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Sunday 30th January

January 31, 2011

Today I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on a recording session in Oxford, something I haven’t had many opportunities to do down the years, and which I enjoyed a great deal. The session was very much just a group of musicians working together just to see what would happen, working hard to try and make music that may be worthy of a CD release somewhere sometime, but not really with anything firm in mind. This relatively relaxed approach to things, not really hampered by any time pressures, and not having to perform to an audience made for a very different musical situation, at least for me to experience as a listener.

The music was very quiet, and over about five hours, give or take the odd tea break, I got the chance to sit and listen to some very peaceful music coupled with the oddly amplified sounds of our near surroundings, mostly birdsong, a slightly annoying hedgetrimmer and various activities involving squirrels. The thing is, sat in the room like this, feeling very conscious of being very welcome and yet also slightly out of place, an additional element to proceedings if you will, I was just so worried about making an unintended sound that I sat almost motionless for the entire time. What’s more my stomach was making all kinds of noises, probably angry about the Indian veggie meal I fed it the night before, and although nobody else said that they heard it, i was very aware of the possibility of it being caught by one of a sea of microphones, so I found myself wrapping my coat, which I was wearing because it was just so cold in the room, tightly around my stomach in the hope of masking any sound it would make.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 29th January

January 30, 2011

I did manage to spend some time with a new CD today as well, and as it lasts just seventeen minutes I heard it through seven or eight times, both at home on the stereo and while driving about in the car. The CD in question is a live set called “concert” by Joachim Nordwall released in the Confront labels’ Collectors’ Series of releases, which now come housed in recycled card sleeves, anonymous apart from a small card stuck to the front containing all of the brief details required. I actually began listening to this CD in the car a couple of days ago, and at first, after listening all of the way through decided to not try again, simply because the quality of the sound I was hearing was terrible, a murky, washed out noise that seemed to do the music no favours whatsoever. When I got home though and played the music on a decent system, it didn’t sound all that much different, which lead me to go and find the press release, which heralds the lo-fi qualities of the recording, which was made by John Olson (one of Wolf Eyes?).

Nordwall is best known to me as one half of the Oceans of Silver and Blood duo he shares with Mark Wastell, on whose label this solo release appears. In that group he plays analogue synthesisers, or at least has done when I have seen them, and it could be that he is playing the same instrument here, though it is a little hard to tell if this is the case. What the CD presents us with is a kind of off-centre, wavering drone with several layers that shift slowly in and out, and a kind of shuddering layer of static on top, that may be a product of the recording methods used rather than part of the actually played music. The track isn’t really that loud, but has a kind of warped, queasy feel to it that reminds me of old heavily warped vinyl records played at the wrong, slower speed. The general feel of the sounds reminds me of feedback, perhaps of the guitar variety, but it sounds like what you may hear if you were in a room adjacent to where a loud concert might be taking place, as if the music has been filtered by something thick and heavy, and what we hear is just a kind of sketched out outline of the music.

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CD Reviews

Friday 28th January

January 29, 2011

Tonight’s CD is a difficult one. I have played it maybe eight or nine times since I first received it here two or three weeks ago. It is difficult because it doesn’t make for easy listening, and while it is clearly a CD of much depth and consideration, connecting with that side of it is not a quick or simple task. Irrespective of how the CD actually sounds, in my opinion these factors make it an intriguing and worthwhile exercise to spend time with the music. So its taken me a little while to get to writing about this CD, and even now as I begin to write I’m really not sure what I want, or even have, to say about it.

The CD in question is a new release on the exceptional Potlatch label but the paris-based Swiss saxophonist Bertrand Denzler. Tenor is, according to Denzler’s website the thirtieth full album he has appeared on, but this would also seem to be his first solo in almost twenty years of playing the saxophone. Certainly it would seem that all of that experience informs and illustrates this new CD, but the sounds we hear when we press play are a distillation of all of that, a kind of meditation on the act of playing the tenor saxophone.

There are three tracks here, each working with the very simple idea of including only one note, but then applying a wide range of techniques to the act of playing the sax to alter and affect the sound. The first track, Filters begins with a single note (don’t ask me which one it is sorry) blasting out of the sax. From the very first seconds of the first urgent note, I am reminded of jazz, as this single note, for some reason has all of the resonances that that music holds for me, a thick, warm sound that usually flows on into melody and wild expression. Here that doesn’t happen though. The first blast of sax feels incredibly familiar as Denzler does not disguise the sound in any way, he is, simply playing a single note on a sax. From here though, he ends the blast and after a short pause plays it again, and again, and again, so the idea of jazz disappears, and something more rigorously structured is suggested. The track begins with seemingly no alteration to the ‘pure’ note, but a few minutes in and slight muting of the sound can be detected, leading to the rasping undertow of the reed rounding off on alternate blasts, so although we hear the same pitch it is changed in slight subtle ways.

