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Tuesday 30th November

November 30, 2010

Between now and Christmas there will probably be a few more days than normal wherein I do a virtual runner and shy away from writing anything sensible here. This time of the year puts a lot of pressure on me in my dayjob, and this time around I have a lot of other commitments, writing and otherwise that pull upon my available time. Tonight I got home late from work, and have been working hard on a piece for the Wire before I have to get to bed early as I am up again in five hours for another very early start. So, for now please bear with me a little, I am working as hard as I can to get as much achieved as possible!

A further plug for now anyway for a gig I hope to attend on Friday at Cafe Oto- A really great looking improv line up of three duos; Eddie Prevost and Jean-Luc Guionnet, Sebastian Lexer and Seymour Wright and Mark Wastell (playing cello for the first time in a good few years) and Matt Davis. Much credit is due to everyone’s favourite diminutive Frenchamn Olivier Rodriguez for setting this one up- let’s hope that the weather doesn’t get int he way of it being the success it should be. Details can be found here.

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CD Reviews

Monday 29th November

November 29, 2010

This morning, at 5AM, I drove to work in icy cold, pitch black conditions (minus six apparently) and I listened to the 3″ CDr I tried to play last night, and have been playing again this evening- a CD of three pieces by the UK based duo of Samuel Rodgers and Stephen Cornford newly released on their Consumer Waste imprint. Some music really seems suited for early morning drives in the desolate cold…

The disc, which is entitled Zinc (extracts) contains three short pieces that were recorded ont he same day back in April 2009 that the duo recorded their full length disc Turned Moment, Weighting that appeared on Another Timbre, and which I reviewed, with a few small concerns here. The pieces on this new disc suggest they are small extracts taken from the recording sessions that weren’t used on the final album. I must say, that having listened a lot to these shorter tracks the last few days that I much prefer this new, more brief release. My criticism of the full length album was that it all felt a little too pretty, and yet seemed to lack a little substance, relying on droning sounds and extended tonal sections to create atmosphere but not really feeling quite urgent enough. Zinc (extracts) seems to overcome this completely. There are three pieces, the first weighing in at just two and a half minutes, the second a little short of seven and the final, and most impressive piece almost exactly ten.

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Sunday 28th November

November 28, 2010

So we got back home early this evening, tired and cold but happy. If you have never visited the seaside in wintery weather I thoroughly recommend it. Apart from making everything seem that little bit more beautiful the place is generally deserted, which in our opinion is a major plus point. A very nice time was had. Thanks Julie.

So i figured I should probably, despite being tired, not really in listening mode, and having to be up at 4.30AM again, write about some music for you tonight. In the end, having spent some time trying to absorb some music for an hour, I don’t think I can write about anything specifically, I just can’t focus properly… but perhaps there is something interesting to be considered here anyway. I mostly avoided music over the last three days. With the exception of the terrible Christmas music that assaulted us in every shop we went in during a trip around Bournemouth’s assorted retail opportunities this afternoon, the strange outdoor concert thing we stumbled upon Friday evening, Michael Pisaro’s wonderful 40 note single chord piece he sent to Julie, and a couple of rough and ready field recordings I made (some manic church bell ringing and the sound of a squeaky door in a heavily resonant underground carpark) I didn’t listen to very much else. Certainly no CDs. I did take a number of photographs, and enjoyed some spectacularly beautiful views, so I was certainly in “visual” mode…

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Saturday 27th November

November 27, 2010

Last time on The Watchful Ear….

So, little of interest again today, unless as well as an interest in badly written reviews about experimental music you also have a bizarre interest in long walks in sub-zero temperatures around the English coastline. Actually it wasn’t that long today, mainly because it was so cold, but we managed about an eight mile walk from our hotel in Bournemouth round to the rather revolting harbour town of Poole, revolting these days because the place seems to have turned into one big marina-based-premier-apartments-opportunity full of nasty looking retro styled housing designed to attract yuppie characters (or whatever other catch-all buzzword is attached to the kind of people that like their homes to be categorised as “opportunities” these days)

It wasn’t all depressing though. in fact for most of the time the walk was thoroughly uplifting and refreshing. Julie and I have long been fans of the English seaside town, having visited most of them by now, but the seaside at the start of winter, with snow threatening to fall at any time and everything a kind of grey colour that makes it hard to distinguish sky from sea is about as good as it gets. Getting to the end of your walk, chilled to the bone, only to find a hot pasty shop serving stilton pasties waiting for you is even better again.

