CD Reviews

Wednesday 29th June

June 29, 2011

So I bought a car today, worked nine hours, drove another hour and a half, finished two Wire pieces and finally got to relax with a particularly nice alcoholic ginger beer and some peri-peri coated cashews quite late tonight. A tough day deserves its rewards at the end. I’ve also been listening to a CD […]

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Tuesday 28th June

June 28, 2011

Apologies, another cop-out post tonight. I’m just knackered to be honest. I barely slept last night as the heat was too oppressive for my delicate soul, and then was up really early helping my brother out and then looking at potential cars to buy before heading off to work until late this evening. Then I […]

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CD Reviews

Monday 27th June

June 27, 2011

What a horrible day. It started badly when I woke with a heat-induced headache, then went from bad to worse when my car failed its MOT test, meaning I need to go and buy another one this coming weekend, the heatwave got worse, and the air everywhere is ridiculously thick and humid and my mood […]

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Sunday 26th June

June 26, 2011

Despite today being a very nice day indeed, I have no post of value for you tonight. A heatwave hit the UK today, and so much of today I spent either hiding from the heat or going out for a walk with Julie, in which we walked literally yards before collapsing under a tree in […]

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CD Reviews

Saturday 25th June

June 25, 2011

Tonight I have been listening to a 3″ CDr on the fine new Reductive Music label by someone named Andrea Borghi, whose work I haven’t come across before, and so therefore (I’ve checked!!) I’ve not written about before. The disc is named Ommagio a Lucio Fontana and comes in a very fetching little translucent DVD […]

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CD Reviews

Friday 24th June

June 24, 2011

Tired and lethargic tonight, and so have spent most of the evening horizontal, while listening to a CD that took me a little by surprise when I heard it for the first time a few days back and sounds just the kind of music I need on an evening like this as it plays right […]

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Concert Reviews

Thursday 23rd June

June 24, 2011

Veeerrry late here tonight writing this after the evening flew by with Julie, but I promised to write about last night’s show somehow, so I will briefly try. Keith Rowe then played what is these days a rare concert in London, without support, just two twenty minute or so sets solo in the very wonderful […]

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Wednesday 22nd June

June 23, 2011

So I popped into London again this afternoon after an early shift at work and went to my favourite bookshop, the London Review of Books Shop to see Keith Rowe perform a couple of solo sets, one a realisation of a page from Treatise, one a realisation of Wolff’s Edges. I’ll try and write something […]

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Tuesday 21st June

June 21, 2011

OK, no post tonight because at the last minute I diverted my journey home from work and dropped into Oxford city centre to catch a concert performed by various members of the Oxford Improvisers Orchestra and a handful of the SET Ensemble musicians. The concert was a mix of composed pieces of varying types under […]

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CD Reviews

Monday 20th June

June 20, 2011

A couple of weeks back I wrote here about the first in a series of releases on the Polish Bolt label that revisited the work of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, an organisation still just about active today but which had its heyday in the sixties and seventies, producing a large number of electroacoustic tape […]

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Concert Reviews

Sunday 19th June

June 19, 2011

So the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that things look a little different here again as today I managed to get the new design launched here following the hassles of the last week or so. Its not completely finished and there are still quite a few things needing tweaking, but the bulk of things […]

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Saturday 18th June

June 19, 2011

Another long tough day then resulting in no real post here, but today at least I have the excuse of attending a concert in London. I was up at 5AM and put in a nine hour shift at work before heading over to the big smoke to catch the first of the two night residency […]

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CD Reviews

Friday 17th June

June 17, 2011

Another fine release of improvised music on the Another Timbre label tonight then, and another CD that seems to inhabit a stylistic middle ground that takes on the best of the various approaches to this area of music while not being easy to define as anything other than improvised music. Actually the disc in question, […]

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CD Reviews

Thursday 16th June

June 16, 2011

Today’s release is another involving Nick Hoffman, the youngish Chicago based musician who also runs the Pilgrim Talk label, on which this CD, named Noise without tears was issued. I was actually sent both a CD copy and a clear vinyl 10″ disc (a lathe cut apparently, whatever one of those may be) of what […]

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Wednesday 15th June

June 15, 2011

No post tonight I am afraid, primarily because since getting home from a long day at work I have had my head buried in no end of php code trying to get the new design for this site rushed through and in place. I’m nearly done with it, and I hope to have at least the basic framework up here by this time tomorrow with just some embellishments left to tie up. I am off of work tomorrow, and hope to get the required work here finished during the day, so if you are passing through at any point on Thursday and things look a bit peculiar here fear not there might be a bit of a transition period while I get everything aligned. The new design should hopefully be simpler than the current one, with some new bits and pieces, but hopefully, and most importantly, my coding this time, given that it is much less maverick than the last attempt, should hold up better as the various bits of software, plug-ins etc become more advanced. Now, if none of that meant anything to you, fear not, its all very dull.