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Thursday 27th January

January 28, 2011

Work was no fun today, for a number of reasons, and it was good to get away and head over to Julie’s tonight for some amazing African-styled home cooking and a chance to wind down. So i got home here at midnight, and although I have been able to listen to a bit of music today, most of it was for other purposes than this blog I’m afraid, so I have little to write here this evening. In these situations I usually find something to plug by a friend, and so today, once again I feel I must point you to the Compost and Height pages, where a number of nice looking new pieces of music have been put up for free download by my friends Patrick Farmer and Sarah Hughes. They include a set by Seijiro Murayama, Pacal Battus and Tomaž Grom recorded in Slovenia for the brilliant Luka Z’s radio programme, then there is a new solo piece by Oxford’s own Dominic Lash, but surprisingly here I believe he isn’t playing his bass, rather composing a work using a number of field recordings. There is a mass of other new material at the C&H site as well, go take a look if you haven’t recently. I aim to download the above and a few more pieces and try and get around to writing about them soon. That’s it for tonight then, sorry for the brevity, the image above is one I took in London last Friday.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 26th January

January 27, 2011

Tonight I have been listening to another CD involving the Swiss duo Diatribes, who are D’Incise (laptop, assorted bits of percussion and a gramophone) and Cyril Bondi (percussion and objects). On this disc, a release that is also available as a free download on the excellent Insubordinations netlabel here sees them joined by a prepared guitarist named Abdul Moiéme, though I suspect that that name may well be a pseudonym. So as you can go and get the music for free anyway, part of me does wonder why I am reviewing it here, but its quite an enjoyable release so here goes anyway.

Diatribes have always struck me as belonging firmly in the AMM tradition of improvisation, building their music in a laminal manner, buzzing electronics and metallic, often bowed percussion swelling and subsiding slowly. The addition of the prepared guitars here leads me to think that way even more, as although Moiéme’s contributions are quite varied, and as cheap and lazy a comparison as it may be, every so often sounds appear (vibrating springs, metal against pick up etc) that remind me of Keith Rowe. Add this to the streams of percussion and its hard not to find the classic AMM sound evoked. To be clear though, this isn’t a bad thing at all. There is plenty of depth and variety in this release, which before I forget to tell you is named,  Complaintes de marée basse. (Laments of low tide? beautiful if this is the case, and quite fitting) but across the seven tracks there is an underlying sensation of dark, brooding slowness, and that feeling of gathering clouds that was present in so many of the trio AMM albums just before the heavens opened. Complaintes de marée bass has seven tracks though, and so ‘the arc’ isn’t as prevalent here and the pieces build to their little mini climaxes without quite the same sense of grandeur, but the image of low waves washing up on a beach at low tide is certainly a fitting one.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 25th January

January 26, 2011

Tonight I have been listening to a new CD on the Con-V label by the French-born, Madrid-based American musician Wade Matthews. Early Summer is a solo disc, not Matthews’ first, but the first that I have had chance to hear. Following my recent comments about the ways in which field recordings can be used in interesting, or often very dull ways, Matthews has a slightly unusual take on how to use them. This CD is made using two laptops simultaneously, their output sent to speakers and then recorded on microphones placed in front of them. Matthews plays field recordings on one of the machines, and manipulates digital synthesis programs on the other. The pieces here were recorded in a “live” improvised situation without any significant editing or any overdubbing later. This is how Matthews works live, and so the music on Early Summer essentially captures this same process, so giving the music here a certain immediacy.

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Monday 24th January

January 25, 2011

No review tonight, partly because after returning to work today I am a little too barb-wired, but also because I spent some time tonight writing a review for The Wire, and most importantly because, after many months of struggling with HTML coding I have managed to get the UK and Ireland Concert Calendar back up and running here. As I have explained in a comment following the Calendar, I hope this time that it can work a little differently, with concert organisers leaving details of their gigs in the comments under the calendar, from where I will extract the details and enter them onto the calendar, before deleting the comment. My hope then, is that details of gigs can be immediately put up online here and nobody has to wait for me to transfer the details of an email onto the calendar.

The calendar isn’t perfect, it still doesn’t always do what it is meant to do and occasionally the on-screen views go a bit astray, but my knowledge of these things isn’t anything like perfect, and I am just pleased that I have found a way to get it back up online after it broke last time. I hope people find it useful and that people will contribute to keep it up to date and relevant. There aren’t many concerts listed there as yet however, so all submissions are now welcome. I have a few more concerts to put up that I am aware of, and will do so over the next couple of days, but don’t let that stop you letting me know of anything I may not be aware of. One gig that you will see on the calendar that sadly I don’t think I will be able to make it along to, taking place this Thursday at Café Oto is the fifteenth birthday bash for the Sprawl club, a gig involving a few sets, but the one that caught my eye was the Common Objects group lead by Rhodri Davies and involving a number of great musicians, but you can just go to the calendar and find out who there!

