Thursday, 31 December 2009

Memories Of Mr. 23 (The Alfred Harth Chronicles)

PARCOURS BLEU A DEUX - Die Kainitische Stadt Über Abels Gebeinen


Heinz Sauer (1932) ranks among the most prominent German saxophonists, a career including a number of significant collaborations with entities such as Albert Mangelsdorff, George Adams, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Globe Unity Orchestra. In 1990 Alfred Harth had organized 2324 FU, a retrospective exhibition of his own visual art at Frankfurt’s Dominikanerkloster, a renowned gallery situated within a cloister. What he envisioned was a concert with Sauer to be held in the cloister’s Holy Ghost Church (devoted to Albert Ayler, one thinks…). This is exactly what happened, and Parcours Bleu A Deux were born.

As A23H puts it in a typically puzzling description, “the spirit and the reverb was the challenge”. PBAD were not meant to be a simple reed duet, but a completely autonomous small acousmatic unit; to achieve this goal, prerecorded tracks (also involving the voice of Isabel Franke reciting passages from the Apocalypse) and electronic emanations were added to the recipe. The musicians were able to maneuver those splinters via foot pedals while playing, the surprise factor guaranteed by the unforeseen manifestation of elements that might be perceived as not pertinent at first, appearing instead perfectly integrated in the music’s general unrest in a matter of seconds.

This CD (rough translation of the title: “The city of Cain built upon Abel’s bones”) comprises 70 minutes of extracts from performances dated 1991 and 1992 in Frankfurt and Vancouver. The initial set is introduced by a Canadian female host who translates the duo’s name as “Blue Horse Ride Of Two People” (indeed “Blue Course” means a lot of other things; surf the web, and rest assured that AH had thought of something different from what you’ll find). It becomes instantly clear that the improvisations are gifted with a remarkable structural definition deriving from the almost visible resolve of the performers, who literally ostracize bewilderment and chaos in favour of a logical kind of disquieting turbulence, remaining inside the enclosure of focused contamination. The timbral mixture is practically stainless, broad shoulders and stinging efficiency alternated to squealing and chirping with the same naturalness of an actor’s change of stage dress in relation to the upcoming scene.

The couple provides an indicator of how a clever improvisation should be carried on, boosting the tension level with hard staccatos, increasingly nervous quodlibets and sudden theatrical exploits highlighted by the appearance of the above mentioned prearranged fragments (my preference directed to the amorphous synthetic backgrounds that occasionally steer the sonic microcosm towards even more mysterious territories, still sweetening the brutality of certain dissonant counterpoints). Harth adds a personal dose of visceral physicality and grotesque drama by grunting, blathering and sardonically laughing into the instrument’s conduits, halfway through a good-humoured fiend and a vainglorious joker deriding the audience’s intellectual capacity. All in all, this is a difficult but – as always – extremely gratifying record that must be listened with concentration at full steam: the substance is thick, the artistry is indubitable, the technical proficiency proportional to the emotional intensity, only if you grant the music the due attention. Using this stuff as conversational backdrop means losing the coordinates of rationality, and perhaps some friend.

Harth and Sauer collaborated again - together with other instrumentalists - in 1995 in the ambit of FIM (Frankfurt Indeterminables Musiqwesen, the umpteenth collective formed by the protagonist of this series) for a tribute to fellow Frankfurter Paul Hindemith. The short life of PBAD is just another question mark in the chain of “whys” that characterizes this man’s creative being; for sure not many saxophone duets sound as lucid, provocative and ironically eccentric as this.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Ogogo ??? Ogogo !!!

A nice, mouth-filling name, recalling the disjointed muttering of infant children when they learn to speak. In reality, Ogogo is the pseudonym of Igor Grigoriev, whose calling card reads so: “igOr – music, guitars”. The man has a funny website, where everything he uses and consumes (junk food, too) is carefully listed, including every single processor and pedal. Let’s put this straight from the beginning: the cat can play the instrument, and were I the Guitar Player editor, an article about Grigoriev should constitute a priority in the “curiosity list” (rest easy, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen). There is a degree of compositional substance in what Ogogo does, though, not exclusively six-string pyrotechnics: structure, irony in large doses, not to mention the absolutely wild arrangements of the bulk of the pieces. Some of these cookies made me think of Henry Kaiser and Sergei Kuryokhin in pseudo-techno sauce. Just a vague superficial resemblance, obviously we’re not at the same levels of originality.