I have been listening to some music tonight, and I even managed to write a paragraph as an introduction to a review, but when it came to putting my thoughts into words I found that they weren’t there, and my attention this evening just hasn’t been focused enough to be able to share anything of any value, particularly as I didn’t like the CD in question all that much, and if I am going to write anything negative I want to be sure my thoughts are straight before I do so.

A quick plug then for a two day residency this coming weekend at London’s Café Oto for Axel Dorner, who will play various sets with various local musicians. Work has meant that I have had to miss a few concerts lately that I really had wanted to attend, but I should make it along to these two. Say hi if you come along.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 14th June

June 14, 2011

No matter how much in touch with the world of improvised music I think I might be, no matter how many CDs fall through my letter box there are still odd occasions when Brian writes about something I hadn’t heard of, my interest is piqued and I go and buy the CD in question. The most recent example of this was a new disc by the duo of Jamie Drouin and Lance Austin Olsen, two Canadian musicians who, according to the very nicely designed website for their very nicely designed label Infrequency Editions have been releasing CDs for ten years now without me noticing them. Shows what I know….

The disc I ordered then is a recent duo disc named Absence and Forgiveness. Its a CDr wrapped in a very lovely, though somewhat bereft of information card sleeve released in an edition of 100. The image on the sleeve is of a monochrome reproduction of what looks like a simple, unadorned yet detailed wash of colour. This image seems apt for the music on the disc, which masks a wealth of detail and careful construction behind a mask of simplicity and restraint.

It isn’t clear what either of the musicians work with to make their music, but it is vaguely speaking electro-acoustic in texture, perhaps guitar pick-ups or contact mics are in use, perhaps instruments (tabletop guitar? I sense I hear strings here and there) are used, perhaps not, but it doesn’t matter much. There is a radio to be heard often throughout the three pieces, contributing little jabs of spoken word in the first pieces, and longer streams in the final, slightly more dense third and final track. The music here sounds like it was improvised without any post production, though I may of course be completely wrong. It is generally speaking very sparse, quiet and full of either white space, or quite often grey expanses of varying density and texture. Scattered about though are little fragments of sound of varying types, some radio bursts, some sudden hits of white noise, shards of harsh feedback etc, but these are infrequent and placed with great care so as to continually challenge and shape the music into different directions, keep it from slipping into any kind of ambient flatlining.

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Monday 13th June

June 13, 2011

So as you can see I haven’t been able to fix the problem with the site so have switched back to the old design that I used until a couple of years ago. I kept a copy of it saved just in case something like this happened. This will just be a temporary fix. It probably won’t come as a surprise to long term readers that I have actually been working for a while, very slowly and with no real intended completion date, on a new design for the blog, something more simple but with more modern features. This little hiccup has suddenly made that project much more of a pressing concern, but I hope I should have a new design up and running within two or three days. The content here by the way, is not affected at all. I use a wordpress framework here that holds the content, which is then overlaid with a design that arranges everything on screen. The design broke last night, but the content remains intact. It might just look a bit odd here for a few days.

So while I have been scurrying around trying to make this place readable I haven’t had a chance to write anything for tonight’s post. I was up early and home late from work today, so time has been limited. One silver lining to today’s cloud though was finding the new issue of The Wire in the post when I got home, and opening it finding my John Wall piece, as well as a review of the i and e Festival tucked inside. As a reader, I have bought every single copy of the magazine since early 1992, and so finding four or five pages of my writing in this new issue felt strange, and it made me proud to show it to Julie when we went for a short walk earlier. Its no big deal, I know, but then I never intended to ever write professionally, on any kind of scale, and seeing my name there feels as bemusing as it does satisfying. if you get a chance to read it I’d appreciate knowing your thoughts.