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Concert Reviews

Sunday 23rd January

January 24, 2011

So a few words about the two nights of the Balloon and Needle event I attended at Café Oto. There were three days to the residency, but as the first consisted mostly of workshops and film screenings, and as I don’t live right on Oto’s doorstep, I made it along to the second and third evening. Friday night then consisted of three solo sets, a film based piece and then a closing trio. The evening opened with Ryu Hankil performing with his typewriter set-up. When I last spent some time in Hankil’s company he was talking about how he was struggling to find a way to make music with the typewriter. He had chosen the “instrument” before he had figured out exactly how he would make music with it, an idea that I liked a lot, and so it was really good to see him ‘play’ it on Friday and see what solution he had arrived at.

From what I could tell, Hankil had set up the typewriter so that depressing different keys sent some kind of electric signal to small motors placed on a snare drum, so if he sat and typed a text (as he did during this performance) so things would vibrate, or throw a small lever at the snare’s skin, and generally make percussive sounds in a very Unami-esque manner, each one of these small events potentially affecting the others as things moved about, fell over and collided with the next. So the music set the scene nicely for the two days ahead, quite fractious and uncertain, full of silences but constantly on the edge of collapse or sudden drops into noisy chaos. I’m a big fan of Hankil’s music, and this was a great example of it, mixing a carefully considered use of space and timing with elements of chance and danger.

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Saturday 22nd January

January 23, 2011

Home very late /very early then, depending on whether you consider 1.30AM to be late on Saturday or early Sunday… Tonight I was in London again, back at Café Oto for the last night of the Balloon and Needle event, which was again really very good indeed, a nice mix of the charming, the thoughtful and the downright absurd. Although I’ve been able to rest a lot this week I was still a bit tired tonight after yesterday’s exertions and the long journey into the city again, but the show tonight was thoroughly engaging, ensuring that any exhaustion stayed at bay. The various stages of neanderthal life that I shared the last train home with tonight kept me from falling asleep on the journey home as well, though right now typing this I can feel the last dregs of energy draining from my body. I will write a review of the last couple of nights tomorrow then.

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Friday 21st January

January 22, 2011

Home very late tonight then after a long day in London that culminated in a trip to Café Oto to take in the second of the three day event involving the Balloon and Needle musicians visiting from South Korea. The day had also included about ten miles of walking around London in the esteemed company of a certain Mr Farmer, visiting most of the cafés and all of the toilets in the capital, so by the time I got home tonight, after a delayed and ridiculously overcrowded train journey home I am somewhat knackered. The concert was a good one, culminating in one hell of a loud noise trio that did about as much for me as loud noise trios normally do, but before it there had been three solo performances by Ryu Hankil, Choi Joonyong and Jin Sangtae that had all been really strong for one reason or another. More about them tomorrow when I am less exhausted. The photo above is of Hankil at his typewriter…

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CD Reviews

Thursday 20th January

January 21, 2011

Bernhard Gal is a musician/composer/sound artist who has apparently now released eight albums. I think I own maybe half of these, but even now if pressed I’m not sure I could really describe his work quickly and easily, which is probably a good thing. I really enjoyed (if enjoy is the right word to describe listening to an album based on the work of the schizophrenic art brut artist Adolf Wölfli) his 2004 album In Hinaus:: In den, Wald but have been out of touch with most of the rest of his solo work since that release. So it was pleasing to receive his new album Same Difference recently.

This album contains a dozen tracks that each reflect and involve Eastern aesthetics and instrumentation in their composition. Written and recorded over the best part of a decade, the pieces here are all assembled on a computer, many of them involving field recordings, often in one processed state or another, but at the heart of most of them lie traditional Chinese instrumentation. All of the tracks have an ‘Eastern’ feel to them, sometimes in a really direct, obvious way and elsewhere only in slight feeling. A lot of thought and preparation went into many of the works. The third  (and at twenty minutes plus the longest) track here Uh-jeh-gal, which was commissioned by and performed at a Viennese concert hall in 2004 blends recordings of musicians playing the sheng and zheng with live performances using the same instruments and live electronics, but the positioning of each musician in relation to the speakers is carefully planned in relation to a score that also admits improvisation. The resulting recording presented here is rather nice, a strange blend of the traditional and the contemporary as the obviously traditional sounds of the sheng (some kind of Chinese mouth organ) and the zeng (a Chinese zither) often blend seamlessly into the sheets of electronic sound as if they always have.

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Wednesday 19th January

January 20, 2011

No post of value tonight then, but hey, I’ve just written ten lengthy reviews on the trot without excusing myself for a day so I think I deserve a slight break! Today was spent working on some website design and then heading over to Oxford to drink tea, eat cookies and listen to music with various musicians. Tonight I have been listening to music, and thought about writing about it, but decided that the CD I had in mind to write about needed a little more attention than I had given it so far, so I will write tomorrow instead. I must be honest as well, the book I have been reading (Things Merely Are – Philosophy in the poetry of Wallace Stevens, by Simon Critchley) has gripped me enough to keep me from writing tonight. I don’t often give myself the chance to just sit and read for several unbroken hours, so tonight I will.

