CD Reviews

Monday 30th May

May 31, 2011

This evening I have been playing Forma II, the deceptively titled first CD collaboration by the Berlin based duo of Thomas Ankersmit and Valerio Tricoli. The disc consists of five pieces that are described as electroacoustic compositions “based largely on analogue synthesizer material and one long-form swarm-like composition for multiple overdubbed saxophones.” while this description is very helpful in identifying how this music might have been put together, what it doesn’t do is really explain who does what here. Ankersmit is a saxophonist at heart, but also plays the analogue synth, and his recent releases and performances have featured a lot of digital treatment, so it isn’t clear as to whether he provided the sounds for Tricoli to then compose with, or whether (as I suspect) the duo sat and worked the sounds together into this music together.

A lot happens across these five pieces then. The fifth track is based around a long drone, so it almost sits separately to the other four , which all inhabit a constantly changing, often dense, often sparse field of fizzing distortion, abrupt squelches, screaming tones and the occasional sound that feels like it was recorded elsewhere and blended into the mesh of sound. There is a really nice sense of a narrative composition at work here. My favourite track by some distance is the third one, the cinematic, post-concrete drama of Hunt, an excellently named combination of cavernous bellows that crash in and out with a thud over an otherwise wintry backdrop of thin, slithery synth scribbles and heavy tones, with no small amount of other sonic detritus spread about as well. Its quite a ride listening to this piece either turned up loud or sat in the dark via headphones, a somewhat all-encompassing piece of music that feels like it is crowding around you, tugging at the senses for attention.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 29th May

May 29, 2011

The role of the solo improviser recording an album is always a difficult one. Inevitably (s)he will find himself in one of a few scenarios, either sticking to the limitations of the chosen instrumentation, trying hard to stretch those limits out via extended, unfamiliar technique, or utilising recording technology to bypass the restrictions of playing alone. In many ways, on his new, second solo album called The bird and the giant, the Swedish improvising percussionist Erik Carlsson manages to take all three approaches at different times.

There are five tracks here, or six if you wait and seek out the hidden bonus at the end. Each of them uses multitracking techniques to layer separately recorded, but resolutely unedited parts over one another. So we hear Carlsson improvising live, but alongside himself, perhaps several times over in places. This then avoids the inevitable restrictions that being a human being with only so many limbs presents the percussionist, but still the music has a certain vibrancy and energy to it. It doesn’t sound like a set of contrived pieces. Carlsson is one of the rare breed amongst modern improvising percussionists that is not afraid to make music by hitting things, perhaps playing percussion closer to how it was originally intended to be played than many of his contemporaries. His playing exudes a certain confidence. He is not afraid to strike objects, form patterns with his sounds, let tones hang in the air and slowly decay, and yet he also understands the colour and textures possible with his battery of sounds very well. His work on this album is sensual and richly detailed, but he has found these qualities through a combination of intuitive playing in the moment and a finely structured compositional integrity pulled together across the separate tracks.

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Concert Reviews

Saturday 28th May

May 28, 2011

So last night’s concert then. Obviously because I had a hand in the organisation of this one I don’t think I can really write anything that objective about the event, but I can try and describe things a little, and add a few comments from Julie, my girlfriend, who attended last night’s show, and helped out with its organisation, even though she generally speaking can’t stand the music I listen to! There were two sets last night, an opener by the trio of Patrick Farmer, Sarah Hughes and Stephen Cornford, followed by the Norwegian/Japanese quintet Koboku Senju.

The opening performance was a real mix. The trio of Farmer, Hughes and Cornford is a group that shows a lot of promise. A CD featuring them, recorded a couple of months back in Oxford is due for release some time this summer. Their mix of tonal, textural and downright ugly sounds works well for me, and last night they showed how the various elements in that mix come together, and equally how they disrupt each other. At one point last night Sarah Hughes, playing amplified autoharp found a space in the music to pick out a little melodic passage, actually really very tuneful, just a pattern of four softly plucked notes repeated over and over. If this element was nice to listen to, the sudden, very loud attack from Farmer that virtually bludgeoned everything else out of the way, (in fact a wire scrubber forced down onto a contact mic) was quite the opposite, but this constant collision of soft and beautiful sounds with abrupt and often unpleasant sounds made the set for me. Julie wasn’t so much a fan of the Farmer, Hughes, Cornford trio, but that maybe doesn’t surprise me as the music they made was some way off of accessible. Talking to her tonight to try and understand her perspective on this music I made her sit and listen to, she used the word ‘disjointed’ to describe the opening trio, which is a possibly quite obvious, but also very accurate description of the music.

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Friday 27th May

May 28, 2011

Wow, tonight’s concert went well. Oxford doesn’t see all that many concerts that fall under the vague umbrella of music that I write about here, so it was really good to not only help out with the organisation of the Koboku Senju concert in Oxford this evening, but also to see a really healthy turnout of around forty people come through the door at the Art Jericho gallery. Julie and I have been on the go all day, driving tables and tubas and Tetuzis and Toshis about and trying to remember how to pronounce assorted Norwegian names, so we are both exhausted and neither of us is in the mood to write a review tonight, but Ill get something done after work tomorrow. The biggest congratulations are probably due to Patrick and Sarah of the Compost and Height corporation, with some help from Stephen Cornford who did all of the hard work putting the concert together tonight. So a little more about the concert tomorrow but for now, yes, another brief post, but I’ve been told not to apologise for writing these, so I won’t.