The stuff I’ve been able to listen to is comprised by three CDs. Lunar Surphase features several bizarre ideas, a few monotonous snippets and abundant quantities of tarradiddle turned into acceptable music, which in my book is a compliment. The fusion of scalar studies, volume swells, space-trip chords and trumpets that sound like a dwarf Jon Hassell (courtesy of Andrei Solovyov) in untidy jumbles delineated by spastic drum machine patterns are well worth a try, provided you’re looking for fun and not expecting the Revelation of the New Verb. Redux is the less amusing recording, the improvisations lacking the usual sarcastic steam to direct instead in the realm of inconsequential noodling, without genuine musical meaning. The duets with MIDI-enhanced trombonist Rod Oakes are not exactly what common men would love to hear at their funeral, and – in general - the whole record doesn’t sting, the sounds suspended between nothingness and mortality (get the Mahavishnu pun?). Honestly, I’d have left these tapes in the vault. On the contrary, Linden retrieves the right spirit of creative anarchy and a bit of predetermined design in the tracks, which in this case are complementing a series of pictures and sculptures by visual artist Ron Linden (reproduced in the CD booklet). “The K” is my overall favourite Ogogo piece: a semi-regular overdriven pulse introducing a run of preposterous scales and interlocking figurations creating weird counterpoints punctuated by the sample of a squawking chicken (STOP PRESS 12/31/09: Mr. Grigoriev just emailed to specify that it's actually a peacock - so much for this countryman's animal expertise). Sublimely cheap, and that’s all she wrote. If you want to laugh a bit while enjoying the best jokes that Igor has to offer, perhaps starting from here will be the correct choice.

(Note: the above review should not encourage unskilled incompetents to burn a CDR of weird-sounding bullshit and send it to this writer).

(III Records)

Different Reactions To A Pair Of Idiosyncratics

A Belgian label met for the first time. Mixed feelings.

PHIL MAGGI – Blue Fields In Paramount

Maggi is essentially a vocalist who uses his natural instrument to initiate a whole world of superimposed and broadened morphing mantras and reach states of selfless entrancement. But that’s not all: for this CD, he utilized field recordings from Croatia (including road musicians and the insides of a church) and modified samples of classic music to create a sheltering sonic structure that welcomes repeated tries, despite being composed of elements that couldn’t really be described as previously unheard. Indeed there’s virtually everything you could expect for a homemade spellbinding trip: backward tapes, sounds of dripping water, tangled loops, stretched-out chorales. Yet Maggi applies the necessary touches with a considerable measure of – dare I say - love for life which is constantly noticeable. This transforms an otherwise ordinary album in a relieving episode of introspective transcendence, spiced with attention-grabbing snippets from different cultures adding to the intrigue. In synthesis, one of my favourite non-groundbreaking outings of 2009. Curious to hear more from this man.

Y.E.R.M.O. – Collision Zone

A combination of two duos - Yannick Franck and Xavier Dubois (Y.E.R.M.O.) versus visual artists Nadine Hilbert and Gast Bouschet - for the soundtrack of the Luxembourg Pavillion at 53th Venice Biennale in 2009. The press release says that this is an “invocation of the coldness and cruelty of a border zone between two worlds”, but these “qualities” appear as a façade hiding an inadequate sonic substance. The music is dominated by cumulative distortion for its large part, an amassment of saturated guitars at the limit of tolerability occupying a sizeable portion of the CD. As time elapses, a few ingredients are added: unremitting percussion, field recordings, industrial hues. The feeling remains one of (supposed) threat until the end. The problem, as usual, lies in the fact that this kind of stuff works probably better when experienced on site; quite honestly, as a simple recording on disc it doesn’t amount to much. There’s nothing that I haven’t heard before and even the “menace factor” is not working properly, all of those clangorous roars leaving this listener reasonably unconvinced.

