CD Reviews

Wednesday 1st July

July 1, 2009

Ridiculously hot today, too hoot really to focus on half of what I intended to do, so I spent the majority of the day sat under a tree in the gardenre-reading John Tilbury’s biography of Cornelius Cardew, a wonderful work that I didn’t give proper attention to on the first read-through. The choice of book was partly inspired by my plans to attend a forum tomorrow morning about Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra, an event organised by The Drawing Room gallery that will include Tilbury, Eddie Prevost, Laurie Scott Baker, Horace and Walter Cardew amongst others as participants. It looks like it is scheduled to last seven hours, which sounds a long time for this kind of thing if you ask me, so I don’t know quite what to expect. The chances are I will then wander a mile up the road to Café Oto to see the Eddie Prevost, Seymour Wright and Alan Wilkinson concert, which will, curiously be three duo performances. I don’t know what to expect there either…

Anyway, some thoughts on a couple of CDs I have been listening to today- Pappeltalks is the name of a five track duo recording by Andrea Neumann and Ivan Palacky and released on Palacky’s own, new Uceroz label. I feel pretty bad actually that I was sent a demo of these recordings a couple of years ago (the recordings date from 2006) and to the best of my knowledge I have never actually played the disc. Sorry guys. I wish had played it back then because its pretty good stuff, but before talking about the music a few words on the really very original cover design…

When you first set eyes on the sleeve design it looks like a plain white digipack package with just the musicians’ names and the album title printed on the front. the when you try and open it you realise the end that is normally open is sealed by a perforated strip of card. Instructions are written to pull the strip away to open the package. When you do so, a thin cord attached is pulled, which when snapped away releases what must be a small envelope of blue ink hidden within the front cover of the digipack, sealed within the card. When released, the ink spreads out from within the card to create a pattern on the front cover, that is in theory different on each copy of the release. Mine created a kind of Roschasch design until I stood the digipack on its end to dry and one dribble of ink ran downwards at the end for a moment.

Of course, none of this makes any difference to the music, but this is a nice idea, a bit of a gimmick maybe but a good one that allows each sleeve design to be interactively (I hate that word) different. One word of warning, although the ink doesn’t just splatter everywhere it is wet to the touch for a while so don’t open the package near any light coloured clothing. I was warned in advance, don’t say you weren’t!

The music is very good, if never actually superb. Neumann plays her now very familiar inside piano, and Palacky plays an amplified Dopleta 160 knitting machine. Yes, a knitting machine. Really though if I hadn’t known this in advance I would quite happily accepted that he was playing “amplified objects” or some kind of percussion. There is a slightly industrial feel to the music, an occasionally mechanical shuddering and scraping, with both musicians working with quite a dry, colorless set of sounds, but making up for this with quite a wide dynamic range. Each of the five pieces has a slightly different tone to it, ranging from choppy interplay to soft, purring drones. It is often hard to tell who is making which sound, but the interplay between the two is nice, with soft sounds coming from one when the other is rougher, and plenty of space is left, never really silence as such, but room for the music to breathe.

My favourite track by some distance is the fifth Pappeltalks 5, which is the calmest, quietest and most beautiful of the bunch and the only track here to make use of any of the piano’s tonal possibilities, as plucked strings are gently wafted over Palacky’s gently fizzing drones. Pappeltalks is a nice disc, very much in the Berlin tradition, a good listen throughout with one or two really lovely moments along the way, the first of which comes before you even put the disc in the CD player.

I also have listened a few times to a little 3″ disc handed to me the other day by Phil Julian, this one a duo collaboration with Tomas Korber released on the Con-V label called Herbe Zeiten (Harsh Times?) I don’t know much about what instrumentation is used here, because there isn’t much to go by on the cute little mini-DVD box packaging (everything written there is included in the two lines above this one!) and I am too lazy to ask Phil, but suffice to say there are electronics at work here, maybe a laptop in places but I’m not certain.

While the music isn’t as herbe as the title may suggest there is plenty of rough, crackly drone here amongst the piece’s seventeen minutes. In many ways the music is entirely predictable and attempting description would just lead me to the usual adjectives, as yes there are buzzes and hums and electronic whistles layered over each other with maybe some oblique field recordings buried in there and maybe some small percussive sounds added in real time, all elements we are not unfamiliar with. What makes this little piece interesting and worth repeated listens though is the quality of its construction, the way that its many elements are put together in just the right places, always with different sounds playing off of one another at any one time. Its hard to tell if the music was recorded in one take as an improvisation or was pieced together in post production (or maybe even through email exchange?) I can hear elements of both sides of that equation in the music, it feels “loose” enough to be improvised but the placement of sounds suggest at least some editing took place. Phil?

I’ve listened to a lot more today, though as I am currently working through the chapters of Tilbury’s book about the early compositions I listened a lot to those today. Still, plenty more mini-reviews lined up, I’ll try and write some more of them on the train into town tomorrow if the journey proves to be bareable enough. (Who am I kidding?)

Comments (5)

  • Phil Julian

    July 2, 2009 at 6:42 am

    “Harsh Times” indeed…

    It was a postal collaboration. For my part it was an improvised recording using guitar and computer. Tomas then added his sections, which I’m guessing were sourced from guitar and electronics, and took care of the mastering.

    My improvised section has pretty much been left intact, just edited slightly for length as far as I can tell. Tomas did a great job of tying his sounds into what I’d sent him so it’s actually quite tricky even for me to unpick who’s doing what on the final recording. The recording only went back and forth a couple of times, we came to the final version that’s on the release fairly quickly.

    So yes Richard, an improvised framework with additional layers and some minor editing is what you can indeed hear.

    Thanks for listening and writing.

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 3, 2009 at 12:41 am

    Thanks Phil…. I’m glad my ears on occasion don’t let me down then.

  • Brian Olewnick

    August 7, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    I just received this now (Pappeltalks). Of course, I had entirely forgotten your warning. I was absentmindedly opening the package and noted the odd perforations on the side and the bit of stringy substance. I figured, “hmm…shoddy packaging.” and blithely pulled it open while reading something on my monitor. Then looked down to see two purple stains on the fingers of my left hand.

    I was greatly puzzled.

    Then I saw a large purple blot on the CD. “Odd. I didn’t notice that before.” I quickly checked my pants pocket where I routinely carry my pen, but no stain there.


    OK, so I’m slow.

    Cool idea….

  • Richard Pinnell

    August 7, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    There is something oddly poignant about the idea that the first signs of senile forgetfulness comes in the form of purple fingers…


    What did you think of the music?

  • Brian Olewnick

    August 8, 2009 at 1:16 am

    If only that were the first sign…..

    Haven’t had a chance yet. Will listen tomorrow. Four Wandelweisers in hand as well…

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