If you are in London this Thursday, Friday or Saturday, make sure you check out this concert series featuring the Balloon and Needle label musicians from Korea- not to be missed! More concert links tomorrow. The photo above is one taken yesterday during our walk up the canal.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 18th January

January 19, 2011

Since getting home I have been listening to a quite extraordinary CD by Eric Cordier and Seijiro Murayama that somehow casts my mind and ears back to our walk. The disc, titled Nuit and released by the currently on-fire Herbal International label is a mix of field recordings of wildlife, distant traffic, aircraft, human spluttering, moaning and wheezing and an awful lot more. So, for a number of reasons I will probably always associate this CD with today’s excursion…

Forgetting the leisure pursuits linked to my midlife crisis for a minute then, this is still a really intriguing CD. Although there is a page of liner notes that explain the “composition” here to some degree, exactly what we hear here is still a bit of a mystery. Murayama apparently asked Corider to compose a work for him that involved his percussion playing placed “back to back” with tape. This initial request somehow mutated into the mass of field recordings, human vocal sounds and percussion (some on drums some on metal railings it seems) that we hear on these five seamlessly linked pieces. Cordier used field recordings he made in Japan in 2006 to build the work, adding in some pieces recorded in France as well. He took everything from firework displays, singing, (actually moaning very loudly) bullfrogs, passing aircraft, bits of human chatter, watery gurgling sounds, toy windmills and a whole load more and brought them all together into a bustling, thoroughly bright and present set of concrete recordings.

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CD Reviews

Monday 17th January

January 17, 2011

Released on Toshiya Tsunoda’s Skiti label at the end of last year, the title of this CD by Manabu Suzuki seems to be Live installation at loop-line recorded by Toshiya Tsunoda. Certainly that’s an accurate description of the sounds recorded on this CD, but the role of Tsunoda should not be underplayed here, as he does have a significant impact on what we get to hear. In some ways Tsunoda has almost done the listening for us already, recording the results to present to us to play again at home.

Going back to the start, Suzuki set up an installation in the loop-line gallery in Tokyo that involved five electronic gadgets suspended from the ceiling, each containing an amplifier broadcasting an ultrasonic frequency, each of them very close but slightly different. These gadgets were then set swinging, so the Doppler effect, coupled with the interaction between them causes quite dramatic beating patterns and wavering, unsettling fluctuations in what should in theory be a single tone. As the gadgets (there must be a better word for them sorry) slow to a static position the degree of fluctuation decreases, but still there are beating patterns to be heard, caused by the slight differences in the tuning of the tones. The sounds we hear then are in some ways beautiful, as the tone is a low, soft one, but the music also creates a slightly nauseous feeling, a kind of decentering sensation that makes the music difficult to rest and relax to. What makes the CD quite interesting though, is Tsunoda’s contribution as a listener/recorder

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CD Reviews

Sunday 16th January

January 17, 2011

I’ve been listening to tonight’s CD for a few weeks now, putting off writing a review because I’ve found it hard to know how to approach writing about it. Michael Francis Duch’s Edges is a wonderfully well produced (both in terms of sound quality and packaging) disc on the +3db label. It is the first in the label’s proposed series of releases named Music for One, and this release contains five realisations of scores composed by some of the twentieth century’s greatest avant garde composers. That is where the problem lies for me really. While I hugely enjoy these pieces, and have many CDs containing assorted realisations of them, writing about them becomes difficult. Several of these piece are primarily graphic scores, and so comparison to other recordings of the same works is in some ways a pointless task. Discussing the music as if it were an improvisation by the musician is also somewhat fruitless as it isn’t easy to pin down where the composer’s intentions end and the musician’s individual approach begins. So I find myself just describing the music, which is not really of much help either. To really shed light on the music on this CD I suspect I would need to spend time with the scores, discuss them with those that understand them well, and then consider how Duch’s approaches to them may or may not succeed. As much as I would love to do this, I don’t have the time, so any review I write tonight will be no more than a written illustration of how this music sounds.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 15th January

January 15, 2011

The disc in question is another I’ve had for a while as I try valiantly to get through the backlog. Jason Kahn and Z’ev released their Intervals disc on the Monotype label around November last year but I only managed to crack open the shrinkwrap on it last night, and have given it four spins since then if you count the run through now as I write. It has been a long time since I heard a CD involving Z’ev, maybe nearing twenty years in fact as it was in my late teens during a brief flirtation with the industrial music scene in the UK that I last heard anything. I did catch him live once a few years back playing alongside someone else at now defunct Spitz venue near Liverpool St in London. I can’t for the life of me remember who it was he was playing with (Alastair- any idea?) but I do remember distinctly disliking the occasion. So I wasn’t sure what to expect here. I have generally speaking enjoyed Kahn’s music of the last few years however, so I went into this disc with an open mind.

Z’ev then is a percussionist, focussing mainly on metal instrumentation if I remember correctly, though there does sound like there are some regular drums to be heard on this disc. His playing always had a distinctly ritualistic feel to it to me, and here on Intervals that still seems to be the case as his contributions quite often have something of a slow, solemn feel to them, though he also does pound out some quite loud, raucous sections here and there as well. Jason Kahn plays his analogue synth alongside additional percussion, but as we might expect his input into the CD has a more electronic, fuzzy feel to it, his normal, quite narrow palette of droning sounds easily distinguishable from Z’ev pounding.