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Thursday 26th May

May 26, 2011

No post of value again tonight, but rest assured I have been working hard again, and I’m pleased to say I have now finished the first revision of the John wall piece for The Wire, adding an extra thousand or so words int he process, and extending it from four pages in the magazine to six. I notice that the daily readership here has fallen very slightly over the last week or two, and I’m not surprised as I have clearly not been able to put the effort in here that I usually manage, but I can only say again that I have been working on a few projects that mean a lot to me and that eventually all will see the light of day. All of my deadlines run out after this forthcoming bank holiday, so normal service will resume here then if not earlier. Tomorrow I will be tied up with the Koboku Senju concert in Oxford, an event I am very much looking forward to as much as I will be relieved when it all passes by without hitch. If you are able to make it along to the concert please say hello, and if anyone out there feels like they would like to write a review of it please let me know. I don’t think I will be able to do so objectively, and while I mischievously intend to try and convince Julie to write something for me tomorrow about the gig another more informed opinion could be good as well. So that’s it for now, I don’t have anything else to plug I’m afraid and apologise again for the dirth of anything interesting here, Will do better soon. The photo above is of Toshi and Tetuzi of Koboku Senju soundchecking in Manchester this evening.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 25th May

May 25, 2011

Its very late, I have been writing all evening after a long day at work and the last little bit of common sense in me is telling me to not write at length here tonight, but as I have stepped aside from writing a review for the past couple of evenings, I feel a duty to tonight. While I have been writing I have had one piece of music playing continually over and over, or maybe two pieces of music, either side of a cassette tape, but with each piece lasting just slightly more than ten minutes and the recordings (burned to a CD again I’m afraid) looped over and over to the point that the start and finish of either piece is just a blur, this has been a hazy, difficult listening session, but one that I think has been worthwhile.

The cassette tape in question is a recent solo release by Adam Sonderberg named American Hours with German Efficiency and is a release (yet again) on the Entr’acte label. There are two pieces here then obviously, one either side of the tape, and they are very separate works, each recorded for different purposes, but it is strange and interesting to me that when the music is recontextualised as I have done, taking the music away from the tape format and placing it on a CD, so you no longer have to get up and turn the tape over after one side ends, how it all seems to come together as one piece. I listened for a couple of days to this music a great deal before I read the liner notes, which can be read here, and found that I had almost forgotten that the music was made up of two tracks, let alone two completely different works. The two sides of the tape played in quick succession work very well together.

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Tuesday 24th May

May 24, 2011

So I have written a couple of thousand words today, but alas none of them for this website as I have to leave you with another evening of spacious excuses. I did actually set out very late tonight to try and write something about another cassette release, this one a piece of music by Adam Sonderberg issued by Entr’acte and named American hours with German efficiency, but having only started listening to this piece early this morning before work, and despite playing it several times tonight I still don’t think i have heard it enough to pass comment on it as it is a curious, difficult to grasp set of two short pieces. I will try and get a review written tomorrow anyway. My workload remains heavy but as I return home from work a few hours earlier tomorrow I should be able to get more done. I an only assure you that I am not being lazy or wilfully neglecting these pages and that the current overload is the result of a few things landing here coincidentally rather than any ongoing situation.

Now I aim to get some sleep before my typing fingers seize up completely and before my MacBook’s screen completely blurs into one big blob, but not before I polish off the large Irish whiskey I have been nursing for much of the last few hours. The photo above is a random one taken in Ireland last weekend. Its a graffiti’d shop window if I remember correctly.

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Monday 23rd May

May 23, 2011

OK, so no real post tonight, but I have been working hard today, during every one of the few hours I was not at work in the dayjob writing and rewriting stuff for The Wire. I will get all of this finished soon and return to more regular review posting here, (I have to, the pile of stuff to write about is getting ridiculous again) and well, I have still managed three CD reviews over the last four days, so its not been all bad. I try and avoid self-promotion here, but it has been gratifying and humbling over recent weeks to be asked to write a few different things for different places. Ultimately I am only an avid listener that decided to start a blog to house all of his overexcited burbling in one place. Its good to know that the hard work I put into this blog doesn’t go unnoticed anyway. I just wish I had the time to do it properly, but I guess that will never come.

Something else close to self-promotion then- on Friday there will be a concert in oxford by the Norwegian/Japanese group Koboku Senju, who are also playing in London at Café Oto tonight and tomorrow. This isn’t really self-promotion though as reports that I might have had anything to do with the organisation are wildly exaggerated- Patrick Farmer and Sarah Hughes, aka Compost and Height’s dual head honchos have done all of the organisation. I’ll probably just stand near the door looking important on the day. I’m good like that. The suggestion that I designed the concert’s poster, which can be seen full size here aren’t really even true. I spent ten minutes resizing the group’s album artwork, the overworked fraud that I am… Still, if you are anywhere near Oxford on Friday night please come along. The city doesn’t get all that many concerts of this kind and every bum on a seat might mean future events could happen easier. Bring a friend if you can as well. Even if they don’t want to come. You never know, they might thank you for it.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 22nd May

