released the follow up CD, i decided to buy a copy, and while placing my order I added a copy of Mainstream in. Both arrived, and I will write about the new disc tomorrow, but now, better late than never, here are my thoughts on Mainstream.

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