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CD Reviews

Friday 14th January

January 15, 2011

This evening then, after getting home from work quite late I have been able to spend some time with a CD that I have been playing quite a bit since I was generously given it at the weekend. Sometimes its nice to write about a disc quite early, even when the backlog is still quite daunting, and so tonight a few words about the new disc by Ernesto Rodrigues, (viola) Neil Davidson (acoustic guitar) and Wade Matthews (digital synthesis and manipulated field recordings), a CD on the Creative Sources label named Erosions. Caveats out of the way first then- I have worked on a CD with Davidson recently, consider him a good friend and was handed this release while at a concert he organised in Glasgow last weekend. So take all of that into account as you read etc….

Erosions then, (great name for the album by the way) consists of five shortish studio improvisations recorded in Summer 2010. These pieces are, if simply described, great examples of good improvised electroacoustic music recorded by thoughtful, creative people. They are nothing more than this, nothing less. As I have written countless times before, you don’t always have to rewrite the rulebooks to make strong music. You also don’t have to have sold hundreds of records before or be the name that everyone is discussing. Because of the label it is released on, Erosions will doubtlessly be overlooked and/or written off without being listened to. This is a shame as its a really good listen.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 14th January

January 14, 2011

Home very late tonight, midnight in fact after spending the evening eating a rather nice meal cooked by my better half. I have committed to writing a review every day for a little while though, so I will do just that. I spent the day listening at various times to Fire and Frost pattern, a CD by Andreas Bick released quite recently on the Gruenrekorder label. This is one of those CDs which I don’t get my hopes up too high for before listening, for probably quite irrational reasons. Firstly, I really don’t like the sleeve design one little bit, but that’s a taste thing. Then I note from the back sleeve that the music has been entered, and subsequently won several “sound art” prizes. This is certainly not a good sign! Then, reading the extensive liner notes, the music is made to sound as much like an audio equivalent of a National Geographic article than simply some interesting music. Details are given about where each sound on the two pieces here were found and how they were recorded. probably a little too many details really.

There are two pieces here then, each lasting around the twenty-six minute mark. Named Fire Pattern and Frost Pattern, the two are derived from sounds involving the two extremes of temperature. The Fire track utilises recordings of volcanoes, geyser activity, and ignited alcohol vapour alongside some kind of ‘gas burning in a test-tube’ activity. The sounds are then collaged together to create the piece. Similarly, Frost Pattern uses seismic recordings of iceberg induced earthquakes, cracking ice, “sizzling” ice and apparently the sound of snowflakes falling onto a sheet of aluminium foil hooked up to contact mics. The question then, given that we have a wild array of unusual and nicely recorded sounds here, is does all of this come together to make convincing music or are these sounds best considered as some kind of science experiment?

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 12th January

January 12, 2011

An unexpected day off today, which was spent in the company of good friends in the morning, and delightful girlfriends in the evening, so I’m not sure why I feel a bit gloomy tonight, but perhaps its the menopause kicking in again. Still, I have listened to some music today, and have chosen to write about a disc that actually came out more than a year ago, and was sent to me a month or two back, but as I have only just got around to playing it, and as the label were kind enough to think of me to send it, I don’t see why it should matter how long its been out. it is still available here.

The CD in question then, is a trio improvisation  recorded in Argentina back in 2008 by the trio of Tetuzi Akiyama, (acoustic guitar) Eden Carrasco (alto sax) and Leonel Kaplan (trumpet). The album consists of one thirty-three minute long improvisation and revels in the beautiful title Moments of Falling Petals. Before mentioning the music I should bring attention to the lovingly formed packaging, a great little pen drawing printed on thick art paper that is then folded up in such an extravagant origami formation that I’m not sure I’ll be able to put the disc away once I’ve finished with it this evening.

So musically, this piece sounds pretty much how I expected it to, Akiyama picking out a spacious, fragmented blues-type smattering of clear notes over Kaplan and Carrasco’s more muted, earthy backdrops. As predictable as it may be though, it is still really rather lovely. The sax and trumpet stay mostly in an area somewhere between breathy hisses and low growls, occasionally breaking out into louder passages of the same kind of thing, but retaining the reduced palette throughout. Akiyama’s playing then is very beautiful, indeed like falling petals his notes feel fragile and exposed out the front, like the first solid lines painted into a watercolour sketch after the bases washes have been perfected. The rhythmic element that often creeps into Akiyama’s playing is missing here though, which pleases me quite a bit, and so there is a  forlorn, almost vulnerable feel to the guitar that harks back to his early CDs and yet also fits here perfectly.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 11th January

January 12, 2011

So tonight to another release on Another Timbre, the trio disc entitled Wunderkammern by the trio of Rhodri Davies, Lee Patterson and David Toop. I have only finally got around to playing this disc over the past few days having had it sat here for ages, but I’ve been itching to get to it as I didn’t ever get to hear this trio play together when they did a few gigs a few years back. Also, this CD was recorded, almost five years ago now in the same studio and on the following day as Patterson was involved in the Buoy album recording, so you can see why I want to hear it.

