CD Reviews

Monday 10th August

August 11, 2009

image for websiteIt occurred to me this evening that I have been pretty remiss in not reviewing any of the Compost and Height Split Series of 3″ CDrs here. When the series first began to appear, about a year ago, I had intended to let the first six or seven come out an dthen review them all together rather than write separate bits on each of them. Now though as numbers 008 and 009 sit on my desk in front of me I note that most of the older releases have already sold out, so a mass review would actually be a bit pointless now. I also intend to write about 008 as part of a lengthy overview of Jez riley French’s recent work soon, so I guess that just leaves 008 to write about here. However if either Patrick or Sarah from the new C&H nerve centre in deepest Wales can let me know any other discs they still hold copies of, maybe I can write those up too. The discs are released in limited editions of just fifty copies, each one a plain white 3″ CDr attached by a sticky dot to a chunk of half-inch thick plywood, which Patrick and Sarah saw and then sand before nailing a protective plastic flap around it to keep the disc clean. I guess when releasing a disc involves a fair degree of  home woodworking you can’t be blamed for only making fifty… Each disc is numbered, and for some daft but typically charming reason Patrick always keeps me number one. the discs themselves always contain two tracks, one each by two different musicians, or groups of musicians. Given that you can only get about twenty minutes of sound onto a 3″ disc these releases are kind of the digital equivalent of the split 12″ vinyl single.

So C&H008 contains tracks by Loren Chasse and the duo of Adam Somderberg and Kathering Young, two thirds of the great trio Civil War. The Chasse track comes first, and it is typical of his music, a varied set of sounds, probably originating from field recordings placed alongside and over one another to form the piece, that has the lovely title Characters at Water Margin. Certainly water plays a big part in the recording. Much of the ten minute track involves a recording of waves splashing down on a beach, while other gushing sounds can be heard and a gentle trickle, perhaps disappearing down a plughole provides one of the quieter interludes of the work. Low, distant murmers can also be heard throughout, and these little moments, when you aren’t certain that what you are hearing is all on the CD and not in your own surroundings are some of the most rewarding here. I’d love to hear someone make an entire album of this kind of thing, distant, virtually featureless field recordings of the hum of everyday life. Like most of Chasse’s music, the recording quality and the scalpel-like precision of the music’s compositional presentation makes for a nice listen. Perhaps we have all heard running water sounds before, but this is nicely put together, and those little moments of near silence work very well indeed.

Adam Sonderberg and Katherine Young’s piece is named Speech Acts. Quite why I am not certain, but Sonderberg in particular has a history of great names for CDs the origin of which I can never fathom. Young is, as far as I know a bassoonist (is that the correct term for one that plays the bassoon?) and as breathy, fluttery sounds can be heard here I think the instrument is put to use on this piece. Sonderberg usually works with percussion and/or electronic/computer manipulations of sound, and I suspect here the latter is in use. The piece is composed rather than improvised (as the vast majority of Sonderberg’s recorded work tends to be) but I sense that the source material for use is maybe improvised, possibly entirely from the bassoon. We hear a writhing mass of hisses, rushes of air and squeaks, some sounding like them came straight from the acoustic instrument, some sounded treated before being layered back into the music. the effect is a kind of musique concrete based around a small set of sounds, similar in style to the miniature electronic works Xenakis worked with early in his career. I like this piece a lot, it kind of curls its way into your head as it plays, really involving you in its shapes and layers. Like many of the pieces on these split 3″ discs I inevitably end up wanting to hear more, but maybe that’s their point, directing the listener to more work by the same musicians. This might just be my favourite of the nine discs so far, (Number ten by Tarab and Eric La Casa is due soon) but then if I went back and played them all I might change my mind. Still, its well worth keeping an eye on Compost and Height. If you are quick you can pick these releases up pretty cheaply, so do so while you can.

Compost and Height Split Series

I will get to the Beuger review tomorrow. Promise!

Comments (5)

  • RFKorp

    August 11, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    I can think of a couple other 3″s you mentioned on the blog and then forgot to actually write your thoughts on at a later date 😉

    This reminds me, I’ve had a draft of an email to Patrick sitting in my email account unsent for about a week right now. Should finally put that to him.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the Beuger. I’ve only spun the entire thing once so far and in the background while doing other things anyway. Struck me as quite nice but not a revelation yet. But I did find I enjoyed the two discs for distinctly different reasons. Which was a nice surprise to see them complimenting each other in that way rather than being so much repetition of the same thing (as one could better describe the Werder/Thut split that came around at the same time).

  • Richard Pinnell

    August 11, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Richard, I read your comment above via my iPhone while eating lunch at work today and for the life of me couldn’t think which 3″ discs you meant… and then mid afternoon I realised you mean your Rar discs, which I could have sworn I had written about, but checking back I haven’t. So sorry. If you have copies remaining in stock I’ll review them before the end of the week.

  • RFKorp

    August 12, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I was mostly teasing. There is still stock but you already have copies… guess they’ve gotten lost in the shuffle?

    And fwiw, I don’t run the label. it’s Reed Rosenberg and Eric Laska’s venture.

  • Richard Pinnell

    August 13, 2009 at 12:26 am

    I actually have two copies of your disc in particular Richard. Maybe I will write them up and give one copy away as a competition prize or something… I asked if there were copies remaining only so as to decide whether a review was worth doing or not. nothing worse than someone writing about something unavailable!

    I really thought I had reviewed them, but I haven’t. a touch of Brian’s forgetful senility creeping over to these pages I suspect. 😉

  • RFKorp

    August 13, 2009 at 6:12 am

    oh, gotcha. I guess Ricky sent you a package with both of them even though I had already sent you a copy of just my solo. So giving one away sounds like a good idea!

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