I’ll write about some music tomorrow, promise…

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Friday 26th November

November 26, 2010

So a very brief post then before Julie gets too annoyed with me… After saying that I probably wouldn’t get to hear any music this weekend tonight when we went for a walk down to the seafront we stumbled across one of the weirdest things I’ve seen in a while, a guitar trio playing what I can only describe as a cross between John Fahey and Simon and Garfunkel sung in German, sat in a bandstand full of plastic reindeers, fully amplified through a decent PA, with all of three people stood watching while it started to snow. Strange…

In the car on the way down I tried Julie out with the new Michael Pisaro disc on Another Timbre… Michael, if you read this, Julie says that pianos have lots of notes, so there’s no need to just use one of them at a time. The opening Fields with Ears piece was also compared to the beginning of Wham!’s Club Tropicana…. now she is going to kill me for typing this so I am going to put the computer away and open the champagne. The above image is one we took while walking a few minutes ago.

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Thursday 25th November

November 25, 2010

So tonight is similar to a few days back in that I got home from work quite late and have to be up again at 4.30AM, so I have little time to be able to listen or write before heading off to bed. I’m afraid that for the next couple of days the posts here may also be similarly thin as I am escaping to the coast tomorrow after work for a couple of days break with Julie to celebrate (if that’s the right word) her turning forty. I’m not sure how much music I will be listening to, maybe not much, though I’m going to try and sneak one or two good CDs into the car… On my return I am going to need to step up the reviews frequency somewhat to catch up with the recent deluge of items that have been graciously sent to me. So many bits and pieces have arrived over recent days. I thought that it wasn’t the done thing to release music this late in the year?

One plug for something I hope to be able to attend early in 2011- This concert, a seven hour performance of scores by Wandelweiser associated composers played by Dominic Lash and Rhodri Davies up in Glasgow is going to be recorded in writing rather than in the usual way. I am sure that I will also find some words to write about it as well.

I can’t promise a better post tomorrow then, though I will see what happens. The photo above is another from the weekend’s walking. I hope that at the very least the trip to the coast tomorrow will generate some more nice pics.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 24th November

November 25, 2010

I have split my listening this evening between the four discs of new material by Taku Sugimoto released by the Kid Ailack Hall venue’s label- intense stuff, my review of which will appear in a future issue of The Wire but also to something quite different- a new CD named Old and New Acoustics– solo improvisations by the Lebanese acoustic guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui released on the Al Maslakh label. The disc contains two tracks, a half hour long piece named, amusingly, To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before and a much shorter seven minute item named Trane.

The two tracks here are both recorded directly, with no edits or overdubs. Sehnaoui has added this fact to his liner notes probably because there is an awful lot going on in these pieces at any one time, and it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that some kind of studio trickery had taken place. Throughout the first piece, the playing is fast, full of rapidly flowing tiny sounds, created I suspect in many ways but primarily by rubbing and scratching objects over the strings in more than once place. The sound often resembles that of a harp, with hands stroking fast up and down the strings, but with different acoustic qualities to different sets of sounds. Other parts sound like a collection of wind chimes hung close to each other and then attacked by a fierce wind, while elsewhere, in little moments of calm more spaced apart plucked notes appear, though everything retains a sense of percussion rather than melody throughout.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 23rd November

November 23, 2010

A couple of years back (at Instal up in Glasgow ironically) I experienced one of the most lovely, affecting moments of my life so far, when, as I found myself alone in a room with Antoine Beuger, feeling incredibly calm and relaxed he proceeded to whistle a kind of soft, dry lullaby, which sent me straight to sleep…

I’ll never forget that experience (just as I imagine Antoine will never forget my snoring) and so I hope you can understand the degree of personal joy that a new 2CD set of Antoine Beuger whistling some new compositions might bring to me. the new set is released, as you might expect on the Wandelweiser label and is named Keine fernen mehr, featuring one realisation each of the two pieces Beuger wrote this year with that title, one on each disc. I can’t quite pin down a translation of the title (Babelfish suggests No far more) but inside the sleeve are printed two short excerpts from poems, one in German, but the other, by Amy Lowell is in English:

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Monday 22nd November

November 22, 2010

A busy, hectic day today that saw me leave for work early and get home late. As I have to be up for work at 4.30AM tomorrow I need to be in bed early. Now I thought about writing about a CD this evening, but the alternative option of spending some time in a hot bath playing Scrabble on my phone took precedence over anything more constructive tonight, and so I have nothing much to write here this evening. Today though, both early this morning (perfect timing actually as birds sung outside my window) and late tonight I have been listening, completely entranced by the utterly wonderful new 2CD set composed and performed by Antoine Beuger, recordings of him whistling, nothing else, just whistling, very softly. I will probably write about the CD tomorrow, but right now I can’t help but tell how enchanting these two pieces of music are. Every now and again when it feels like the rest of the musical world might have caught up, Antoine Beuger does something that only he could do. There’s some incredible music around at the moment and I count myself very lucky to have heard a lot of it. A better post tomorrow, the above pic is one we took yesterday while out walking.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 21st November

November 22, 2010

I have been playing the six sides of vinyl found in Joe Colley’s Disasters of Self box set all day. I think I’ve made my way through the entire set three times now, though it gets hard to tell after you have got up and down to turn discs over or nudge the needless out of god knows how many locked grooves. Before discussing the actual music, I should probably say here that I would much prefer to have heard this music on a couple of CDs, though Colley has used the actual medium of vinyl as a compositional tool here. On several of the sides (five is the most aggravating) tracks end in locked grooves, so you have to get up and nudge the needle forward to play the next track. As some of the music here is loop-based its hard to tell if a track has hit a repeating groove or not, and so there is no way you can really walk away from the player and try and relax and listen. For once though this music might actually sound better on vinyl than it might on CD, the fuzz that roars its way through turntable listening and harsh contact of needle on record seem to fit the raw, visceral nature of Colley’s music well.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 20th November

November 21, 2010

Its inevitable really that, given my taste and Brian Olewnick’s overlap quite a bit, and given that we each tend to write about many of the same items as one another, that we will often say the same things about particular pieces of music. i wonder though, how much my thoughtsd and opinions might be coloured by something Uncle Brian might write about a CD if I read his words before writing myself? I certainly found myself wondering this as I sat down to write this evening about July Mountain (Three Versions), the second release on Michael Pisaro’s Gravity Wave imprint. Now, like Brian I wrote a review earlier this year of the original Engraved Glass 3″ release of the first of the three realisations of July Mountain to be found on this new CD. My review spilt over with praise, perhaps unsurprisingly for those that know of my love for Pisaro and his collaborator here Greg Stuart’s work. Brian, in his recent write up of the new extended release said that while he had nothing but praise for the new release might still prefer the original “jewel like, flawless” qualities of the original 3″ disc. In many ways, (and this is where I wonder how much my thoughts might be influenced by Brian’s) I have to agree.

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CD Reviews, Concert Reviews

Friday 19th November

November 19, 2010

One of the most pleasing and enjoyable elements to Instal was getting to meet Matthieu Saladin, who proved to be a very friendly, yet polite and refined character, who was responsible for some of the most interesting ideas of the festival, even if the basic ideas behind them were all quite simple. His Noises Off installation probably gave me as much pleasure as anything else all weekend. On the first night though he had given three short fifteen minute talks, only the first of which I was able to attend because several things were taking place at once and my journalist commitments lead me to try and take in as many of the different events as possible. It would appear though that the talks all took a vaguely similar theme, each introducing one of the three parts of a performance that was to be continued by each of the audience members as they were handed a CDr to take home and play at home, so extending the performance on beyond the room, beyond the festival. During the talk Saladin only spoke, he played no music. I was lucky enough to collect all three of the CDrs even though I hadn’t made it along to all of the talks, and so tonight I have completed my own finale to the performance that began in Glasgow.

The three CDrs each capture the sound of a CD player performing certain actions. the first of them is named No Disc, and lasts the sum total of fifty seconds. The disc contains the sound of a Cd being placed into a player, the machine trying to locate the starting point of the disc’s signal, only to fail, skip a few times and reject the disc. The recording is made close up, maybe with contact mics, and so much of what we hear is a murky rumble, but that familiar (very familiar to me here) sound of a CD player skipping over a CDr it does not recognise is very evident.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 19th November