Listening to this CD made me think a little about how improvisation groups seem to work these days, in this country at least. A few musicians will play together, usually in a concert setting at first, enjoy working together, maybe play some more, and somewhere along the line a CD will appear. Sometimes it feels that, once the CD is recorded, the group can stop playing, at least for a while, as if what they were working towards has been completed. Then, if they record a second time at some point in the future, the musicians will take on the title of the first album as the group name. Such is the tradition. Wunderkammern translates roughly I think as “Wonder room” but the word in German seems to relate to some kind of cabinet of curiosities affair, an image that certainly suits the music recorded herein.

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CD Reviews

Monday 10th January

January 10, 2011

Very tired tonight. I woke this morning feeling very weak and weary after the weekend’s travel and didn’t feel too good all day at work. Home tonight and feeling well enough to listen to a CD anyway. The disc in question is another release on Jez riley French’s Engraved Glass label, this one a piece called Sonata for Clarinet and Nodar, credited to riley French, Joana Silva and Luis Costa.

Paraphrasing the liner notes, Jez went to the Nodar Artist Residency Centre, which is in the Portugese mountains somewhere (thanks Google!) and while there he and Costa recorded clarinetist Silva walking for two hours through the leafy landscape as she played parts of a 1901 composition called Solo de Concours by Henri Rabaud, a name previously unfamiliar to me. The disc begins with just the sound of the landscape, made up of what you might expect, wind in the trees, insects, birds, passing aircraft etc… This set of sounds, which are very nice and pleasant but wear a little thin quite quickly continue for some eleven minutes before Silva begins to play the clarinet. The pieces of Rabaud’s composition feel all a bit loose and fragmented to me, its hard to pin down anything solid from it, but it kind of meanders slowly about, perhaps a bit like the walk it accompanied.

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Concert Reviews

Sunday 9th January

January 10, 2011

For a part of yesterday’s seven hour concert of music by Wandelweiser composers, I found my mind wandering, and wondering about the links that tie together those characteristics that the music being played shared with other artistic mediums. Throughout the afternoon various pieces referenced poetry, painting, sculpture and prose that all bring similar feelings to me that the music of Malfatti, Beuger, Werder and Pisaro provoke. What is it in the poetry of Wallace Stevens, the painting of Agnes Martin, or Ad Reinhardt, the installations of Mauser etc that inspires in the same way that this music does? I was looking for a single word to link these elements, this way of thinking, of considering material, space, light, time, language in a related way that has lead to so many of the scores played yesterday referencing, or being inspired by, other artistic mediums. I couldn’t find one, but the way I felt in the main concert hall of Glasgow University yesterday was a physical embodiment of whatever that word might be, a state of mind that was at once both relaxed and alert, completely calm and yet more attentive to my surroundings than I have been for quite some time.

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Uncategorized

Saturday 8th January

January 8, 2011

Well that’s flippin’ typical… I am writing from the train from London to Glasgow, having wangled a very cheap upgrade to first class (I absolutely hate the thought but here I get free coffee, wi-fi and electric power plus some peace and a comfy seat for little more than the coffee would have cost me anyway so all is well there… However now I have the chance to sit and listen to some music via the noise-cancelling headphones I brought with me I have realised that I forgot to put the music I ripped last night into the correct iTunes folder and so now I have the time and space to write a review I don’t have any new music to listen to! Ah well, probably for the best.

This has given me the chance to listen back through some music that is on my iPod though, and having listened to the daily Nono piece on the first train to London I caught earlier this morning I have picked out the Cage piece from one of my favourite albums of last year- Lost Daylight by John Tilbury and Sebastian Lexer. As gorgeously beautiful as the Terry Jennings tracks are on that album its the realisation of Cage’s Electronic Music for Piano that really makes it for me, a piece of music I find equally challenging and aesthetically pleasing, a rare item as I usually swing one way or the other. I have also cued up the live version of the same piece that the duo performed at Café Oto about a year ago now and it will be interesting to hear them side by side, something I’ve not attempted to do before.

So this post is here to fill the Saturday slot in case I don’t get to write much later. I will try to post about today’s concert this evening at some point, but this will depend on the internet connection at a hotel that quite frankly doesn’t look that appealing on paper. Fow now though, having only managed one hour of sleep last night and with a seven hour long concert ahead I am going to try and take advantage of the complimentary extra six inches of legroom to see if I can grab some sleep. See you in a few hours Glasgow.

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Friday 7th January

January 7, 2011

Why do you keep coming back here to read this when all I do is write excuses as to why I can’t post anything worthwhile? This has to happen tonight again, sorry. For those that haven’t noticed already, my life has been a bit fraught over recent weeks, for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with here, and tonight this end of things caught up with me a bit again. A few slightly stressful hours later all is well and I am looking forward to getting on a train to Glasgow, via London in about four hours time.