May 22, 2011

Tonight I have been listening to a CD by Neil Davidson, a composition named String Quartet, though it actually isn’t a string quartet, released as a CDr by Neil himself. What I am not entirely sure about is how it might be available to purchase, but if you are interested in buying a copy let me know and I’ll pass your enquiry along to Neil. String Quartet is the composition that Neil performed a couple of times at last year’s Instal festival up in Glasgow. It is a charmingly simple work that consists of the following text score:

Play a tone when you are remembering a string quartet
make the tone you play simple and quiet
when not playing, listen

Duration: an hour or longer

The realisation here then is by a quartet, though not string based. The musicians are Lina Rozite, (flute) Michael Shearer, (clarinet) Nicole McNeilly (trombone) and Neil Davidson (guitar). Since I first heard this piece played last year it has fascinated me. While it is very simple in its concept the instructions could be taken in more than one way, and the musical taste and knowledge of the musicians involved will then dictate how it sounds in a manner that I as far as I know has not been done before. Do the musicians have to know how a particular quartet sounds? Do they have to think of its tune in their heads or is merely knowing a quartet exists enough? I can’t imagine that the latter can be the case, as the minute you know that Shostakovich wrote fifteen quartets you instantly have fifteen tones to play. I suspect then that the musicians took the score to men that they had to know the music involved, but maybe this was open to individual interpretation.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 21st May

May 21, 2011

Horsky Park is the title of the rather fine new album by Thomas Lehn and Tiziana Bertoncini, one of yet another new batch of discs on the seemingly infatigueable Another Timbre label. Lehn’s music I know very well, his work on analogue synth is, in my opinion unrivalled. Bertoncini however, an Italian violinist is a new name to me, though about of googling around informs me that she has been working in various ways with Lehn for almost a decade now. This is the fortieth AT release ‘proper’, but Lehn also appeared on one my favourites from the label, the Obdo duo with Frédéric Blondy. This one follows hot on the heels, but, as we might expect from Lehn, who is one of the most versatile and yet still consistent improvisers working today, this CD is quite different.

There are two tracks, an opening piece named Galverna that lasts half an hour and is a straight improv recording, and then Moss Agate, clocking in at thirteen minutes and apparently recorded during a “dance-installation-media festival” in Germany, the two musicians performed in separate “open containers” that faced each other, with Bertoncini’s sounds fed into an input on Lehn’s synth, and as other events took place in other nearby “containers” so some external sounds creep in. The CD begins quietly and cautiously, but quite soon the amplified violin can be heard confidently thrusting sounds at us, rasping bow strokes and firm, almost violent sounding wrenches across the strings. Around and between these attacks Lehn very cleverly drops a wide variety of sounds, from soft purrs and whines to sudden aggressive splashes and one or two thoroughly angry explosions. The violin reminds me of Luigi Nono’s composition so often, in places I hear Fragmente-Stille’s tormented struggles with language present, but it is probably the sense of harsh, vibrant musicality that pushes me that way the most, reminding me often of Nono’s more troubled, upsetting music.

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Friday 20th May

May 21, 2011

OK, so it was inevitable that this would happen from time to time. I worked long and hard in the dayjob today, and then on arriving home, complete with headache, I sat and listened to some fine music, the album Horsky Park by the duo of Thomas Lehn and Tiziana Bertonici, a disc that has been playing here a lot over recent days. Anyway I cooked dinner, ate it, or rather ate most if it, and feel asleep on the sofa before finishing, while the CD played. I woke soon after, and made my way upstairs where i had a hot bath to try and freshen up, made a strong coffee and put the CD on again. At about 11PM I seem to have fallen asleep again though, and now at half past one I’ve woken to silence, as the CD has long ended, and my body aches and is telling me it needs to be resting. So yet again I must leave you without a review, and apologise. My workload on several fronts right now is putting a lot of strain on this blog, but things should level off soon. Tomorrow evening I will have time to relax and will get a review of the Lehn/Bertonici written and posted. Until then please bear with me, and above is a picture of a particularly nice, and very strong cup of coffee I had in Dublin. i could do with one like that right now.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 19th May

May 20, 2011

Because I have written a long piece for The Wire about John Wall and his new CD collaboration with the artist and poet Alex Rodgers I have spent more time with this music over the past couple of months than I have with any other disc for a couple of years. I have long been a huge admirer of Wall’s work, and have followed his progression from desktop computer composer to laptop improviser and onwards over the last decade or more. I had an older review published with John here back in 2008, and as someone recently pointed out to me, if I was ever to appear on Mastermind he would probably be my specialist subject. So having said all of this, when it comes to just writing a review of the new album, why do I find it so difficult to do? Can you be too familiar with music to be able to write sensibly about it?

Even before you put the disc into your player the title hits you as something very different for Wall. The CD is named Work 2006-2011 rather than Cphon or Alterstill or some other fantastically created word.  Naming the album was about the only area that the duo found it hard to agree on, but the simple title that they settled on is somehow perfectly fitting. Wall and Rodgers have worked together informally and irregularly for the best part of two decades, but it has been since Wall took the leap into improvisation, roughly five years ago that the potential for their collaborations to become something more solid has evolved. So the pair have worked together, either just informally in Wall’s studio or out playing live gigs since 2006, and they have essentially just worked and produced a body of material that Wall has then sculpted into the composition that appears on the CD. The sounds that we hear then are the output of that work together. The CD extends far beyond mere documentation but the trace of this progression of time is present in the music, so ‘Work’ is the perfect title.

