CD Reviews

Monday 20th April

April 20, 2009

A really strange, oddly uncentred day today. I was at work for nearly fifteen hours right through the night and came home this morning in a complete daze. In the end I chose an audiobook of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape to listen to traveling back rather than any music, but to be quite frank anything could have been playing- I wouldn’t have really noticed. Once safely home I was almost too tired to sleep and so I sat and answered a backlog of emails through bleary eyes and put on Plains, the Robbie Avenaim, Dale Gorfinkel, Cor Fuhler disc I mentioned yesterday. I listened to this disc twice (actually the third time was a little while back and the fourth as I sit here typing now) but on both of those first two occasions my listening experience was somewhat altered, first by the external sounds that I consciously allowed into focus as I listened whilst walking, and today by a kind of semi-conscious haze that seemed to make everything go slowly and every effort a strenuous, even painful one.

The music on Plains is quite beautiful, the result of the convergence of three musicians working with similar sets of sounds, Fuhler playing two grand pianos, Gorfinkel and Avenaim each playing vibraphone, with Avenaim also augmenting the music with a little percussion. The music is detailed, well recorded with each tiny moment clearly appreciable, but it comes together into slowly shifting clouds of sound that, when you are very tired and everything already seems dreamy and in slow-motion somehow provide the perfect soundtrack.

The centrepiece of the album is the twenty-three minute title track, which develops from small chimes and overlapping tones into a translucent laminal piece that when listened to closely reveals different elements on subsequent hearings. Cor seems to use eBows on strings quite a bit, to good effect, and there are all kinds of rhythmic, purring sounds at work, probably the result of handheld fans applied to assorted surfaces. These can be heard throughout, but particularly in the closing, almost AMM-esque few minutes where the music swells into and out of a grittier, turbulent passage.

The second piece, Passengers is a very different affair, much quieter, darker, all shuffling sounds in the immediate distance. The eBows are switched off and there is a sense of unease in the music, maybe a calm after the storm that closed the opening track. Gradually, very gradually more starts to happen and a kind of whirring, circular pattern creeps into the music, but always very muted and somehow that little bit disconnected from the listener, reminding me (quite fittingly for today) of times in my youth when I went to sleep with a vinyl record on, only to wake and find the needle stuck in the runout groove with that natural clicking, popping rhythm in the room.

The third track, Fairies begins in similar territory, but after a couple of minutes suddenly picks up with a burst of rattling, tinkling sounds as if small metal items were being dragged across the vibraphone blocks. A thick, solid tone reappears, giving a base for further rattles, tinkles and clicks to be set against it, and this forms the basis of the piece, simple in its structure but detailed and quite lovely throughout.

The closing Planes is fittingly titled, and opens with an immediate radio-like static sound in the front of the mix, joined quickly by another ringing tone and soon after by amplified buzzing, scraping sounds that drift and change but always replaced by other, similar sounds so the track maintains a kind of linear momentum made up of three intertwined parts. This piece dispenses with the prettiness but not with the attention to underlying detail and again when tired I just let the music drift along with me kind of floating on its surface, but this evening the track revealed much more as I was able to listen vertically into it.

Plains was recorded back in early 2006 so it has been around a while, but its another fine recording from Cor, whose Conundrom label can do little wrong by these ears of late.

Comment (1)

  • Brian Olewnick

    April 21, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Just received Plains today, but have yet to listen. Coincidentally, though, last night I watched the Atom Egoyan film of Krapp’s Last Tape with John Hurt. Absolutely fantastic; see it if you haven’t already.

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