So, time to switch into Olaf mode again…..

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CD Reviews

Sunday 12th June

June 13, 2011

Actually the CD I have been listening to is one that probably only requires a brief review anyway. I say this not because the music is insubstantial in any way, but rather because the music is quite simple in its structure and content, and because if there is a lot to discuss about the way it was made, or the reasons for which it was made, then this isn’t clear. So we are left to just listen to the sounds on the CD and take them for what they are.

The CDr in question is Richard Kamerman’s recent release on the Engraved Glass label named Changes.txt. Now, before I had heard this collection of four pieces, and before I had read the track titles or the short description of the work at the label’s website, I had, simply because of the title of the album decided for myself that the music here could be audio processes of a computer text file. I don’t think this is the case though, despite my recollection of Kamerman doing something like this before. The note at the EG site then reads as follows:

focusing on the acoustic material offered up in one room, this recording session captures a spirit of creative field recording & focused interaction with the contained sounds and objects.

This description, coupled with the track titles, which suggest that Kamerman did not have full control over the sounds included (The second track is named In which I again try to concede authority and the third In which I accept a new potential) lead me to wonder if some kind of process was used to pull together the sounds here outside of merely using the items in a particular room to create them. The fact is, beyond the information we have, and the detail that the recordings were all mace in one day, we are left to make educated guesses about how this music was made, and on this occasion I admit defeat, accept that I don’t have a clue, and just choose to sit and enjoy it.

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Concert Reviews

Saturday 11th June

June 12, 2011

Anyway, the concert yesterday took place in St Margaret’s Church in Whalley Range, Manchester, a slightly odd, quite disconcerting, still-actrive church in one of the less salubrious parts of the city. There were two sets- an opening twenty-five minute solo performance by Patrick Farmer followed by John Tilbury performing a version of Samuel Beckett’s novella Worstward Ho for piano and spoken word. Now I have seen Patrick Farmer play his turntable set-up an awful lot of late, and I had driven up with him for this gig, so a balanced, objective review probably isn’t possible, but I did enjoy his performance, which was actually the first time I had seen him play solo with any instrumentation. Having seen Patrick play a lot recently, I have noted often that he has often taken up the role of disruptor- choosing to break up the flow of any groups he has worked in, allowing music to settle for a while before completely changing its direction, often quite forcefully. In a solo context this was obviously not so easy, but even last night it seemed like Patrick applied this same tactic, letting things grow naturally, not thinking about where the music might develop and allowing it to find a course of its own before suddenly reeling it in abruptly.

Opening with a densely detailed section made up of crunchy, brittle sounds as various objects such as steel wool were contact miked and screwed up, scraped about and kicked around the floor, the music jolting about off into different directions a few times, underpinned with rattling feedback tones sent from a speaker cone through a snare drum. After a while and following the pattern of letting the music find its level before kicking it (often literally) off into a new set of shapes, Farmer somehow found himself in near silence, taking regularly spaced, sharp strikes at the snare with assorted objects, some with mics attached, a kind of brutal, harshly lo-fi rhythm that ended with the snare being upturned and sent flying under the table with a crash, so ending the set. I enjoyed the performance a lot, but above all it felt thoroughly and excitingly alive and unpredictable. Despite seeing Patrick play a lot of late I hadn’t seen or heard anything quite the same as this before. he’s a friend, so you can take this with as big a pinch of salt as you like, but Mr Farmer is playing right at the top of his game right now and if you get the chance to see him live I recommend you do.

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Friday 10th June

June 11, 2011

Urrgh. I’m writing this at 4AM, because I was too rushed / forgot to write earlier. I have just got back from a long long journey up to Manchester and back, so barely have the energy to turn this computer on and write here. I worked overnight last night in the dayjob, and got home at 7AM, went to sleep straight away fro a few hours before setting off again at about midday to pick up Patrick Farmer and deliver him to a particularly disconcerting church in central Manchester in time for tonight’s concert at which he shared a bill with John Tilbury, who played a realisation of a score he had written that essentially transformed Beckett’s Worstward Ho novella into a text and music piece. I’m far far far too tired to even begin to write anything about it tonight, but it was all good and a thoroughly enjoyable time was had. The only downside to the evening, (apart from the eight hours travelling) was the low turnout for the event- maybe just twenty people there, which for a rare Tilbury solo showing in Manchester seemed crazy. Anyway, I’ll write a report tomorrow evening.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 9th June