I did listen to some music tonight, as I finished off the last draft of a review of Eric La Casa’s stunning double album W2 released on Herbal for The Wire. I can’t really write another review for these pages so I can only urge you to read my 300 words on the disc in print if you are able, and say right now that if you enjoy field recordings then you really need to hear this one, a wonderful compilation of ten years worth of pieces by Eric.

Here’s a quick plug I have been meaning to give for a while but keep forgetting- Tanner Servoss is writing a great little blog about this end of the music world over here. I like his writing style, personal and informal but informed and honest at the same time. Add him to your bookmarks.

I am going to try and write on the train north tonight then, though I’m not sure if I will get a wi-fi connection at all, but if I do then I will try and get a post up in a few hours. If you are in or around Glasgow for tomorrow’s Wandelweiser marathon then say hi, even if its just a nod or a whisper in the quiet room! Picture above of some Welsh bloke who will probably be there too.

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Thursday 6th January

January 7, 2011

No post tonight again, due to having to stop and work on a Wire review at relatively short notice this evening after getting home late from work. Something struck me tonight though that actually made me laugh out loud to myself. Thinking a little about the comments made by Diego Chamy in his Instal performance that I linked to yesterday, when he asked if those that listened to improvised music were just a bunch of strange losers, I found myself tonight sat trying to listen to a CD that is in fact a recording of a CD skipping. This time it was Choi Joonyong’s new solo disc on the Reductive Music label, but it was only a few weeks back I sat and wrote about a similar conceptual work by Matthieu Saladin. I’m not sure exactly which characteristics Diego would ascribe to a “loser” but I’m pretty sure if I went to work tomorrow and told people what I had spent the evening doing they might put me in that category. So sitting and seriously trying to listen to the sound of a CD player malfunctioning suddenly felt like a ludicrous thing to do tonight, and after listening to the disc right the way through (I actually managed it twice!) I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. For those readers in London or nearby, don’t fail to attend the three days of performances by Choi and his Korean Balloon and Needle collaborators in a couple of weeks’ time at Café Oto.

Anyway, I should hopefully get a better post in tomorrow before heading off to Glasgow again in the middle of tomorrow night. The Wire review is written tonight (I found the solo Choi Joonyong intriguing but somewhat unlistenable but the Dotolim group recording a fine disc) and now I intend to head to bed with Luigi Nono’s string quartet, as I have on every day this last week. (The Moscow Quartet Recording tonight) Listening to the same piece of music every day isn’t exactly rational behaviour either really. File me under L for loser.

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Wednesday 5th January

January 6, 2011

So, no CD review tonight as I’m too tired after a long day’s work and other things have distracted me tonight. A few other things to mention instead then- Diego Chamy has made the film of his Instal performance available to view here. If you view the film, I get asked the question at around the 15:40 mark- “Why do you think most of the people aren’t interested in improvised music?” My reply is barely audible, partly because Jean-Luc Guionnet lets a loud sax cry go as I start to speak, but also because I tend to mumble a lot. For the record, my reply, which is missing from the subtitles to the film, was “because its not in front of them?” Perhaps there is some truth in this, perhaps not, but I think if I was asked the same question now I would pose the same question in reply.

Also from Instal, a nice set of photographs from the event have been posted online here. I met the photographer who took these while up in Glasgow, and he seemed a nice guy so I’ll forgive him for the photo of me amongst that set that makes me look even fatter than I currently am. See if you can spot it…

On a Glaswegian note, I hope to make the trip up there agin this weekend to catch Rhodri Davies and Dominic Lash perform pieces by various Wandelweiser related composers at Glasgow University from 2PM. The concert is free, and its not often you get seven hours of live music for nothing, so if you are anywhere near do try and pop by, and say hi if you see me before or after. Details are here.

Also- here’s a bit of an appeal from me. Does anybody reading this own a “real” copy of the Assai release of Quatuor Diotima performing Lachenmann’s Reigen Seliger Geister quartet and Nono’s Fragmente-Stille? I am searching for someone either willing to sell me their copy or burn me a lossless disc of it (it is long out of print and Assai are out of business). I have Mp3 files of the music, but would like to get hold of a decent copy to assist me with my Nono project. Drop me a line if you can help me at all. I would send something your way in return.

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Tuesday 4th January

January 5, 2011

Bit of an awkward one this. Released as part of the Another Timbre label’s Silence and after series, Arena Ladridos, a new album by the American trio of Chris Cogburn, Bonnie Jones and Bhob Rainey is one that I instinctively want to pigeonhole away, but can’t quite manage to do so. To be more precise, this is a CD of improvised music that for much of the time fits quite comfortably into the convenient but lazy bracket of “modern textural improv” in that it is a quiet, brooding affair full of a mixture of hissing spluttering sax, (Rainey) tinkling, scraping percussion, (Cogburn) and bleeping and squawking electronics (Jones). The music on the most part progresses as you might imagine, all rather understated and occasionally slipping into near silence, but otherwise a nice blend of all of the above sounds, purring and whistling away.

So part of me wants to put this CD onto the shelf labelled “thoroughly pleasant but not all that dangerous listening” in that it doesn’t really seem to take any risks, and yet the two pieces on the CD are all very nicely constructed and beyond the fact that they don’t really go anywhere we haven’t heard a good number of times before I can’t think of anything bad to say about them, and enjoyed listening through the four times I have so far a great deal.