November 19, 2010

Now, in light of my recent posting about the Instal Festival, it would probably be wrong for me to just slip straight back into writing CD reviews again without addressing some of the concerns about this that Instal threw up for me. Up in Glasgow some (certainly not all) parties made it clear that they considered improvised music to be a boring, no longer politically positive force in the world, and CDs of improvised music were then singled out as being a thoroughly negative aspect of it all again. During the festival discussions I stood my ground on the importance and validity of improvisation in today’s music, and will continue to do so here. While yes, various elements of improv have become formalised and flattened out into semi-defineable genres in recent times, and plenty of the music on offer has lacked much more than going-through-the-motions averageness, the actual act of group improvisation, no matter how interesting the end result might be, is a valuable and socially important tool that enhances the potential for collaborative expression rather than damage it. One of the commenters here, Matthew Wuethrich also made a valid statement that he didn’t see why he should feel guilty for merely enjoying listening to music that he has found repeatedly interesting and stimulating. I have to agree here as well. Some of the most invigorating and mentally stimulating music I have ever heard has been improvisation, and while yes it is important that we recognise that as more and more CDs appear the percentage of really valuable releases isn’t rising alongside it, there is still plenty to be gained from simply engaging with an improv CD.

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Wednesday 17th November

November 18, 2010

Aaarrrgh!

I’m writing this excuse of a post at nearly 2AM having worked my backside off on writing for elsewhere and a Cathnor website update tonight. I have so much to get done right now I just don’t seem to have half the time I need to do anything. Apologies for neglecting this place for two days on the trot, particularly as a number of new readers seemed to appear following my Instal write-ups.

I’m not sure what else to write here then tonight, the pile of CDs to get to continues to grow- I have new material here from Taku Sugimoto, Michael Pisaro, Joe Colley, Lemur, Fergus Kelly, Muta, Sharif Sehnaoui, Toshiya Tsunoda and Seijiro Murayama, Eric LaCasa etc, etc… and I promise I will get to them soon!

A few concerts to mention- Tomorrow night at the ICA in London there is a nice looking show that I sadly cannot attend involving the trio of Guillaume Viltard, Eddie Prevost and John Butcher alongside a solo performance from Sebastian Lexer. Should be good. Then on the 3rd December at Cafe Oto this gig is happening, a really strong line up that I certainly should be able to get along to, and then five days later, also at Oto Filament return for another concert, which as ever is probably not one to miss. Lots of concerts to come then= good times.

Oh and here is some good news.

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Tuesday 16th November

November 17, 2010

All a bit fried tonight, so I am ducking out of writing a decent post in lieu of writing up Instal for The Wire in the spare time I had this evening. I went straight back to work today, which was hard going after a week or so off, and then coming home tonight I had a real shake-up, when driving at around 40mph on the outskirts of town a car suddenly came straight at me at high speed, causing me to throw my car up onto the (thankfully empty) pavement to let it past. A few moments later a police car flashed past as well, obviously in pursuit. I was fine, the car undamaged, both just a little shaken up. This kind of thing doesn’t usually happen around here and I could do without it.

Anyway I came back from Glasgow to find thirteen CDs waiting here for me, and thirteen potentially really good CDs as well. I will do my best to try and knuckle down to some serious listening and writing here this week. Its going to be hectic here as I am really busy with a multitude of things, musical and otherwise but I am looking forward to getting to grips with the pile of discs. One link to give you then, a pointer towards Lucio Capece’s blog, at which he has posted the score to The Borders play Sunno((( which was the piece he and Christian Kesten performed at Instal on Friday. Well worth a read if you ask me. The image above is a sneak preview of the sleeve to the forthcoming joint Cathnor/Another Timbre CD by Looper.

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Concert Reviews

Monday 15th November

November 16, 2010

Ok, well I got home this evening, really quite tired both mentally and physically. On the train home I worked on my review of the Instal festival for The Wire, which has to be turned in within a matter of a couple of days, so I’m a little burnt out on the subject. I will try and capture something of the essence of the last night here now though, and I hope to write one or two posts about some of the ideas bounced around the festival over the next week.

Yesterday’s events in Glasgow, and in particular the last two or three hours of the festival saw Barry Esson and the Arika organisation really put their reputation, history and perhaps future on the line by really following through with the ideas that the festival has come to stand for. Just to make it clear, this festival was very different. Arika actually produced a sixteen page Collective Manifesto that outlined the intentions for the event. This was handed out at the festival, and as yet I have not seen a version placed online to link to, but maybe it could appear soon. To sum up (my understanding of) the manifesto in a couple of thoughts, perhaps it could firstly be said that it proposed a removal of the idea of individual artistic self-expression, instead advocating and actively seeking a form of collective experience. Secondly, and obviously connected, the festival tried to firmly enforce the idea that “music is not just about music” and that despite our occasional fixation on the aesthetics of sound all music still makes a clear ideological statement. The second point here, I agree completely with, and to be honest I’m not sure I know anyone involved in the music I enjoy that wouldn’t agree. The differences may only surround how much we focus on the political element as opposed to the aesthetic. The first point is problematic for me- while perhaps a wonderful ideal, and certainly something to strive to move much closer to than we are at present, I do not think we can event remove the desire for artistic self-expression that exists within human beings, and so it will always be there. For me, the more steps we can make towards a communal, collaborative creativity (and I would argue that improvised music, when approached in its purest form is certainly a positive step in this direction) the better, but the giant leaps taken during parts of this festival might just be too much too soon.

