CD Reviews

Sunday 5th July

July 5, 2009

I spent most of today working hard on Cathnor stuff, with ongoing work on sleeve designs taking up most of the time. It has been a productive day, a nice way to end a weeks holiday, and hopefully my positive mood will continue on and get me through the task of returning to work tomorrow. My listening today has been primarily to the music I am working on sleeves for, but this evening I have managed to spend some time listening to a disc I was recently sent by Vanessa Rossetto (Many thanks) of her new recording Dogs in English Porcelain, the fourth release on her Music Appreciation label, though her work can be found scattered all over on other labels and as free downloads.

Rossetto’s music mixes instrumental sounds (mainly viola) with field recordings. This approach may not seem that unusual, but what sets her music apart is the manner in which she works. More often than not when sounds such as these are blended together in post production it is done in a very clean, polished manner, with every attempt made to hide the joins. Not so with this disc. Rossetto’s style is far from amateur, but still it has a rough edge, a gritty down-to-earth feel that can be heard both in the harsh manner in which she often scrapes at the strings of the viola, but also in lo-fi nature of many of the added sounds. The structure of the forty-one  minute composition is unusual as well. Divided up into a multitude of little sections there are often jarring collisions between each portion of the piece, and when sounds are combined it often feels like this is done to highlight the differences in each sound rather than show how neatly they work together.

The field recordings used follow on in a similar oblique manner as well. There are chattering birds heard throughout, but they don’t sound like the sweet pastoral birdsong we usually hear on field recordings, rather it sounds like Rossetto has wandered around a pet shop recording what she hears, as parrot-like squawks are joined in places by the sad whimpering of dogs, a sound always liable to catch my attention. Elsewhere the sounds used are harder to define, odd organ music, industrial sounds, maybe some recorded TV, its hard to tell. Throughout the patches of recorded sound though the viola drifts in and out, different each time, shifting from teeth on edge grinding through to the layered drones that close the album.

I like this disc quite a bit, but its hard to pin down what it is about it that really works so I can put it into words. Ultimately though its qualities probably reside in that mystery and originality itself. Certainly Rossetto has a style of her own, a mix of the lo-fi electronics that characterise much modern American improvisation with an almost haphazard collage approach to composition. Yet despite the odd feeling of non-coordination I have no doubt that the placement of each sound was deliberate and thoroughly thought-through. Either way the end result has a vivid, alive feel to it that kept me thoroughly engaged throughout. Nice work Vanessa.

Actually listening to and writing about this release has reminded me of a way overdue review I’m meant to be writing on Dan Warburton’s Profession Reprter release from earlier this year, which is a beautiful blend of acoustic instrumentation and field recordings, mostly made in Morocco if I remember correctly. i’ll get to it one of these days Dan.Â

A couple of gigs to mention this coming week, though alas it isn’t looking likely that I will be at either- On Tuesday there is a gig at the Kings College Chapel in London by Seymour Wright, Jamie Coleman, Lawrence Williams and Nat Catchpole, four wind instrumentalists playing a solo each and then a quartet set. This one seems to have been organised quite late, so worth a mention here, more details at the calendar above. Next Saturday sees an eight hour performance of Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise at The Drawing Room gallery, played by Angharad Davies, Rhodri Davies, Lee Patterson, John Lely, Tim Parkinson and James Saunders. I am particularly peeved to be missing this one. but it doesn’t look like I will make it. If anyone feels like writing a report I’ll post it here for you!

Oh and the second night of the Music we’d like to hear series takes place on Wednesday as well. Another I won’t be able to attend due to work (grumble) but I do hope to be able to make it along to the third and final part of the series a week later. Details of this concert and the others mentioned here can be found by clicking on the Calendar link near the top of the page, just under that odd title image that seems to have appeared. 😉

Comments (5)

  • simon reynell

    July 6, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I’m enjoying this one a lot too. As you say, it appears to be constructed in a haphazard way, which gives it a freshness even after several listens, though I too am sure that Vanessa has actually placed every element very carefully. I particularly like the use of ‘natural’ string sounds in amidst the grungey lo-fi electronics. This mixing of electronic and acoustic / mechanical and natural elements works really well for me.

  • Phil Julian

    July 6, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Yes, a very enjoyable recording this. The choice of electronic sounds on here is particularly appealing to me.

    I’m not actually hearing anything particularly haphazard here though… the editing is certainly fairly choppy in places but I too get a strong feeling that there’s been quite a bit of thought as to where the sections have been placed in the final mix. Takes a skilled hand to do this and retain a feeling of freshness and not edit all the feeling out of it. Nice one.

  • Jesse

    July 7, 2009 at 1:56 am

    As I have said to the point of probably annoyance, this is among my favorite few releases of the past while, so vibrant and abuzz.

  • al jones

    July 7, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    nice writeup of this challenging music, Richard. Been a while that I’ve listened to something so repeatedly, myself. I’d also like to add how much I’m enjoying your work here. It’s not often that I go out of my way to read reviews (who wants to read those, anyway!), and I always approach your thoughts on these things with the same interest I have in the music.

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 7, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Thanks for the very kind words Al, they mean a lot coming from you.

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