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Monday 3rd January

January 3, 2011

This last week or two, after reading Brian’s end of year lists and his writing about the recent Beuger disc it became even more apparent to me just how similar our tastes seem to be. Maybe I don’t go off on long rants about old jazz records, but his writing on the recent eight disc set Weites Land, Tiefe Zeit: Räume 1-8 by Jürg Frey seems to say exactly what I would want to say about this release, right down to the very similar visual metaphors and comparisons with the sounds of (sub)urban night time. Maybe it would do this music good to have more reviews out there than just Brian’s and my own, but for now I can do little else but say what I have to say, even though Brian said most of it already.

The music here was originally created as the audio part of an eight day installation back in 2002 that coupled these works with visual works created by the late artist Mauser that consisted of him writing texts in chalk across the floor and then erasing them, the traces of the text then visible to the public while the installation was open to the public, which happened for just forty minutes each day while each of the pieces here played, one per day. The notion of erasure is apparent in all of the music here. Each of the eight discs contains one single track, each of which are similar in form- a very soft, hushed tremble of sound that suggests, as Brian so beautifully described, eight textured planes each softly lit by different shades of light. There is a mass of detail in the pieces- careful listening, or (god forbid) turning the volume up high reveals this, but it is as if Frey has taken busy, eventful collaged recordings and erased them, so leaving behind just the faintest of traces of what was there.

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Sunday 2nd January

January 2, 2011

Well that wasn’t the most auspicious of starts to the year for this blog. I finally got my broadband connection back this afternoon after more than twenty-four hours disconnected. I knew I relied on the internet quite a bit to keep the various things I do going, but its only when you lose it that you realise how much. Anyway I have begun work today on updating the Reviews Index here, and should hopefully have it complete, and also the Concert Calendar back up and running by the end of tomorrow. Once these things, which have been bugging me for months, are done then I will feel I’m in a good place to get some solid content back here again after a few lean weeks.

This is probably also a good time and place, being a new year and all that, to mention a new project I have planned for 2011 and beyond. One of the criticisms of this blog, made by myself if not by others, is that the demanding schedule and limited amount of time I give to each post results in hurried, poorly written and badly researched writing. This is certainly the case, but I prefer to think that this blog is not really like many other music blogs in this field, and rather than write definitive pieces I tend to present snapshots of my listening day here, and so the quality of writing will, by necessity be relatively low. Talking with people that read these pages, the majority seem to enjoy this approach, and so I intend, after much deliberation, to keep up the daily, informal posting routine for as long as I feel able.

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Saturday 1st January

January 1, 2011

Well what a pathetic start to the year. Besides waking up feeling like I had the mother of all hangovers (I didn’t drink anything last night and in fact was in bed early feeling quite ill) I also found my internet connection (delivered abysmally by BT, please note if you are looking to change your provider any time soon) had just stopped working. I have since spent two half hour long periods hanging on the phone hoping someone might talk to me, but no luck.

So for now I have given up, and am off out this evening with Julie, so I’m not going to try the internet again until tomorrow. This post has been written using the thumb-aching but bacon-saving Word Press application on my phone, so excuse the strange positioning of the photo above and for the lack of a post today. I do actually have a part written post sat in my laptop, but there is no easy way of getting it out of there and up at the site.

So, a thoroughly grumpy start to another year. Let’s hope things get better soon.

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Friday 31st December- Review of 2010’s CDs

January 1, 2011

2010 was an interesting year. For the third year in succession I have sat and listed all of the CD I really enjoyed this year in the hope of compiling some kind of Olewnickian list, only to find the list stretching over several pages of my notebook again. It has been another fantastic year for good music. There have been a couple of themes to much of the music that crossed my path this last year- field recordings seem to be appearing more often than ever, and composed music performed by improvisers seems to have blossomed to levels we have not seen before. In both cases, like with all music, there has been a lot of good music, quite a bit of rubbish, and a handful of really great releases. More on this in a moment. As a generalisation though, I think 2010 can be summed up as the year of two great musicians- Michael Pisaro and John Tilbury.

You just couldn’t miss Pisaro’s music in 2010. It just seemed to keep appearing on release after release, concert bill after concert bill, and the quality was uniformly great. As well as the creation of his own new imprint Gravity Wave, there were great releases such as the two editions of July Mountain, the Windsmeasure release of Black, Red, Green, Blue, White/Voyelles, the wonderful Fields have ears release on Another Timbre (review to come) the duo disc with Taku Sugimoto on Erstwhile and not to forget Miguel Prado’s reworking of Pisaro’s Within. Pisaro lead a real surge of interest in the Wandelweiser label and its related and influenced composers in 2010, something that had been brewing for a few years but really seemed to gain momentum this last year. Speaking as someone who bought their first Wandelweiser CD more than a decade ago now it has been really heartening to see this music now gaining a slightly wider audience, and I hope that this continues into the new year and beyond.

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