CD Reviews

Friday 14th October

October 14, 2011

It always amazes me that 3″ CD(r)s cost more to buy/manufacture than 5″ discs, but then given that this is the case I am always surprised that labels/musicians still release 3″ discs rather than just put twenty minutes of music onto a 5″disc. This is however what Jesse Kudler and Chandan Naryan have chosen to do for their recent release, which clocks in at a little sunder twenty-one minutes, though it should due noted that they reduced the selling price accordingly. The disc contains a single piece of music then, an untitled live recording made in Seattle in 2010 for guitar, electronics, radios and tape (Kudler) and autoharp (Narayan). The release is accompanied by a really lovely sleeve image featuring drawings by Madoka Hara.

The piece is an improvisation, a little cloudily recorded so that some kinds of sound seem to overwhelm others, but there is enough here to be able to follow the music fully. Its in many ways your standard electric / acoustic affair, with Kudler buzzing, crackling and feeding back alongside an ample use of radio and Narayan bowing, I think eBowing, scraping and plucking at the autoharp, which has (I think) been captured acoustically and then fed through the PA system. its inevitable I guess that, with the presence of tabletop guitar, electronics and gabs of spoken word radio that Keith Rowe’s music should spring to mind, but actually, the radio snippets apart, which do immediately send me thinking of AMM, there isn’t much to reming me here of Rowe’s music. The sounds Kudler uses are quite different, neither droning or minimal, some sudden and loud, others more subtle colourings, but they very in range and style enough to give him his own signature style. Narayan seems to pick his way between Kudler’s eruptions, threading that very particular metallic sounding string resonance through the rubble where a path remains, getting snagged on rough edges every so often. There are a few natural voids in the music- sections where everything seems to drop away and a calm prevails, although rarely a silence, as in one long passage of seeming inactivity a low, quite beautiful hum remains, that at first I mistook for the ambience of the room, but when it suddenly cuts away it becomes clear that Kudler left it behind as most of the music dissipated. Very late in the disc, as the music dies away we hear traffic, which I think was captured when a door was opened, but could I guess have been on one of Kudler’s tapes. These sudden calm spaces appear a few times across the disc, and they provide the music with an eerie tension, as if the spring is being recoiled again.

This is a frustrating release for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’d liked to have heard more, as the duo have quite an expansive array of sounds and ways of using them, and the music here feels a bit hurried, compressed into a small space, though this might just be me being conscious of how long the release is. I would also love to hear a better recording, as again the breadth of sounds here isn’t done justice by the recording, which (and I may be wrong) sounds like a single mic capture that has then been mastered as well as could be done, but so much of the colour and timbre of the music feels as if it has been lost. What the musicians seem to offer, the nice balance of sounds and the interplay between the two sounds very appealing, but as with much of this area of music, much is lost when an attempt is made to transfer a live situation to a CD.

Still, this is a nice example of some assured, confident improvisation by two musicians that work well together, and a rare document of their work, as only a handful of discs already exist involving their music. It would be great to hear a longer, more vivid realisation of what they have to offer, but for now this is a nice little taster. Its on Simple Geometry Records, available here, or I imagine direct from the musicians.

Comment (1)

  • jkudler

    October 23, 2011 at 5:37 am

    thanks for the nice review, richard. you are right in most of your conclusions about the recording/mastering (it was done with a stereo portable recorder of some kind). however, we did feel like this combination of recording and performance more than any other from the tour provided a nice mix of our playing, the ambient sound, and the confusion between the two that you cite. i have lots and lots to say about the issue of recording fidelity in improvised music, especially when said music engages room acoustics and ambient sounds, but i’ll keep it concise here and say simply that it’s more complex than simply capturing the instruments clearly.

    that said, you’ll hopefully be pleased to hear that we have a number of live and studio recordings from a subsequent tour that were recorded in far more complex fashion: better microphones plus direct lines all down to multi-track. slowly editing/mixing now, but there’s certainly enough material for a full-length cd.

    anyways, thanks for the lengthy consideration. cheers!

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