June 9, 2011

Well this isn’t the lengthy review I had hoped to post today, but I’m still some way off of finishing that one so it will have to wait a further few days. For now then, a few lines on a CDr I listened to a couple of times yesterday and then some more this morning, a release on an American label called Ilse which appears to serve the interesting American underground of musicians falling somewhere between noise and improvisation. This release, the fourth on the label is one of several discs sent to me recently in a parcel from Nick Hoffman. Its a duo release named Lost Corner featuring Hoffman and Aaron Zarzutzki that included other, older releases by the duo that I’ll try to get to in time.

Lost Corner contains two pieces of music recorded for a Chicago radio programme. There are no descriptions of what is being played by whom on the CD sleeve, but there is a photo of the studio set up that shows an electric sewing machine and assorted pieces of metal, tin foil, effects pedals and the like. A bit of further googling reveals that on the day Zazutzki used a turntable without a stylus to vibrate and rattle various objects, a la Ferran Fages, Patrick Farmer etc… and Hoffman here plays the sewing machine, trumpet and some simple electronics. One we have this information, trying to pin down which sound comes from where, and who responds to whom at what point in the recordings is somewhat futile and I guess ultimately pointless.

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Wednesday 8th June

June 9, 2011

No real post tonight I’m afraid. I’ve managed eight reviews over the last nine days though so I don’t feel the need to apologise on this occasion… I have actually been listening to music all day, since I had the day off of work, but I just haven’t quite worked my way through anything solidly enough to be able to write. Tomorrow I am working through the night, from 6pm to 6am on Friday, so I will have some time tomorrow lunchtime to write a review of the music I have been playing today. Otherwise today has been good, a lazy day really, a few administrative jobs done, though the pile of CDs on my desk that badly need sorting and filing away on shelves is still sat there, leaning slightly towards me in a menacing manner… This evening was lovely, a nice meal cooked for me by my better half, a while watching a pigeon wander aimlessly around the garden, followed by a hedgehog doing much the same thing but with far more purpose, and then we watched the last in the series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, which has been masterfully brilliant from start to finish.

If you are anywhere near Manchester, or can get there on Friday even if you are not, then it would be crazy to miss John Tilbury’s performance at St Margaret’s Church in Whalley Range, a reworking of Samuel Beckett’s wonderful novella Worstward Ho. Details can be found here, complete with misspelling of the Beckett piece and a woefully dated bio of Tilbury, but still, we should be very pleased that these guys have made this concert happen. Support will come from Patrick Farmer, or at least it will do if I manage to deliver him there on time!

Finally, British readers of roughly my age will be saddened to hear of the death of Roy Skelton today, the man who gave a voice to Zippy and George. For many of us this is very sad news. Very few ‘people’ had more of an affect on my very early years than Zippy. A few people have even noted the resemblance between our characters today. The only real difference is that when Zippy went on and on somebody could reach over and zip up his mouth. In my case I don’t think that you could do such…..

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 7th June

June 7, 2011

Irrespective of how the music sounds, today’s CDr deserves a mention here simply because of the way it is packaged. Remember how shops used to remove the disc from CD packaging on their shelves so that they could not be stolen, and then file the disc behind the counter in a card sleeve? I’m not definite, but I think that With Lumps, the new duo album by the percussion/acoustic guitar duo of Fritz Welch and Neil Davidson respectively recycles these old card sleeves- so that the name of the disc once housed in the sleeve in a shop is still written in marker pen on one side, with a With Lumps sticker pasted over the other side. My copy then (which I suspect might have been carefully chosen by Mr Davidson!) used to contain a Michael Bolton album called Vintage. I’m pleased to say that it doesn’t any longer.

The sleeve actually holds a forty minute long album spilt into four tracks of straight up free improvisation that is all acoustic, and yet often quite noisy while also busy and bustling without really sounding that dated. Welch uses what I am guessing is a full drum kit here, but he doesn’t ever really ‘play’ the drums in a traditional manner, choosing instead to scrape and rub and rattle things around, so creating a set of vaguely industrial sounds. Davidson pretty much attacks his acoustic guitar any way you can without ever plucking a string. His instrument buzzes more than it chimes, groans and crashes more than it twangs and strums. The four pieces are all similar in style, studies in dirty, gritty sounds that layer together and infect each other so that it becomes hard to tell one musician’s sounds from the other.

