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Saturday 23rd April

April 23, 2011

786873281-1Very hot here today. I was at work by 6AM, home again by 3PM and fell asleep in the garden for a bit, fortunately under a tree or I might have emerged a little fried. As it is though I’ve had a very pleasant afternoon and evening tying up a number of loose ends and catching up on some downloaded music rather than CDs, something I haven’t done in a while. I tend to download music when I see things that interest me, and they sit in a folder on a hard drive until I have the time (ha!) to spend with them, when I will burn them to CDs and play them through my hi-fi. Although I do have the capability to link a computer up to my stereo system it always sounds terrible to my ears, and listening to this area of music through computer speakers, even the external add-on ones I have is an awful experience. The two pieces of music I burned to CDs and payed today are perfect examples of why I listen this way…

The first then was the twenty minute long piece by Samuel Rodgers and Jack Harris that I plugged a few days back. As I wrote then, I had heard some promising demos from this young UK duo a little while back and so was very interested to hear this new recording. Named  March 6th 2011 I think its a reasonable guess to assume the piece of music is a very recent recording. Harris seems to work with a laptop (in other work I have heard him use field recordings) and Rodgers, whilst best known perhaps for his piano duo with Stephen Cornford uses unspecified instrumentation here that could be made up of any number of items, but seems to be electronically focused, with a slant towards electroacoustic sounds rather than digital.

So the piece begins with just the very faintest of high pitched sounds, wavering slightly, perhaps a feedback tone, perhaps not. After a couple of minutes an even thinner, piercing laptop tone joins it, and for the next eight or nine minutes we hear combinations of these sounds, very minimal, plenty of undulation and overtones as the notes cross each other but otherwise stark, harsh and barely audible. Later, softly fluttering white noise and static sine tones join, and the music blossoms slightly into a battle between the sharply defined high pitched sounds and the rougher, textural sounds, little bursts of (contact mic?) abstraction and soft white noise. In the second half of the track the piercing tones are replaced by a deep growl, still very understated, and the piece continues its gently shifting linear pattern until for the last five minutes or so we hear a metallic pattering sound, perhaps the pads of fingers tapping at a metal bowl or something similar. Gradually this sound pushes all of the others to the side and this very human contribution ends the track, which had begun in such an alien, electronic manner.

There isn’t much that could be described as dramatically new to March 6th 2011 but there is a very strong sense of subtle restraint to the music, a feeling of using just enough material to paint a sonic picture without adding anything unnecessary. The arrival of the soft metal percussion right at the end also shifts the focus of the music dramatically from any more predictable course the duo may have chosen. Its very nicely recorded with a great sense of balance, and I’d love to know if it was entirely improvised or whether any advance discussion had taken place. A very nice introduction to a promising young duo anyway.

klaus_filipThe other recording I have been listening to this evening has several elements in common, and yet is also a quite different kettle of fish. Every so often Klaus Filip puts up freely downloadable music at the great site, and recently (well, at the end of last year it appears) he posted a brief solo track recorded live at something called Moozak in Vienna. I have long been a big fan of just about everything Klaus does. His ability to use a laptop in a manner that just seems different to most other improvisers, never really trying to make the machine fly about and keep up with busy music, rather working primarily with sinetones and simple sounds. His musical choices always seem just right, small, quiet sounds and yet they always seem to make such big gestures. There have been a couple of solo pieces posted at Klingt down the years, but none on CD. This new piece though stands out as a fine example of what such a disc might sound like.

From the outset on Moozak#41 (as the piece seems to be named) we get thick, heavy sinetones, probably several of them combined, creating a very pure, clean tone that hangs low in the room, even with the volume on the hi-fi turned down. Filip gradually manipulates this continual smooth sound, bringing in subtle changes, shifting waves slightly out of sync so beating patterns occur, adding new layers, so building the intensity and volume to hypnotic levels. The piece lasts just thirteen minutes, and around the halfway point a throbbing bass-like pulse seems to be driving things on until a new series of higher pitches appear, and this takes the music on into another richly layered section, with the sinewaves here reaching teeth-chatteringly dense levels, slowly spiralling upwards in pitch and intensity.

This music is a great exercise in making a lot from very little, creating richly detailed music from the simplest of materials. While most of Filip’s collaborative improvisation sees him in less busy, more refined mode, this solo sees him really telling a story with his sinewaves, creating a piece of music that drills its way into your cranium both physically and mentally as its persistent nature has a claustrophobic feel, but the detail in the music keeps you engaged, listening intently to the shifts in the sound. Fine music. Someone needs to convince Klaus to make a full length solo CD.

Both of the above pieces of music can be downloaded in either lossless, or near lossless format for free, so I thoroughly recommend that you ignore my opinions and go listen yourself.

Comment (1)

  • Jack Harris

    April 24, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Hi Richard, cheers for the review and plug.

    As to your query, the track was improvised. Samuel and I had obviously gathered a set of materials/instruments together for the session, as well as having developed a close working relationship. The only thing actively set in motion before we started playing was a particular attitude, approach, or discipline. We had decided to restrain ourselves and ‘give over’ to materials more so. More time, more care, letting things speak etc.

    This work attempts to focus more on individual materials rather than the meanings created by their combination. I think other work you have heard from us is more complexly constructed and functions upon the interaction of diverse elements to create something quite ‘musical’ (in the broadest sense). Here, a middle point between single recordings of individual elements and our previous work is created: materials are autonomous, but there is a temporal journey through them.

    I feel (and hope others do to) that this recording allows both time spent with individual materials, as well as a temporal experience. Given the focused approach, I think that experience is not as ‘intense’ as previous work, a calmer space is created, less about tension and relief narratives created from materials converging and diverging, and more about individual sounds themselves.



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