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Concert Reviews

Wednesday 18th May

May 19, 2011

So a briefish write up of the seventh annual i and e Festival in Dublin then that happened last weekend. I am writing a further review for The Wire, so I will try and keep this one short and a little different to what I will write for the magazine, to keep me from getting bored writing the same thing twice if nothing else!

The festival took place at the Ireland Institute, its home for the past few years and a nice, intimate little venue far enough away from the main street to keep external sounds at bay. the festival began with what what was probably the most anticipated set for me, the duo of David Lacey and Patrick Farmer. Now I have been able to follow Farmer’s work quite closely over recent months since he has relocated near to me, and so perhaps I’m the last person to be able to be completely objective, but I hugely enjoyed this performance. Although they have worked on music together from a distance, this was the first meeting of the duo, but it really didn’t show. Though both musicians began life as drummers and still occasionally work in that vein their performance was electroacoustic, Lacey working with electronics and vibrating surfaces on a drum, Farmer playing acoustic turntable, essentially allowing the spinning disc to rub against assorted objects held against it. The set was busy and bristling with event, often bursting into aggressive activity, sometimes flying off at angles, such as when Lacey picked up a hammer and hit a large fire alarm-like bell here and there. If the set seemed to slip towards a textural middle ground at any point one or the other would disrupt it, with Farmer in particular seemingly enjoying breaking up any sign of natural momentum at every opportunity. A great opening to the festival.

There followed the duo of Roy Carroll and Miles Perkin. Though both musicians now reside in Berlin, Carroll only moved there recently from Dublin, and Perkin is Canadian by birth. Carroll set up a system of many upturned speaker cones around the floor, into which he would drop stones, paper and other similar items, Unami-style as he set them vibrating by passing deep tones through them from his laptop. Perkin played double bass, sometimes channelling its sound through a tiny and tinny speaker at his feet. I had a few problems with this set. I wasn’t a big fan of some of Carroll’s sounds, which on occasions leapt into a kind of ugly, squelchy synth sound. I also found it quite hard to pull the two musicians’ sounds together in my head, perhaps as they were so different in style and form, as the groans and rattles of the speakers was matched with a relatively constant series of bowed scrapes and rustles from Perkin. I struggled to make the connection in my head between the two sets of sounds and so follow the interaction, which took quite a bit away from what was otherwise a nice performance.

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Tuesday 17th May

May 17, 2011

So, after promising that, without a doubt I would write in more detail this evening I’m going to have to go back on my promise and give you yet another content-free post. I have been writing today, both for this blog and other places, and my review of the i and e festival, or at least, the one I’ll post here is close to finished, but not quite. Today I have found it quite hard to focus and operate properly doing just about anything, primarily because I’ve been falling asleep every ten minutes or so, but also because I’ve spent a lot of time with Julie, planning to finish the review late tonight, only to find out without much notice that I have to go into work at six in the morning, which means I have to be out of bed at half four, which is only a few hours away. The review is going to have to wait until tomorrow then, apologies for the lack of stamina today!

In the meantime, here is another set of photos from the festival at the weekend, courtesy of Cif. Some nice shots here that manage to capture the intimate, communal aspects of the festival well. While I’m here, my apologies to anyone awaiting a reply to an email, I have a few days to catch up on but will get there very soon. Apologies then to all for being a bit crap right now, this has probably been the longest I have gone without a proper post since beginning my daily blogging routine, but  normal service will be resumed very soon.

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Monday 16th May

May 16, 2011

Boy oh boy I’m tired again tonight. We flew home late afternoon and then drove straight to Oxford where we headed straight over to the Folly Bridge pub to see Nate Wooly play with Paul Lytton upstairs. The gig was actually really good, fiery and yet wonderfully controlled stuff, but I was just so exhausted that focussing properly was just about impossible. The drive back home from Oxford alone this evening was particularly tough as well, hard to keep alert, though sitting on wasabi peas that a certain someone had been throwing about in the car earlier kept me awake in true princess and the pea style.

I am very aware that I have now written four or five rubbish posts in succession, but I hope you understand how hard it is to keep this blog going daily while away and sharing the company of others as I have been. As I have little to write about tonight, and as I will certainly, definitely, without a doubt write in far more detail tomorrow, I will take this opportunity to thank David, Paul and Cliona for the great festival and for the fine hospitality once again. I had a great time, though its also good to be home. The first half an hour tonight was spent opening jiffy bags full of CDs and records, the ten minutes have been spent writing this post, and then next I’m off to soak in a bath with an Irish whiskey before bed and then I’m going to see my ever patient girlfriend in the morning. The photo tonight is of Jean-Luc Guionnet and Seijiro Murayama playing outside at the festival Saturday night.