The recording here isn’t that great, its all a bit cloudy and murky, and trying to pick sounds apart becomes even harder, but turned up loud the music sounds great, a kind of lo-fi Will Guthrie set, bristling with activity, but all jagged, metallic sounds, often so much happening at once, but with enough spaces appearing when things calm down that tiny glimpses of chiming metal or softly bowed wood come through.

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CD Reviews

Monday 6th June

June 6, 2011

So tonight I listened to a CD sent to me a few weeks back by the Polish Mathka label. This one had sat on the side for a while unplayed, the oversized (and unfortunately not that nice) packaging not really enticing me to pick it up and play it. Until the weekend the name of the music’s composer was also unknown to me as well- Denis Kolokol. However it was while writing about the PRES Revisited album a few days back, which includes music rescored by Kolokol that it suddenly occurred to me that the disc sat beside me was composed by the same person, so I gave it a spin yesterday and then listened a couple of times more this evening.

The album is named Proud to be loud, and contains four tracks of digitally sequenced sounds, some instrumental, some vocal, some electronic. If I had to place it into any one convenient category maybe I would go for musique concrete, but in all honestly it doesn’t quite fit easily anywhere. The nearest immediate comparison I might make would be with Parmegiani, but only stylistically. It sadly isn’t anywhere near as interesting to me. The first of the four pieces is named Feedback Glotka and is made up of guitar parts recorded by Alexander Chikmakov and vocal snippets and electronics by Kolokol. Unusually for my taste, it isn’t the vocal parts that turn me off of this track. Kolokol seems to use tiny guttaral snippets of gasping breath, smacking lips etc which he brings together to create little sections of sound that actually work quite well. On this track then its the guitar, and to some degree the electronics that don’t work so well to my ears. The guitar often shifts into a tinkling, semi-ambient mode, sometimes pulling away to a kind of sub-Bailey abstraction, but also quite often disappearing into a really quite off-putting post-Eno prettiness complete with some unfortunate effects. The electronics aren’t as bad, all bits and pieces of crunchy (sampled?) sounds and processed elements the origin of which can’t be easily ascertained. These parts seem to just don’t work against the cheesy guitar work though, and we are left with a bit of a mess with the guitar layered over the top. I found this track really very hard to listen to.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 5th June

June 5, 2011

I should start this review by saying that I actually heard this music for the first time maybe five years ago, around the time that my then-radio presenter colleague Alastair Wilson wrote the liner notes for its supposed release, in his own inimitable style. What’s more, I really didn’t like it at all back then. It was one of several albums at the time that contained Mark Wastell’s tam tam sound, and there were other, better releases out there that used the recordings in a manner I preferred. Listening again now, as the recording has finally found a home on the Monotype label i certainly don’t have quite the same adverse reaction to it as I did back then, though its still not entirely my cup of tea.

The recording has quite a story behind it. Back in 2004, Mark Wastell was meant to travel to Paris to play a gig, but after confusion over train tickets, he didn’t go, and as his weekend was free, and he had hired a tam tam for the event, he went instead to Norfolk, and Graham Halliwell’s house, where Graham recorded Mark playing the instrument in various ways. These recordings have made their way onto a number of CDs since. Not long after, Wastell sent them on to Lasse Marhaug, the popular Norwegian noise/drone musician, who treated, processed, arranged and added to the recordings to make a complete new composition that made its way around several potential labels before eventually arriving at Monotype five years later. Oh and somewhere on the line the duo chose the (somewhat dreadful!) title Kiss of Acid as well.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 4th June

June 4, 2011

In a relatively melancholic mood this evening, for a number of reasons not worth going into here, so it seemed a good evening to write about an album of music I have been enjoying a great deal, another recent release on the tireless Another Timbre label, a CD named Spiral Inputs by Sophie Agnel, Bertrand Gauguet and Andrea Neumann. I’m a fan of all of these musicians, Agnel relatively recently, Gauguet for a few years and Neumann for quite a bit longer. This is one of those groups that makes sense even before you hear their combined music. The saxophonist Gauguet always seems to work well alongside a piano, and here he appears with one pianist playing a traditional instrument (Agnel) and a second playing the frame of a piano, removed from the instrument and attached to assorted electronic devices. (Neumann).