POST SCRIPTUM 12/31/2009. After a (civil) exchange of opinions via email with Yannick Franck I felt compelled to listen to Collision Zone for the fourth time. Though my general impression has not changed, something must be indeed added. First of all, this CD must be played LOUD for best effect, which I hadn't done before, remaining content with a medium-volume setting both via headphones and through speakers. A decisive increasing of the volume introduced me to an appreciable quantity of massive underground vibrations that render the music definitely more effective on a physical level. Another thing that should be better defined: although layers of distorted guitars are often utilized, they don't actually "dominate" the large part of the record, but just characterize some of the tracks, while other sections (i.e. the finale) are informed by a measure of hope more than "threat" as I wrote. Upon our exchange, I also realized that Mr.Franck could be right when he tells me that the review could potentially throw Y.E.R.M.O. in the cauldron of noisy ignorance. That is NOT the case: even if I haven't been able to find overly positive aspects in this music, it was crafted and composed with a sincere purpose, which is clearly felt throughout. I apologize to Y.E.R.M.O. and to any interested party if the review sounded ambiguous in that sense, which certainly was not in my intention.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Four On Another Timbre Byways


Electronics, percussion and cello, respectively. There’s a clandestine essence in this music, like if the participants – instead of diffusing the fruits of their gestures in the vastness of a church as it is the case – were furtively gathering in some sort of damp hole under a huge uninhabited building, the vibrations of the latter leaking into the general mindset. The interest resides in the fact that nobody tries to departmentalize the improvisational intuitions through forced heterogeneity, the player constantly remaining in the middle of a natural, if slightly contaminated flow. No element remains unemployed, with Kanngiesser’s cello obviously at the centre of what’s more recognizable, subdued dissertations and sensible management of the upper partials mixed amidst the customary rasping activities, with an increase of the timbral corporeality in the second half of the disc. The heterodox trait of Dumont’s tampering is neither predominant nor disproportionate, his despoliation of percussive structures voluntarily restricted within the collective entente, pragmatic manipulations of mismatched kernels complementing the unidiomatic quality of the interplay. One could very well doubt about the effective presence of Abbott’s electronic processing, which is extremely subtle, almost to the point of invisibility, yet transforms certain passages quite effectively with a laconic rebuilding of unfixed configurations. Not a seminal album, but excellent nevertheless.


This reviewer likes hermetic improvisation to a certain extent, but still finds difficult – after at least four tries – to get satisfaction from Meshes, a trombone/electronics/cello presentation divided in two parts. If you pardon the obvious pun, the sonic components don’t mesh well enough, often appearing like a somewhat disjointed series of extemporaneous lumps, callous non-tones and unreadable noises thrown out in absence of hypothetic structures, visible intuitions or, in the worst case, a coup de theatre. The only significant result was achieved by playing the CD softly amidst further activities in Christmas day’s afternoon (one person typing and the other decorating wool, complete silence in the valley except the wind) without paying excessive attention to the development - or lack thereof - of the investigation. The factual rendition of what is emitted or manipulated is virtually useless; only a few irregular spurts of wheeze-and-gurgle rarefaction - in between various kinds of frictional activity and intermittent signals - sporadically woke up my interest. Sorry, connection failed in this case.


A 30-minute live set for percussion and violin. Initially, the players act through micro-infusions of minuscule components within a larger system of coarse liverishness, a rather nervous attitude identified by the piercing insensitiveness of over-acute string harmonics and threadbare uneasiness. It doesn’t take much for things to become constant: aural nuisances exchanged with mild-mannered rubbing (at times bizarrely sounding as a gentle insufflation), unsympathetic abrasiveness enhanced by a nimble manufacturing of instantaneous oxidization, also attributing an element of dingy imperturbability to the general mood. The captious exploration of the inside mechanisms of a single unit characterizes both musicians’ method for large parts of this music, turning an evident inhospitableness into its best quality. After a while, even the most cynical listener is swallowed by those tiny vortexes, the whole informed by a treasured penuriousness of bombast. “Meagre” is beautiful, “toneless” is charming, “uncertain” revealing utter confidence in a vision which is perceived as unique, although that’s not really so. The final part introduces an almost ritual semblance, a sensible restraint defined by stretched sounds highlighted by well-audible echoes from the external world. As it happens with the bulk of Simon Reynell’s releases, one might or might not be able to appreciate a weak-looking nudeness, yet there’s undeniable substance in those protruding bones.