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Concert Reviews

Sunday 14th November

November 14, 2010

I’m not sure if I will try and go into more detail on the events of Instal when I get home, maybe I will, but its hard for me to really get everything down into these blog posts from here, primarily because its all a little overwhelming- yesterday’s events went from half two in the afternoon through to midnight without a break, and just about every moment required high concentration levels to be able to grasp a good understanding of things. Sitting here in the hotel lobby the morning after, it just isn’t that easy to do much more than give an overview. Apologies for that, I am aware how frustrating this might be for those interested on the other side of the world…

If the theme of Friday’s events might have been to directly engage with the audience, so yesterday’s events all had a subtly different (and I must say very inspiring) intention. Several, if not all of the performances took the route of presenting carefully chosen “found” items in a very simple manner to the audience, who were then left to try and make sense of what they had seen/heard for themselves, so engaging the audience in a different way, leaving them to complete the performance for themselves. If this sounds just like what any concert might also do, perhaps the events that followed this process yesterday could be grouped together because they took things that already existed, and presented them in such a way that they generated strong responses from the audience members, and in particular, personal, internal, emotional responses.

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Concert Reviews

Saturday 13th November

November 13, 2010

“I’m not sure that I trust them” – These were the words spoken by one of the audience to his companion after he had been handed a bowl of soup by Christian Kesten as part of his performance with Lucio Capece. This was perhaps understandable, as a few minutes earlier on the way into the hall each of us had been handed a facemask, and Capece and Kesten went about their business wearing hoodies, so fitting the popular image of someone that shouldn’t be trusted.

The idea that the performers could not be trusted would please the musicians here, as they would please Barry Esson, Instal10’s primary curator. The notion that we “trust” musicians to do the same things each time we see them, to allow us as an audience to remain passive, to sit and pay attention while the “artists” go about their work and we wait until we get the cue to applaud, never feeling in danger, never feeling like we have a part to play, is the scenario that this festival has set out to directly overturn. In his opening talk to the festival Esson spoke of a desire to remove self-expression from the festival, and to replace it with situations that brought the audience into events, involving them rather than performing for them.

Throughout most of the “sets” (why does that term feel wrong here?) last night this was consistently achieved, at least to some degree. From Kesten and Capece pulling the audience into their otherwise surreal performance by feeding them, and then asking them to read quotes handed to them by Kesten while they sat silently at the back of the stage- through to Diego Chamy’s “interruption” of Jean-Luc Guionnet and Seijiro Murayama’s sublime improvisation with an audience question and answer session about the value of improvised music- to Mattin’s reworking of Lucier’s I am sitting in a room as an anarchic free for all, the audience were challenged, confronted, made to feel that their role in proceedings involved more than just sitting and watching. Or at least, most of them did.

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Friday 12th November

November 12, 2010

I’m typing this mid afternoon on Friday, a little before heading over to Tramway for the first evening of events at the Instal festival. I’m writing now as I suspect I’ll be home too late tonight to write at length, though I have little of interest to add for now. After ten much needed hours of sleep I went for a walk this morning in search of breakfast, finally settling on a small café somewhere down near Glasgow Central station. Since getting into town yesterday it has rained constantly, and the wind keeps getting up high, so making walking about a typically Glaswegian experience. I was soaked by the time I sat down to a cooked breakfast and a decent coffee, but along the way I had managed to take a few photos of the city, something I haven’t really managed to do before as every visit here in the past has always been a bit rushed and there hasn’t really been the time.

I sat and read over breakfast (Roger Scruton’s History of Modern Philosophy, which seemed quite apt to take along with me this weekend) and watched the rain run down the window in a suitably cinematic fashion before wandering out around the city (which is now essentially one big puddle) for a while longer. Another nap this afternoon (told you I was tired) and a further coffee back here at the hotel has set me up for what I hope will be the first of three thoughtful and enjoyable evenings. I will write more then, with some first impressions of the festival tomorrow. Anyone know where I can buy a cheap umbrella?