There are four tracks on Spiral Inputs, lasting a total of fifty-one minutes, all recorded in various live and studio situations in France across a two year period. So tracks one and four here were recorded in February 2010, and track three just a day later, but then track two was captured way back in June 2008. Despite the two year gap that separates the second track from the other three all of the music here feels like it fits together seamlessly. The second track (named Spiral #2) may be a little more boisterous and eventful than the others, but then maybe this might also just be my imagination. The music across all four tracks fits perfectly in that area of improvisation that has gradually become the dominant form in Europe of late, not quiet, not minimal, but also not fuelled by adrenalin and cluttered. Spiral Inputs is all about the interaction between sounds, tonal and percussive, electronic and acoustic, sharp and soft. It slips between loud and eventful sections to near silent restful periods. It can only really be described as improvised music. No sub genres easily apply.

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CD Reviews

Friday 3rd June

June 3, 2011

After putting them off for ages, or rather, trying to find the time to work my way through them thoroughly enough, I have begun over recent days to try and make a listening dent in the collection of two, three and four CD sets that seem to have accumulated here of late. When listening and writing time is limited, as it has been here recently, getting through some of these longer releases can be very difficult. I have been methodically and carefully listening over recent days though, and so hopefully I can get some of these items written about before its too late.

Today, and late yesterday, I have been listening to one of three large scale releases on the Polish Bolt label that have each a link to the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, an experimental sound laboratory at Poland’s national radio centre, that was formed in the late fifties and seems to be still operative today. In the sixties and early seventies, according to the thorough and interesting booklet that accompanies the set of music I have heard this evening, many links were forged to Polish electroacoustic composers such as Penderecki and Schaeffer, and the studio saw many longer works created as well as incidental pieces designed for radio. This set then is named PRES Revisited, and contains two discs, the first containing seven original works by four composers created in the sixties and early seventies, and the second disc, intriguingly, containing reworkings of the pieces by a group of improvisers live at Café Oto in London in December last year.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 2nd June

June 2, 2011

So some thoughts on the new double CD by the French improv group Hubbub, a release on the Matchless label named Whobub. Now I have been playing these CDs a great deal since I first picked up my copy at the Freedom of the City festival over a month ago now. As I hinted last night, I have really been struggling to think of what to say about this music. The problem is, beyond calling it really beautiful and describing in floral metaphors, as I have so often done with CDs before, it is hard to know what to say. It is, quite frankly very beautiful indeed, but I have to somehow do better than just saying that.

Hubbub are Frédéric Blondy (piano) Betrand Denzler (tenor sax) Jean-Luc Guionnet (alto sax) Jean-Sébastian Mariage (electric guitar) and Edward Peraud (percussion). The group have been playing together, on and off for more than a decade, having formed back in 1999, and this double disc set is (I think) their fifth release. They are about as “tight” a group as can probably be found in this vague area of improvisation right now, featuring five musicians who are each thoroughly experienced and skilled with their selected instruments, but also seem to play and think together with exceptional harmony. The music they make just all seems to flow together with incredible ease. It does, in fact, often sound composed.

In one of the first things I ever wrote about improvised music, a comment somewhere on a forum that I can no longer track down, maybe six or seven years ago (believe it or not I have only been on the internet that long!) I said how much I liked a couple of the early Hubbub albums that also came out on Matchless, and remarked, in my vaguely naive opinion how much they reminded me of AMM. Well now a few years later, this new release leads me in some ways to do the same, but also I cannot get the CD releases from a year or two back by the American group Haptic out of my head. With Haptic, I found myself massively enjoying the experience of wallowing in what were huge swathes of thoroughly rich, beautiful sound, bowed percussion, electronic tones etc, but all coming together into swells of sound that were full of detail and undercut with some subtle grit, but still, to me, glorious, colourful works. They reminded me of a Turner sky- full of passion and drama, and slightly over the top, but wonderfully, beautifully so. Well this new set by Hubbub fits into exactly that category for me as well. The combined sounds just pull together so well into dozens of little waves of sound, soft sax notes, always tonal, but rarely with any attack, the guitar almost recogniseable, more eBowed waves and lightly tapped rhythms than anything axe-like. The piano is played mostly on the inside, as a stringed instrument, so more shimmering glows and piercing scrapes, and the percussion is probably the most disruptive (not that anything is at all) influence in the music, occasionally pushing the music off into more troubled waters, and providing the grit that stops it all from going anywhere near ambient sound.