The longest and overall most satisfactory item of this quartet. The instrumentation comprises trumpet, electronic and alto saxophone but here, more than everywhere else, I struggled a bit to focus on the correct individuation of the sources. This is also the recording in which the incidence of external intromissions (car engines, airplanes, birds) is working rather efficiently as actual complement to the music, finely structured per se and researched from the inside with palpable purpose. In general, this trio represents the entity that furnishes my ears with the best idea of a stream of activity directly related to anything having to do with life, both in a purely physical meaning and as an extension of simple gestures which in turn can originate reactions, convenient or less. Speaking of the timbral palette, there’s an obvious prevalence of soiled vibrations (mostly deriving from Coleman and Wright’s preparations, clearly audible as they get implemented on the spot), long-held pitches (predominantly in the piping-and-shrilling regions), buzzing groans and occasional aching laments – a wonderful series of the latter, almost animal in their intensity, starts about half a hour into the set – meshing with the classic saliva-drenched, pressurized sounds that have become an EAI trademark, this time successfully circumstantiated and dosed, delivered only at the due moment. Protracted silences emerge every once in a while, the artists apparently stopping to swiftly reconsider the work done and find a new starting point; in those instants the cityscape is heard quite well, and it’s just beautiful. The intelligently parsimonious use of a radio is a plus, a splendid juxtaposition of ruthlessly sharp tones and “Blue Moon” probably the album’s top in terms of coincidental brilliance and unintentional sarcasm. One needs persistence to penetrate the essence of Control And Its Opposites and, believe me, once you manage to do it those 80 minutes literally fly. Don’t neglect this unassuming masterpiece.

Another Timbre

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Distressed Retriever

Helplessly trying to settle matters - within the borders of 150-200 words - with LOTS of records released one year ago or more (or less…) still waiting on that damn messed up desk. The fact that many of those are contained by extra thin sleeves – which tend to disappear amidst consistent batches of CDs – definitely doesn’t help.


Trumpeter Franz Hautzinger’s Rain Orchestra – named after the “soggy London weather” characterizing their first gig – punches hard in between jarring suspensions. Forget hissing, plopping and tonguing, prepare yourselves instead to listen to a suite that fuses adrenaline and lysergic spirits in equal doses. Obviously there is a hint to the “electric Miles” era in the liners, yet that comparison misses the point a little bit. The music – played by Christian Fennesz, Otomo Yoshihide, Luc Ex and Tony Buck besides the leader – owns a fairly distinctive personality, characterized by malignant stabs to consonance masked with heavy riffs and inharmonious itineraries in the zones where the fumes of burned vinyl and the obliqueness of dislodged arpeggios place the whole lot in a grey area halfway through the toughest Paul Schütze remembered by this writer (perhaps circa Shiva Recoil) and Jon Hassell wearing a Motorhead leather jacket. I hadn’t realized that Fennesz and Otomo were so fond of uncooked overdriven guitars before. (Red Note)

JC JONES – Hosting Myself

A solid album of solo double bass by Jones, the moaning and growling fundament behind Jerusalem’s Kadima Collective. The instant compositions are aptly described by their creator as “focused on energy and the moment”, and indeed there is often an almost theatrical quality underlying the (mostly short) improvisations presented here. Every single component of the instrument is exploited, warranting a vast range of sonorities; the whole works much better by listening without headphones, as the contribution of the contiguous spaces to the (in)natural reverberation of all those groans, purrs, knocks, scrapes and clickety-clacks is essential. Jones is not averse to sound processing – on the contrary, he relies on it pretty heavily, a Lexicon delay (and possibly other pedals) at the basis of further alterations of the palette. His great merit resides in the fact that an idea is never worn out or excessively scrutinized, the vibrant trait of the resulting music constituting a crucial element of its success, our interest rewarded for several consecutive spins.

IVOR KALLIN / JOHN BISSET – A Schlep From Strathbungo

This is quite an oddity, particularly lovely in spite of my absolute inability to classify such a kind of impromptu staging. Walking through several locations in Glasgow (including the Hampden Park stadium while an important game is being played), local native Kallin recites verses, snippets of phrases, peculiar syllables and other scarcely intelligible fragments (at least for someone struggling to get to grips with Scottish) of human expression accompanied by the now acerbic, now complimentary acoustic guitar of Bisset. Occasionally the tracks might recall a folk version of Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate with six-stringed counterpoint. There are numerous passages worthy of more than a distracted listen, especially when the couple wanders around tranquil oases of peace like Kelvingrove Park, sweetly whistling blackbirds underlining the on-the-spot swapping of ideas between the artists. The final part of the CD is a studio session where things sound (and, according to the liners, are) slightly planned – Bisset embracing an electric to furnish the music with a degree of bluesy touch – yet the sparkle and the artlessness of the city recordings remain unsurpassed. Very nice indeed. (2:13)