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Concert Reviews

Thursday 11th November

November 11, 2010

Yesterday’s exertions were undertaken so as to get to Cambridge to visit the Every Day is a Good Day exhibition which is touring the UK and is currently resident at the Kettle’s Yard gallery, though not for much longer as it shifts soon to Huddersfield to tie up with the music festival there. In the evening, there was also a “performance” of one of Cage’s Musicircus events in the gallery space. The exhibition was actually very nice indeed. There were around a hundred of Cage’s works on display, a mix of watercolours, drawings, mixed media etc… The works really benefited from being seen close up. I have had mixed feelings about Cage’s visual works in the past, loving the Ryoanji drawings but feeling less impressed by the paintings. Here though, up close with time to spend on them full size (I was surprised by how big many of the works are) it was easier and very rewarding to be able to enjoy them.

What really made the exhibition for me though was the way it was hung. Careful attention was paid to Cage’s thinking by the curators. So the art was arranged around the walls according to chance systems created using the I-Ching. So paintings may have been hung way up high near the ceiling, or virtually on the floor, with big spaces left in places, and clusters of lots of works gathered together elsewhere. Apparently the exhibition has been re-hung twice during its couple of months in Cambridge, with the paintings moved according to the same chance methods, and one painting taken down completely every day or so. There are no little plaques explaining what a painting or drawing might be, just numbers stenciled on the wall that refer to a hand-out available for free. Some numbers then have no paintings beside them, and the hand-out, which is updated daily shows gaps where a painting used to be. Very nicely done all round if you ask me. See the exhibition if you can.

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Wednesday 10th November

November 11, 2010

Well its far later than I expected, 2.30AM to be precise, I have to be up again in less than three hours to head off to Scotland, and I still haven’t really finished packing, so a very brief post tonight. This evening I went over to Cambridge to attend a John Cage Musicircus event, taking one of the musicians with me, but although the concert went generally well, we had problems with the car, which got sorted very quickly, but then we found Bedfordshire was basically completely closed, so we were diverted miles and mile out of the way, and so we arrived home about two hours later than originally thought. So I might write up the concert properly on the train tomorrow, or I might just be asleep. We shall see. the photo is of Patrick farmer and Dominic Lash performing this evening.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 9th November

November 10, 2010

I selected a little 3″ disc that arrived here a couple of days back to listen to tonight. I hadn’t heard it before this evening, but have now played it five times. It is a very nicely packaged little item that is also available as a free download from the Insubordinations netlabel. As regular readers will know I’m a sucker for a well put together 3″ release, and this twenty-three minute disc pleases me from the start by being so lovingly put together in a thick card sleeve folded up to house the little disc. If one of the accusations levelled at netlabels is that they don’t care about packaging well then this release proves that theory wrong.

So what is it and what does it sound like? The CD is credited to Diatribes and Phonotopy, which is three people. Diatribes are a Swiss laptop and objects/percussion duo that I have written about before and saw play live last week, Phonotopy is apparently a musician named Yann Leguay, who on this release is credited as playing “tennis cythar and electric racket” Hmm…

Partielle d’Averse, as the disc is titled, is actually a nice little set of crunchy, textural improvisation though, busy and active but not in an old-school improv manner, electroacoustic in feel but with a fair amount of metal and other percussive sound involved. It all feels quite similar to AMM in some ways, a mix of texture and expressive drama but with the three musicians all nicely in tune with one another. Its an engaging affair, quite feisty in its own way, sounds colliding as often as they slip into one another, the musical conversation getting a little heated here and there. For the twenty-three minutes the music keeps you interested, constantly reworking itself and shifting into new patterns, full of energy and never becoming reliant on any sustained sounds as a bed, existing instead as a stream of continual improvised arguments resolved in real time. The spirit and drive of improvisation is at the heart of this music. There is no technical showboating or reliance on either technique or stylish texture, just a recorded moment of shared immediate musical expression.

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CD Reviews

Monday 8th November

November 8, 2010

Tonight I’ve been listening, as I have for the past few days, to a CD that I still don’t own a physical copy of, and in fact only last night found a source through which to obtain one. The music though is just so good that I couldn’t wait for the hard copy, potentially complete with liner notes to arrive before I started shouting about it. The allusive CD in question is one of three new releases on the Norwegian +3db label, a set of new recordings of Cornelius Cardew’s compositions from the sixties performed by the trio of John Tilbury, (piano) Michael Duch (double bass) and Rhodri Davies (harp).