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Wednesday 1st June

June 1, 2011

OK, so I have completed three straight CD reviews before bottling out again today. I actually have genuinely tried to listen and write today, as I have had the day off of work and have in theory had the time for once, but it just hasn’t worked out that way. Having been so rushed in every aspect of my life of late I spent today trying to catch up on all of those little tasks that needed doing, and well, I underestimated how much there was to do and how little energy I had to do it!

Plus, I spent much of the afternoon unexpectedly arguing with EasyJet. I booked a flight online for my parents, but in my rush I booked it for the wrong day. Trying to immediately amend the booking online could not then be done without accepting a £70 charge for changing the date. It should be noted that I only wanted to move the booking back one single day, from a Sunday to a Monday, and that the listed price for the flight on both days was exactly the same. The change of booking would have been entirely automated, no human would have been involved, and yet still apparently this justified a £70 charge… So i phoned EasyJet, several times, and eventually got somebody to agree to change the booking “As a gesture of their goodwill” without the £70 charge. I was however then told that because there was a difference in price between flights on the same plane booked online and over the phone there would still be £20 extra to pay. Looking into cancelling the flight altogether showed that there would still be a £70 charge. Really, it should come as no surprise that I haven’t had the chance to focus on music today as this was a seriously annoying situation, but what can you do? I could write to someone, but ultimately they can do whatever they want.

Sorry for moaning…. I have been able to listen to quite a bit of music today, albeit whilst arguing on the ‘phone. One of the CDs I heard was a disc tucked into the back of a Japanese book titled Substantials #04, which is the journal of a number of workshops and talks held in Japan by Toshiya Tsunoda, Akio Suzuki, Keith Rowe, Marcus Schmickler and Jim O’Rourke. Its an interesting document and a good, if quick read, plus the CD, featuring music by each of the musicians is quite good. I’ll try and write that one up soon. I also have been listening a lot to the new 2CD set from Hubbub, a release that’s been spinning freely here for a few weeks, but I just haven’t known what to write about it. I’m still not sure I know, but will get there eventually.

So I am off to Julie’s right now to cook dinner with her. A better post tomorrow then. The image above is a self-portrait I took of myself this afternoon.

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Cassette Reviews, CD Reviews

Tuesday 31st May

June 1, 2011

Today’s review is of another tape. yep, another one. Its not me is it? These damned things really are making a comeback! Fortunately again I was lucky enough to have been sent a download link to the digital files, though I did still purchase the physical object as well, despite the fact I have nothing to play it on. The release in question then is a set of two pieces (though maybe they both might have been edited from the same live set?) by the duo of Michael Johnsen (electronics and saw) and Pascal Battus (magnetic pick-ups) Recorded live at a venue named Bitches in Nantes, France, the tape then is titled Bitche Session and is released on the Organised Music from Thessaloniki label.

Now I am not that familiar with Michael Johnsen’s music, having not heard any of it before, but a very thorough write-up of it can be found here. Pascal Battus’ work on the other hand, I know very well. Combined here it is very difficult to ascertain which of the two musicians is making which of the sounds. The overall feel of the music is of a rough, raw set of live music recorded on just a couple of microphones. Its a clear recording but has that certain distant feel to it that many live recordings of this type feature. Whether this would be possible to discern once the music has been placed onto a cassette tape though I’ve no idea. The music then is abrasive and ugly, mostly shortish sounds, either the result of tiny electroacoustic blasts of one kind of another or Johnsen’s contact miked saw wobbling about. The feel is all very brittle and devoid of anything that might traditionally be called beautiful, but the strength of the music is in its conversational aspects, as the work has a strong narrative, almost chatty feel to it. Overall what we actually here is very much traditional improvised music, not that sparse, not that hectic either, but just using rough, edgy electronics and the bowed and flexed saw as the tools of choice.

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