R MILLIS – 120

Robert Millis is a Climax Golden Twin (honest: I’ve been reading this name around a lot without knowing, to date, what the project deals with) and, especially, a collector of 78 rpm records and seeker of intercontinental snippets of real life, both for his own pleasure and use in albums by Sublime Frequencies (another label I’ll be happy to deepen my knowledge of as soon as someone invents the 48-hour day). 120 - originally released in a very limited edition – is a well conceived combination of extensive, looping-and-morphing flashes of beyond-earthly-existence awareness balancing otherwise pretty much vivacious, occasionally sybilline intermissions by fragments from ancient eras, presumably deriving from the above mentioned early discs. Though the concepts presented by Millis are not desperately innovative (and, sincerely, that “lonesome cowboy” strummed-guitar finale could have been left out), the sheer loveliness of those rust-coloured aural folktales and the impressive, almost supernatural standstills that he generates through superimpositions of processed instruments - guitar, bells and glass harmonica - are quintessential listening for anyone willing to experience some veritable moment of transcendence amidst the rotations of a time capsule, the wholeness of which is spiced by appreciably unpretentious field recordings. (Etude)

ADAM PACIONE – With Wakened Eyes

The original concept behind this 75-minute collection dates back to 2003, Pacione having been able to rescue earlier tracks that he believed lost in a hard disk crash. Taken as a whole (and in this case the “repeat” mode is mandatory) the six pieces amount to a hymn to the disaggregation of a human being’s will. My wife and I sat transfixed on the living room’s couch in a terribly cold, grievously grey morning while these stretched suspensions of mental activity went on and on, at times with a few barely hinted tonal connotations but, for our good luck, more often gifted with a kind of harmonic richness according to which concepts like “major” or “minor” (in relation to a potential key) become only stupid, uninteresting details, just as understanding what the sources for these longing uncertainties are. Vacillating clusters evoking an ashen face intent in praying, extensive perturbations of a peacefulness that remains endangered despite the entrancement. “Night So Deep” and “Night So Bright” are extraordinarily beautiful chapters, definitely among the best static electronica heard in years. Quite simply a must-have, and not exclusively for ambient aficionados: this man composes music with scarce instrumental elements and abundance of poignant substances acting as a magic potion for their ideal development. Huge mea culpa for not arriving to this record before. Glorious stuff. (Bee Eater)

OFF THE SKY – Creek Caught Fire

Jason Corder/Off The Sky's Creek Caught Fire (the logical prosecution of a previous EP called Creek Studies on Term, sublabel of 12k) revolves around “extracting subjective/objective inspiration and creative abstraction from vast natural space, but specifically that of the Appalachian (red river) area”. The liners then continue to illustrate a series of applications and processes related to the generation of this CD that I’m not really able to thoroughly understand. The music is very intriguing, intelligently paced and ultimately rewarding, a brand of tranquil electronica characterized by semi-biotic sub-movements, tremendously lovely timbres that are probably generated and/or modified by a laptop yet possess innate qualities that result utterly compatible with my personal evening’s mood (which is always a good thing). Samples of acoustic instruments enrich the palette of this silently affecting record, whose unstable dynamics – fused with a subdued muteness emerging as the primary colour in a general visionary efficiency – make sure that coldness and scientific posturing are not parts of the experience. Just another small, precious gem from this nearly invisible, legitimately significant label. (The Land Of)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Odd Couple Of Great Releases


Holshouser and Sassetti had shared a stage for the first time in 2004, this album coming five years later as an expected corollary of that initial meeting. The accordionist and the pianist penned the entirety of the program, except for Carlos Paredes’ “Dança Palaciana” which opens the CD. The line-up is completed by Ron Horton on trumpet and David Phillips on bass. Portugal’s musical roots, landscapes and urban environments are admittedly an essential influence on this work, which alternates moments of wholehearted joy – characteristically expressed by odd-metered tunes and folk-ish themes led by Holshouser’s accordion – and pensive reminiscences in which Sassetti’s piano emerges with the customary assortment of introspective melancholy but – a bit of a revelation here – also with a measure of discordant diversity, exemplified by the angular figurations of “Irreverence”. The most lyrical traits, though, emerge courtesy of Horton, whose lines produce immediate images of vulnerability enriched by a rare quality of perceptive self-discipline, letting him appear as the real lead figure in this circumstance. Phillips is a clever, ever-efficient supporter, furnishing the interplay with unambiguous contrapuntal suggestions that help the music to remain anchored to a reality that often tends to be forgotten in such a kind of context. A brilliantly rendered example of instrumental narrative mixing popular and experimental factors. (Clean Feed)