Cardew Works 1960-70 contains six realisations of Cardew scores- Autumn ’60 (heard here played by the trio rather than the usual orchestral version), 4th System, (one of the February Pieces) Material, Solo with Accompaniment, an excerpt from Treatise and Unintended Piano Music. The three pieces are (as one would expect with Tilbury involved) faithfully interpreted and beautifully recorded. Its a wonderful CD.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 7th November

November 8, 2010

Anyway… I also listened to some music today, and some very good music indeed. When Michael Pisaro announced the launch of his new Gravity Wave label, a vehicle designed to present his own music, it didn’t surprise me to hear that Ricefall(2) was to be the first release on the new imprint. I first heard this recording a couple of years ago, soon after I had first heard A Wave and Waves, the release that came out on Cathnor. Both recordings see Pisaro working closely with his frequent collaborator Greg Stuart, and in many ways they have things in common. But while I personally much prefer A Wave and Waves, the Ricefall recording is a lovely, and quite remarkable piece of work, and I am very pleased it now has an official home.

The problem for me now is wondering what on earth to say about this recording other than pointing out its beauty and complexity. Inevitably I find myself wanting to compare it to other Pisaro pieces, which is a little unfair and somewhat pointless, but comparing it to the work of anyone else is equally fruitless. Is anyone else making music quite like this right now? If so is it even half as inspirational?

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CD Reviews

Saturday 6th November

November 7, 2010

Tonight I have been playing a new CDr on Barry Chabala’a Roeba Records imprint, and (I think) the first disc on the label not to feature Barry in any way. The CD, titled Psalms contains a set of five compositions for percussion performed by Nick Hennies. Of the five pieces, four are Hennies’ own works, and the fifth is an Alvin Lucier score called Silver Streetcar for the Orchestra. The first three tracks on the album are named Psalm 1 to 3 and are recent compositions inspired by the other two works on the album, the Lucier work and a 2001 Hennies piece named Untitled (1918-2000) a composition in turn inspired by Herbert Brun, a German electroacoustic composer.

All five of these tracks utilise the on-the-surface very simple system of a percussive item being struck continually, quite quickly, and with seemingly metronomic regularity for the duration of the piece. The three Psalms are performed on vibraphone, snare drum and woodblock respectively, and each involve the item being hit maybe three times a second constantly for the length of the pieces, which ranges from six to ten and a half minutes. This constant repetition, kind of a slowed down woodpecker recording reminds me on the first cursory listen of an area of minimalism I am really not that fond of, a kind of Arnold Dreyblatt, Steve Reich form of repetition that takes on hypnotic forms but kind of works for me in a similar way to a Bridget Riley painting might, a clever idea that scrabbles the brain for a bit, but on deeper inspection reveals little of depth.

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CD Reviews

Friday 5th November

November 5, 2010

I ate dinner tonight, and made a pot of genmaicha tea, passing over the bottle of wine in the fridge because it probably wouldn’t agree with the nice blend of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories my body is currently running on, and took it upstairs to sit down and listen. Yes, I’ll get to the music in a minute, but just being able to do this, having the time, and most importantly the urge to sit and listen to music made me very happy. My thoughts on the music that followed will probably then be coloured by the simple pleasure taken from doing this, but hey so what?

The CD in question is named, curiously RI 1.5442 and is released on Prins’ own Cavity label. The album consists of one single piece that shifts and changes slowly but continually through its full length. Prins works with electronics, Korber guitar and electronics, though as is usual the case with his work, there is no trace of anything like a traditional guitar sound in there. The music here then is actually very subtle indeed. When first purchasing the disc I did wonder if maybe we could have been in for a noisy blow-out of a CD, given both musicians’ track records, but far from it, the music here never raises above an average volume level, and for large parts of the CD dips down towards the near inaudible.

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Uncategorized

Thursday 4th November

November 5, 2010

So, having scared one or two people with that image last night I went in search of something more positive tonight, and as there are seven days remaining until I escape to Glasgow for the Instal festival I did a google images search of the term “7 Days Remaining” Amongst other images this reproduction of a Hiroshi Sugimoto photograph came up, which instantly caught me eye, as all of his work tends to do. So, although the photo actually has no link to seven days, (it is titled Ligurian Sea, Saviore) I like the fact it came up like that at a time when I needed something to cheer me up, and when I had no idea of any other image to use. I have long been a fan of Sugimoto’s work, and a reference to his work appeared in my sleeve for A wave and waves.