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Sunday 15th May

May 15, 2011

Back in my little apartment here in Dublin much earlier tonight, mainly because I only had three and a half hours sleep last night, because I went to sleep at about 5AM just as the sun was coming up. Then today eight of us when for a long walk around the coast south of Dublin, hoping to see some seals as we have done before, but alas no luck today. The walk was great though, just what the doctor ordered after a couple of days sat in a dark concert space listening to music. The festival has been great as ever, a review will follow when I get home, but as always its the social element of this great little festival that I have loved as much as anything, and today’s little excursion underlined that side of things again.

One noticeable element of the trip this time has been watching the city get ready for its first visit from the British Queen for a very long time. She arrives the day after we depart on Tuesday. Listening to people here the british monarch is understandably as disliked as ever, and I can’t quite fathom out why she is visiting somewhere that clearly doesn’t really want her around, but then there’s quite a lot I can fathom out about that woman… One legacy of the visit though that will last for many months are the yellow spanner silhouettes sprayed in paint on every manhole cover in the city. It appears as the Queen’s visit is such a high security risk that every manhole cover has been lifted, checked for signs of a bomb hidden under it and then sprayed as in the picture above. As the paint is permanent is seems that this odd symbol will remain plastered underfoot int he city for a long time yet, a reminder of the legacy of the British monarchy, as if such a reminder could ever be needed…

More tomorrow then, and probably another briefish post until normal service is resumed on Tuesday. until then…

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Saturday 14th May

May 15, 2011

OK, so my apologies for not writing about yesterday’s music earlier as I suggested I would today. I did get an opportunity earlier but to be honest I was a little too frazzled to get my words in order and I grabbed an hour of sleep instead. I’m glad I did so, as its now well past 4AM and I’ve only just got back to my room after another great evening of music followed by serious discussion and debate of the kind that can only really be found at 3AM in Dublin…

Fear not, a review of some kind will appear here at some point soon, and there has been some great music to write about, but for now it has to wait until I have some time at a sensible hour when I’m not tired out. Tomorrow a bunch of us plan to travel out to the coast south of Dublin to undertake what has become a bit of an annual walk for me, in search of seals, beaches and a little respite after a hectic couple of days. Hopefully the weather will hold, but if not, we shall get wet. So, I will try again and write at more length in the morning (It’s already the morning really, I’m quite often just getting up at this time…) but for now I need to sleep.

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Friday 13th May

May 14, 2011

So its almost half past two in the morning and I am back from the first evening of the i and e Festival in Dublin, and post-concert drinks and discussions. I will certainly try and write something about the music tomorrow morning if time allows, but tonight I am a little exhausted and still processing the evening’s entertainment to some degree. Certainly though there were sets that I enjoyed a great deal and others I couldn’t connect with. I am also writing a review of the festival for The Wire so I will write a review from a slightly different slant tomorrow than maybe I might usually.

This morning however I had the pleasure of visiting the National Gallery here in Dublin in the company of Sarah Hughes and Keith Rowe. The gallery is under a lot of maintenance / pointless overhaul work and so much of it was not open, but the parts we saw included the highlights of the gallery’s collection, which is pretty great in itself. It was of particular pleasure to see Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ along with Keith. This is the painting that inspired the MIMEO album The Hands of Caravaggio, and is a truly stunning work that was made all the more interesting when viewed with Mr Rowe. However as good as the painting is, I was possibly personally even more moved by the small Vermeer painting that sits int he next room, Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid. this painting, even as one of Vermeer’s lesser works has something special for me. Both the Caravaggio and the Vermeer have had incredible histories, the Caravaggio famously only being discovered relatively recently (1990) having been wrongly mistaken as a copy of the great painting for many years. The Vermeer though has also been stolen and recovered twice, and has a remarkable story of its own. What makes The Private Life of an Easter Masterpiece for me, alongside the remarkable skill involved in the work’s creation, is the subject matter…. Vermeer made something special out of the very ordinary. He brought his camera to bear on what was, and still seems, a very simplistic, uneventful occasion, at least when compared to the sheer drama of the Caravaggio. While the latter painting tells the incredible (Most likely far too incredible) tale of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, or at least captures one dramatic moment in that tale, the Vermeer, while a far, far quieter and less eventful painting manages to speak with a quiet intensity merely by casting a light upon the thoroughly average and uneventful. Such a way of thinking always appeals to me.

Still, a really great day then. All being well I should be able to share some at least brief notes on tonight’s music tomorrow morning. Until then.

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Thursday 12th May

May 13, 2011

So we arrived safe and sound in Dublin this afternoon, settled everyone into their various places to sleep and then this evening dinner and drinks were had, with Messrs and Ms’s Lacey, Vogel, Rowe, Harmey, Farmer, Hughes and Jones present at different times. This is, I think, my tenth visit to Dublin in a little under six years, and each time I come I immediately feel welcome and at home. This time, with so many good friends in one place, and more due to arrive tomorrow it feels even more special than usual. The music starts tomorrow evening, so tomorrow morning may well involve taking in a gallery or two, but for now, having had one or two drinks, and having been on the go since about seven this morning I’m going to get to bed in the little apartment I have booked for the stay, which has, as you may well have figured out, a good broadband connection, so I hope to be able to write regularly and easily during my stay.