Besides being a drummer who sounds as bad intentioned as wisely inclined towards the clever decomposition of regular pulses, Gold-Molina is the man behind Sol Disk, the label on which this fiercely unapologetic CD is published. In this occasion, he is flanked by Michael Bisio on bass and Michael Monhart on soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones. This is one of those albums who meet my unconditional approval since the very first notes heard, as one instantly detects a genuine will of exploring the soul of the music in a way that is both radical and linked to some kind of primeval root. There’s a shamanistic quality to the playing, the performers stopping on certain figures to launch themselves into the spirals of repetitive patterns and interlocking rhythms, that directly connects their heart to the improvisational core. Gold-Molina leaves us flummoxed with a constant change in the percussive flow, utilizing mechanics of expression that discard the obviously bewitching aspects of free drumming to enhance the spiritual quintessence of an everlasting uninhibited groove. Bisio offers a spectacular performance, especially when using the arco over the course of long droning mantras (such as in “Water Lilies”) and extended fragments of melodic fearlessness, a timbre inflexibly rooted in a fertile ground of significant achievements, a lexicon - as ever - definitely unique. Monhart exalts every nuance of his reeds, transmitting signals of perturbation and raking the remnants of expository melody to generate anti-themes and solos completely disengaged from classic formulas, a well-visible star in an already extraordinarily clear sky. Records like Colored Houses prove that there’s still hope for emotional reaction when listening to a jazz album. Extremely recommended.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Two Pianists


First album as a leader from this artist, and also my first meeting with her playing despite previous collaborations with names such as George E. Lewis, Cecil Taylor, Jöelle Léandre, Barre Philips, Joe Mc Phee. Reason, whose style is defined by rational procedures not involving coldness, is aided by Dominic Duval on bass and John Heward on drums. The interest lies primarily in the apparent slight disjointedness of the respective styles which, quite absurdly, denotes an even more coherent unity of intents. Reason’s flurries might indeed recall some of the most intelligible intuitions of the aforementioned Taylor, yet there is a measure of latent melancholy in the music which sets her personality apart from literal comparisons. The way in which she’s able to decelerate at the right moment and leave any sort of emphasis out, privileging moody smoothness and intellectual elasticity informed by an intelligent dismantling of clichés, is finely highlighted by the uninterrupted meticulousness – mixed to large doses of dissonant fervour – shown by the ever-durable Duval, while Heward applies a mixture of logic and sensitive magnification of certain percussive details to complete a strange kind of inner compatibility. Externally, all of this appears like three distinct ways that, in the end, find a point of convergence from which sizeable quantities of “pragmatically alluring” vibrations are generated. (Circumvention)


The title translates as “a bunch of notes” and perhaps this is exactly what, at the end of the day, weighs down this otherwise pleasant enough record, preventing us from an entirely positive reception. Teubal, a Spanish at birth but now a citizen of Argentina, is a composer who appears to possess some of the right gifts to become a major name in this field. Immaculate technique, an innate proclivity to aurally satisfying combinations, a light veil of nostalgia, room for everybody to improvise. In that sense, La Balteuband (Xavier Perez, Felipe Salles, Moto Fukushima, Franco Pinna, Kobi Salomon, Ivan Baremboin, Greg Heffernan and Marcelo Wolski) is a gorgeous melting pot of styles and influences coming from different areas of the world, counting on musicians endowed with flawless instrumental dexterity. For about three quarters of the CD Teubal manages to sustain our interest with scores that could easily be enjoyed by the true addicts of genuine fusion (I mean of the musically deeper kind - we’re not talking Lee Ritenour here, with all the due respect to the latter), with hints to Oregon, Egberto Gismonti and certain incarnations of Pat Metheny Group. Unfortunately there are also tracks that, on the contrary, sound a little heavier to these ears: excessive solo juggling, insufficient consequence on the memory, tunes lacking a bit of synthesis that seems to exist elsewhere. An accurate selective process would have made this almost perfect (in spite of my time-honored heartlessness for this type of stylistic derivations); instead, a few handfuls of unnecessary ingredients – whose oily taste, regrettably, does remain in the mouth – cause certain episodes of Un Montón De Notas to occasionally overstay their welcome. (Not Yet)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Hail Mary Trio

These three reviews were edited on December 8th, Immaculate Conception day in Italy (elsewhere too, perhaps?). Not bad for an unrepentant agnostic.


