Sunday 22nd AugustAugust 22, 2010
Its been a funny weekend. I woke Saturday morning in the hotel from hell, travelled home from London, went to work at an unusual hour late in the afternoon, wrote last night’s post later in the evening when really tired and not thinking straight, don’t even remember going to bed, I just passed out. Then this morning while drying my hair I wrenched my back again, really painfully this time and have since spent the rest of the day in assorted degrees of agony. It has been really hot and muggy today as well, resulting in thunderstorms and really uncomfortable humidity tonight. I have tried to write a couple of Wire reviews, without a whole lot of success, and have also picked up a paintbrush and palette for the first time in about a decade, something that has frightened the life out of me. At the same time I have been able to spend quite a bit of time with a CD to review tonight as well, a disc on the NonVisual Objects label by the duo of Tim Blechmann (laptop) and Seijiro Murayama (snare drum).
I heard this recording a good few months ago, and so it feels familiar listening to it again now it has a full CD release. That I have also listened to quite a bit of Blechmann’s music and even more of Murayama’s in the intervening months has only enhanced this feeling. The disc is named 347, a reference to La ComÃ©te 347, the Paris venue in which the music was recorded. The brief liner notes to the disc mention the musicians desire to “improvise listening and organise sonic space together in a delicate way”. There is also a quote from Cage on the back-
“Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise
When we ignore it, it disturbs us.
When we listen to it, we find it fascinating”
This quote suggests that maybe there is a lot of external noise to be heard on this recording. There isn’t really anything that sounds obtrusive, and I can’t actually tell if the music was recorded in front of an audience or not, but there is certainly a sense of space in the recording, a kind of distance between the two musicians that comes through not from the way they respond to each other, but in the spatial arrangement of the musicians. It feels like they recorded in a big, empty space with a high ceiling and long unadorned walls, such is the resonance of the sounds here, not really echoing, just a sensation of a lot of heavy air in the room between the two musicians.
The two do what you might expect if you know their music. I really enjoy Blechmann’s minimalist roars and rumbles. I’m not sure how his sounds originate, whether they are processed from field recordings or entirely computer generated, but I suspect (and I’m guessing having never seen him live) that a fair degree of additional grit and filter is added to his elongated sounds after they have left the computer, perhaps through some manipulation of the speaker cones that play the sounds back. His contributions are as subtle and patient as ever then, sometimes existing when you don’t notice them, building up and growing out of the dense air in the room into huge clouds of fuzzy abstraction.
In many ways Blechmann’s contributions are the perfect foil for Murayama, who sets about his incredibly focussed, concentrated rubbing and scraping sounds, folding them into the sheets of grey, rough textures scattered across softer backgrounds. The obvious criticism to make about Murayama’s many recent CDs is that he essentially works with the same, or very similar sounds on each of them. I suspect that this isn’t important to him however, as it feels as if what matters to him is how he interacts with different playing partners, in different spaces. The intensity of his playing, the meditative qualities of his sustained sounds, only altering in pitch and texture very slightly as and when he chooses means that his music probably wouldn’t just “work” with anyone, but in Blechmann he has found an excellent partner here.
I’m not sure what else to say about this one. The recording feels charged, a thoroughly intense affair, but its also a very slowly unfolding piece of music that only really alters abruptly on one occasion, when a dense period of scraping from Murayama ends suddenly, and after just the briefest of pauses Blechmann restarts the music with a heavy industrial roar, maintaining the general feel of the music but still shifting the tone slightly to one side. I guess this is an album that will either appeal to you a lot, as it does me, or will maybe do the opposite. There isn’t any great display of instrumental pyrotechnics on show, the extended sounds used still don’t really become a drone as you might expect, and there is enough room interference to annoy those that demand crystal clear recording. 347 really is what it is, a very specific, unusual meeting of two musicians with very individual modus operandi that could only be made by these two people at this place and time. For me it works very well indeed, setting up mental images of that place and time, pulling me into the tension in the room as if I were there. Its intense, rather austere stuff though, keep away if not your cup of tea, otherwise don’t miss out.
A quick plug I have been asked to add for any readers in or near New York City- Keith Kirchoff who is a pianist whose music I do not know but that comes highly recommended to me by someone I trust is playing on Thursday, the 26th August at The Stone. The performance will include various compositions, including Michael Maierhof’s splitting 16 for solo piano.