I’ll probably write a little in the morning before going out then. For now I bid thee goodnight with a picture taken on the rather awful ‘plane flight over today, a detail from the Ryan Air safety procedures card. You can work out what exactly the man in the image is meant to be doing…

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Wednesday 11th May

May 12, 2011

Well I had planned to write about a CD tonight, as I am away for the net few days in Ireland, and while I should hopefully have a broadband connection in my room I probably won’t write any CD reviews while away and posting will be the usual commentary on my visit to Dublin. Still, the day today has been a little hectic, a trip into Oxford this morning to undertake the world’s most pathetic attempt at flyposting took up the first few hours of the day, then I did a little clothes shopping before heading home to pack a case and then go over to my ever patient girlfriend to see her for the evening before I go away for a few days. Even then I made her watch the second episode of Stewart Lee’s new series before she was allowed to go to bed. As I said, so patient…

Anyway, if you are cool enough you will already be heading to Dublin yourself for this weekend’s i and e Festival, but if not, if you have somehow managed to miss my endless plugs for what is actually a really great little annual event that deserves every bit of support it can get. Click here for more details, and come along if you possibly can.

Another repeated plug as well for anyone within easy (or even quite difficult) travel distance of Oxford, the concert I’ve managed to put up about five posters for today is on the 27th May. Details for that one are here. Sorry then for repeating myself, and for the dull post, I will try my best to make the next few days of posts a little more interesting.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 10th May

May 10, 2011

This evening then I have been able to spend some time with a recent tape release by Paul Vogel, the Dublin based musician whose i and e Festival I will be attending this coming weekend. Godwit Songs is (I think) his first solo release, and it consists of two fourteen minute compositions, one each side of a professionally duplicated cassette on the Dublin tape label Munitions Family. Now, before you ask, no I haven’t bought a tape player yet (I might have to if these things keep arriving) and I have cheated once again with this release by listening to digital files of the music, so perhaps I miss something important by not hearing the hiss of tape as the music plays. All I can say for now is that I like the clarity in this music as I hear it, and I’m not sure I’d want to hear that compromised by any background noise, but still I appreciate that I may not be hearing the music as the composer really intended it to be heard. Needs, however, must.

The two pieces are very nice little works composed (I think) using a computer, but (I think) making use of externally recorded sounds as source material. I may be wrong on all of this however. I also suspect that the bulk of their recording at least was done in real time rather than as a gradual digitally constructed composition, but nothing is suggested for sure in the brief liner notes. Both of the two pieces that make up Godwit Songs are made up streams of very small, digitally processed sounds, little tweaks and whispers, clicks and scribbles. A godwit, rather than having any direct religious connection, would appear to be a kind of long legged wader bird. Whether it makes sounds similar to what we hear here, or whether any of the sounds on the tape originated with the birds before processing, I’m also uncertain, though I would be very surprised.

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CD Reviews

Monday 9th May

May 9, 2011

I have finally got around to writing up a two disc set I’ve had playing here for a couple of weeks, a compilation named Michelangelo Antonioni – Trilogy and Epilogue released on the and/OAR label.

Now, I am probably one of the least qualified people to write about this album. The two discs contain twenty-four tracks by a host of musicians that, on the whole I know the music of relatively well. That’s the easy bit. They are however making music here that is in some way inspired by four films by Antonioni, and I have never seen a film by Antonioni. Before anyone comments below to tell me what I’m missing, I know, I know…. I just prefer to keep film out of my life. I’m very aware that if I spent some time investigating the genre, I may be lost in it for ever, so its easier to just remain ignorant. This doesn’t help me much though when a set like this appears. All I can really do is talk about the music in itself. I’be no idea how well any of this music responds to the film work.

As there are twenty-four separate tracks here, twelve on each disc, and given that I do want to get to bed tonight rather than tomorrow morning, I’m going to have to pick out my favourite tracks rather than try and say something about all of them. The list of names here is impressive however, with each track by a different musician, with twenty-one of the pieces solo works and three duos, and only Adam Sonderberg appearing twice, once on his own and once in duo with Olivia Block. On the first disc it is indeed Sonderberg and Block that provide the first real stand-out track. A mix of electronic tones, a reed instrument (maybe an oboe?) perhaps some percussion and definitely some field recordings, in particular some beautifully recorded rain showers comes together in a very lovely manner, perhaps not that originally, but certainly with great craft and no small amount of beauty. Marc Behrens also offers a great six minute track, a dramatic set of mini explosions that sounds like water or something pouring onto some kind of thin metal sheet, then processed and warped into very sudden, unnerving events. I may have got this entirely wrong, but that’s what it sounds like to me, and its a great little piece, full interestingly different sounds but with the mark of digital processing stamped over them here and there.

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Uncategorized

Sunday 8th May

May 8, 2011

I worked again today, yes, even on a Sunday, and then once I got home I was sat behind the computer writing for places other than here, so no review tonight (I managed three on the row before tonight- Surprised even myself!) I am in London tomorrow, attending an undoubtably tedious conference as part of the day job, but then once that is over and done with I’m on holiday for slightly more than a week, during which I will escape to Ireland for my annual soirée at the i and e Festival in Dublin. I am in bad need of the break, and the stimulus of good music and good company, so it can’t come soon enough.