Another split from John Gore’s ever-interesting series on Cohort. Dimuzio and Custodio present “Air Way”, a live recording from 2007 that utilizes samples, processing, loops, MIDI-controlled feedback and synthesizer to generate a spacey, sporadically intimidating soundscape that could not really be described as blissful, its tissue also characterized by a modicum of growl which avoids the barrenness usually manifested by all those sweet-sounding pseudo-cosmic trips which anyone with a workstation is able to concoct in this day and age. It mixes mystery and majesty, stasis and movement, drone and variation, meaning that our interest is sustained with ease throughout 18 minutes. Conure’s “Murray Street” – much longer at 27’ – was created by manipulating the sounds coming from the Manhattan site made famous by a Sonic Youth album’s title. The temperament of this piece is consequently more inconstant, noisily oppressing, the composer privileging the most distorted aural nuances of the audio range while basically maintaining the qualities of that sort of overwhelming mantra informing metropolitan life - especially in NY – with additional doses of piercingly spurious raucousness thrown in for good measure. In both cases: fine, though not world-shattering stuff.

METAL MACHINE TRIO – The Creation Of The Universe

You’ve probably read about this project most everywhere by now, but a little bird told me that the world at large also needed my two cents. “Guitarist” Lou Reed (no, he’s not singing yet he does elicit fuzzy Hendrix memories at times), saxophonist Ulrich Krieger and electronic wizard Sarth Calhoun, recorded live at Los Angeles’ Red Cat, explore a series of situations oscillating between collective brooding improvisation and something nearing a sort of art-rock informed by a measure of hardness, with a slight tendency to substantial, if well-contained distorted riffage and occasional spewing of unruly squeals. I’m convinced that many so-called purists will turn their noses up in front of this but – as usual - no problem here. There are several episodes in which these improbable comrades do very interesting things, superimposing melodic fragments to massive drones and infected discharges in the space of moments, almost never sounding vulgar. It must be told that Calhoun’s processing is often the key to the conversion of pretty regular stuff into nonfigurative conceptions, relatively appealing on an experimental level; the mental depth of the involved artists makes sure that ineffective noodling is left out of the room more often than not. Naturally we’re not talking masterpiece – Metal Machine Music this ain’t, despite the trio’s denomination. In spite of this, we come across an appreciable quantity of fascinating interludes – a didgeridoo-like moan at approximately 37 minutes of the first disc, scarred by Reed’s slashing outbursts, being particularly munificent to these ears – in a general predisposition to humongous surging. As a method for making some (edible) noise it’s more or less OK, provided that one manages to assimilate the unnecessary fat of certain segments where excessively rock-ish propensities distract us a bit from the refreshingly convulsive roaring. The wall-of-jumbled-chords-with-ruthlessly-stabbing-dissonance sections – not to mention the ominously obscure beginning of the second set - are way better. Test definitely passed, although not with flying colours. Available here.

HOPEN – Their Quasi-Homes Are Real Holes

Childe Grangier and Bruno Gillet are, respectively, a sound artist “influenced first by sounds (…as George Clooney would have it, what else?), daily noises and music experimentation from Zappa, Autechre, Luc Ferrari Subrosa label (…)” and a multi-instrumentalist credited with “guitar, drums, knives”. Go figure. This splendidly titled digital release (available at Everestrecords) is a pastiche made with literally myriads of snippets from the most disparate sources, including lo-fi shreds, cut-price field recordings and regular instruments filtered and equalized to transform their timbres into something which is perceived as “caressingly unrelated” to our senses. It’s a strange work, for different reasons. Although the general conception is not new, Hopen managed to find a number of interesting combinations and sequences that attribute a cinematic, but still investigational quality to the large part of the recording, which becomes well tolerable - when not completely involving - thanks to this outlandish unsettledness. One tends to forgive a few cheesy synthetic presets, only because they’re instantly raped and killed by additional intromissions of unsentimental acridness and infeasible paroxysmal lexicons; and indeed there is a Zappa rip-off somewhere (a brief section sounds exactly like the sped-up tapes in FZ’s “Revenge Of The Knick-Knack People”). Nevertheless, the anguishing dimension underlying the music – even during apparently peaceful instances – renders it deeper than its superficial look, and this is what ultimately influences the optimistic impression. My suggestion is to play this in “random” mode, at fair volume, from the speakers: certain weird resonances might do wonders in relation to your psychological setting.