For those interested, my health has begun to improve after two or three days of multi-faceted illness, part of which now sees me dosed up to the eyeballs with antibiotics, and saw me spend the majority of the day asleep. So, no music listened to again I’m afraid, the sum total of my listening today was to hear the Radio4 news a couple of times and lie in bed wondering why and how my desktop and laptop computers’ cooling fans seemed to change pitch slightly at virtually the same time. Tomorrow I have an important day at work so I aim to be up and about as normal, and so I hope to write about music tomorrow evening, but for now I think the Sugimoto image is far better than anything I could produce here anyway. Thanks for your patience.

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Uncategorized

Wednesday 3rd November

November 3, 2010

Sorry for the scary photo. As you can probably tell without reading on, I am really not well at all today, and so there won’t be a post here tonight. I’m off of work tomorrow, which is a blessing, so all being well I can sort myself out, but this evening I am no good […]

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Uncategorized

Tuesday 2nd November

November 2, 2010

A million apologies, but tonight I have come home from work with a not uncommon headache, which has unusually now got worse and is verging on migraine proportions as its actually hurting my eyes to look at the computer screen right now. Suffice to say then, I have listened to nothing at all today, and given that I have to be up at 4.30AM to head back into work please excuse me if I excuse myself from writing tonight and go and try and get some rest.

I can’t think of much to plug here in the absence of a proper post either, so will just point anyone over in the direction of Cambridge towards the arrival of the Every Day is a Good Day exhibition of John Cage’s visual works at the Kettle’s Yard venue. Details here. I hope to go over on Wednesday next week, the day before I take the train up to Glasgow for Instal, as on that day I think Mssrs Farmer and Lash will be performing some Wandelweiser related scores at the same venue, though the linked website does not mention the performance yet. I’ll add more details here when I have them.

A much better post tomorrow. I hope.

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Concert Reviews

Monday 1st November

November 2, 2010

Having spent a week listening to Jeph Jerman’s music alone, a bit of a backlog of CDs has built up again here, but they will have to wait until tomorrow, as tonight I aim to write up Saturday evening’s intriguing little concert I attended in London. The concert always looked a curious one on paper, two sets in a church in Shoreditch, the second of which was a sextet of musicians, many of whom had not met before, let a lone play together. The event was thrown into disarray though, when on arrival it became apparent pretty quickly that the room adjacent to the church’s main hall, where our concert was to take place had been let to be used for a somewhat loud Hallowe’en party. Add to this that Shoreditch on a Saturday night isn’t the quietest of places anyway, and you have a LOT of external noise making its way into the hall, amplified then by the huge resonant space to completely un-ignorable levels. So even though polite discussion succeeded in getting our noisy neighbours to turn off their thumping music during the improv performances, both of the two sets played in a far from ideal aural setting.

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CD Reviews, Jeph Jerman

Sunday 31st October

November 1, 2010

I also took along Datura, the seventh and final Jeph Jerman CD in this mini series of reviews for us all to listen to. As it turned out we didn’t listen to all of it, as both Patrick and Daniel were already familiar with the recording and so my hope of having them listen blind and give their thoughts on what they were hearing was spoilt, but ti was still interesting to hear others’ thoughts on what is a remarkable piece of music.

A bit of googling revealed a Datura to be a shrub-like plant that disperses seeds and has sharp, cactus-like spines around the edges of its leaves. From what we all agreed today, the sounds on this CD are all generated from contact mic recordings of the plant being “played” as if it were any instrument. So we hear rattling seeds, fingers rub and stroked through sharp needles and an assortment of other sounds that nobody could quite pin down to any one action. The sounds are incredible, a wide variety of clicks and pops, groans and wails. The question then is how they are all brought together here to make the dense stream of sounds that make up the single track on the disc, complete with a loose rhythmic structure.

I am quite certain that there is a degree of layering of sounds here using the computer listed on the liner notes, and maybe also some sounds are looped, as there are portions of the disc where elements can be heard identically over and over, such as one warbling purr that reminds me of a common British pigeon but might be created by a part of the datura plant being rubbed or scraped in some way. Throughout the recording I have a constant feel of watery, nautical rocking as there is a repeated feel of the music slowly churning over in a slightly hypnotic manner, like the calm, but relentless lapping of the tide against a harbour wall.

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