So not much else to say then, but I’ll leave you with a link to a rather beautifully filmed clip of John Tilbury and Michael Duch performing their Feldman’s Durations 2, reworked for bass rather than cello, last Monday at the Freedom of the City Festival. This is one of many great films made by Helen Petts over recent months that she has posted on You Tube, so archiving some great performances from the London scene. Several people do this, but Helen’s film work is particularly good, as this short film shows, nothing complicated or showy, just one straight static shot, but with great contrast to the lighting and a well chosen viewpoint.

Anyway, a longer (and I imagine somewhat happy) post tomorrow.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 7th May

May 7, 2011

Today I have been listening to something called Reflected Waves (Ondes réfléchies) by the duo of Éric La Casa and Jean-Luc Guionnet. The project consisted of a gallery installation that existed for a while in Melbourne, Australia back in 2005, and the offshoot of it, of a CD audio/mpeg hybrid disc tucked inside an elegant thirty-odd page book. It is this book, a collection of images and texts (alas in French) and CD that I have spent time with this evening. The book outlines a lot of detail about the installation, providing tables that show how elements from the various rooms that it was spread across worked together, and how they were collected for this CD release. There were various visual elements to the installation as well as audio, but while images are included int he book it is hard to pull them all together without taking the time I would need (and sadly don’t have right now) to translate the text fully.

So placing the book to one side I am left to try and respond to what I hear on the CD taken out of its context and without the benefit of the explanations. There are two audio tracks then on the disc. The first is named Prise de son, in situ, which my basic French translates to be ‘Sound recording made in place’ which I will assume is therefore a straight recording made in the installation space. So we hear sections come and go, mostly gradually fading into one another, as if one or the other musician walked around gradually recording as they went, but there are also a number of sudden leaps from one set of sounds to another, though this is quite possibly what was heard in the space.

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CD Reviews

Friday 6th May

May 6, 2011

Given that I have always had problems with improvised/experimental music containing vocal parts, it underlines how impressed I’ve been by John Wall’s new collaboration with ‘outsider’ poet and artist Alex Rodgers that the spoken parts work so well for me in that recording. Thinking a little about my response to vocals as I’ve been writing my Wall piece for The Wire, it occurred to me that maybe the only other musician that uses spoken parts explicitly that I’ve enjoyed the work of is Allesandro Bosetti, and perhaps that enjoyment was made possible through my close-hand observation and discussion of Bosetti’s work when he sat in with us on an edition of the audition radio show a few years back. I really enjoyed watching him work, using a small keyboard to trigger samples of speech that he mixed into other live instrumentation. I suspect that without this closer understanding of his work I might not enjoy his work so much, but I have found his last few albums quite enjoyable, and my review of his Zwolfzungen disc from 2009 was one of the first I had published in The Wire. I must say though, that his new release, Royals recently issued on the Monotype label does stretch my interest in his music a little.

There are three pieces here, each of which is based around a lengthy text read by one or more narrators recorded and sampled by Bosetti. The opening Gloriously Repeating seems to match the spoken parts- fragments of poetry and other bits and pieces (I think I hear some Beckett in there?) with instrumental sounds, snippets of what sounds like melody, but I think are in fact instrumental samples driven by the rhythm and melody of the spoken words. So as the female voice that dominates the track dances through the speech, so the instruments seem to follow in sprightly, thoroughly musical and melodic manner. Initially the piece feels just a little too song-like for my tastes, a bit to bright and breezy, but later it builds into a more dense mass of overlaid sounds, piano and guitar notes and some straight-up jazzy sax, all played it seems by Bosetti. At the heart of the piece is a looped sample, apparently from a fragment of a G.W Sebald poem that turns the phrase Gloriously repeating into an almost hypnotic mantra, the kind we have heard before from the likes of Reich, Ashely etc… this first piece takes up the bulk of the album, and well, its OK, but my interest in it is entirely based upon the way Bosetti uses speech and its natural rhythms and melody to drive the music. In doing this, in allowing the recorded voice to direct the shape of the music he subverts the ‘normal’ method of making popular music, where a line in a song is forced to fit the catchy tune.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 5th May

May 6, 2011

I have been listening to some music today anyway, an album that I have been spinning on and off for a few days, a new release on the reliably superb L’innomable label based in Slovenia. The disc is titled Mimesis Intemperie and is credited to No Hermanos Carrasco, who are the duo of Edén and Nicolas Carrasco, two musicians from Santiago, that initially I had assumed were brothers until I thought about the translation of their group name, which (I think) means something like “Not Brothers Carrasco”. Anyway, irrespective of any family ties or not, Its a great indication of the global nature of improvised music today that I can sit in the UK and listen to an album by two Chilean musicians released on a Slovenian label. Its also a really nice disc.

Edén Carrasco is credited with ‘sax, hoses, bell, idea and production’ while Nicolas is listed with ‘violin, objects, production and mix’. The music consists of three tracks, the first and last containing sound, the middle track being silent, lasting two minutes in length. What makes this disc so attractive then is where and how it has been recorded. Both of the long pieces seem to have been recorded outside at site specific locations that involve a lot of environmental and incidental noise. The first of these, lasting twenty-seven minutes seems to have been recorded alongside an area where a lot of children are playing very excitedly. Throughout the piece the loudest element is consistently the sound of children screaming and shouting at each other. I suspect the duo set up and played near a large school during playtime hours, though the sleeve image of a rollercoaster makes me wonder about a theme park of some kind. Either way I am pretty sure that what we hear is the duo playing naturally in this environment rather than the sounds being added tot he mix later as post production. The playing then, on the whole is very quiet, understated, and often absorbed into the screaming and shouting of the music’s backdrop.

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Uncategorized

Wednesday 4th May

May 4, 2011

I did half intend to write a post tonight, but I was up at 4.30AM, did a day’s work, ran around after that catching up on a number of things, then went over to Julie’s for a chance to relax, came home around 11PM, with every intention of writing about the CD I’ve spent time with the last couple of days, but then ended up watching the first episode of Stewart Lee’s new series on BBC TV and have run out of time, given that I am back up for work again at a similarly ridiculous time tomorrow morning. I did warn you that reviews may be a little thin on the ground for a few days, apologies for not being able to do any better.

Oddly, as the piles of music to listen to and write about build again, I have, at a quick glance, seven different multi-disc sets here to listen to, which is a bit unusual as in our area of music they aren’t that commonplace. These present an additional challenge in themselves as they take so much more time to listen to. I’ll keep on going though, and get as much done as I can before I head over to Ireland next week for the i and e Festival again. Certainly there is some tasty looking music sat on the end of my desk here again, so I look forward to the next few weeks of listening with relish, I just wish I had the time to spend with some of it now.

Until tomorrow then… I will probably put up an earlier post than usual tomorrow, but it will include a CD review, promise! For those in the UK, don’t miss episode one of Mr Lee’s new series here.

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Concert Reviews

Tuesday 3rd May

May 3, 2011

So following on from my words here last night, I have thought a little about what and how I should write about yesterday’s final day at the Freedom of the City Festival. For those sensible enough to have not read yesterday’s post, I struggled to focus upon, and therefore also enjoy very much of the day’s music, primarily because of my state of mind rather than as a result of how the music may have sounded. I was tired even before I left for London yesterday, and I had some bad news about the death of a young work colleague as I was literally on the steps leading up to the venue, so my frame of mind wasn’t quite there. So I have decided that an in depth review of the day wouldn’t be fair. One or two of the sets I had a very powerful negative response to yesterday, and I thinking back now, while I certainly didn’t click with a few of the performances I think I responded in a manner that the music didn’t fully deserve. So I will quickly run over the earlier sets fo the day, one sentence on each and then spend a little time on the evening’s closing set by John Tilbury and Michael Duch, which would always have been where much of my focus would have lain anyway.

The day began with a great performance by Steve Noble and Paul Abbott, perhaps an unlikely pairing on paper, but after I saw Noble play with Ryu Hankil last year I’m not surprised it worked. The set was a series of explosive events one after another, Noble playing with just a single snare and a cymbal, Abbott working with a percussion/electronics mix that flew from sudden electronic blasts to a semi rhythmic acoustic sensibility that matched Noble’s busy, yet for him relatively restrained playing. This just worked, and sounded like nothing else I can think of, which has to be good.

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Uncategorized

Monday 2nd May

May 2, 2011

No post tonight then as its late, I’ve only just got back from the last night of the Freedom of the City Festival. This was the only night I attended this year, partly due to needing to rest more than needed to traipse in and out of London three times, but also partly because much of the bill didn’t inspire me so much this year. Today there were a number of interesting sets, some of which produced some good music, and one final set, by the duo of John Tilbury and Michael Duch playing Cardew, Feldman and an improvisation, which was predictably brilliant.

If I’m completely honest I didn’t enjoy much of today’s music that much, but then this wasn’t entirely the fault of the musicians. I was tired and a little musically jaded before I even set out today, and then when close to arriving at the venue I received a text that gave me the horrible news that a work colleague had died of cancer while still in her twenties. So I will write about the festival tomorrow, and will be as honest and objective as I can be, but its worth noting that however I perceived the music was overshadowed by my perhaps understandably low mood.

So a longer post tomorrow then. I’m up for work in about five hours so I must now sleep. The pic above wasn’t taken this evening but pulled from the internet. Apologies if you took it and I haven’t credited you.

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CD Reviews, Classical Sundays

Sunday 1st May

May 2, 2011

As I suggested, I did indeed pick up a copy of the William Walton String Quartets disc when I was in Oxford yesterday, and have played it through a few times today. As one or two people have asked me to resurrect the Classical Sundays series here then I will try and write something about the CD now, seeing as its Sunday, though usually I would spend a little more time with it than this before writing.

To recap, I heard a live session on BBC Radio 3 on Friday evening while driving home from work that saw the Doric Quartet interviewed between playing snippets of various works, including one movement of Schubert’s monumental Death and the Maiden quartet, a favourite of mine that sounded incredible played live in the studio rather than from a disc. On the programme they also played a section of the Doric’s very recent CD of Sir William Walton’s two string quartets, which really struck me as I drove home, window down on a humid evening. Listening to this music after a truly horrible day at work was just the tonic I needed. What I wasn’t so sure of, was if the music was really that great, or was it just the fact that playing a string quartet, any string quartet, at that time was likely to have had an impact on my worn out, run down self. Listening today, with a clearer head on a good quality hi-fi rather than via my noisy in car stereo I am not really sure. Its certainly fine music, but I don’t think it comes close to the Schubert…

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