Thursday, 19 August 2010

Jesse Stacken, Monroe Golden, Yannick Dauby


Jesse Stacken is a member of the Peter Van Huffel Quartet, and that’s how I first came across his playing. This album – which features bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Jeff Davis - reveals him as a versatile, sensible pianist and composer per se, whose interests reside halfway through the exploration of wider spaces for notes and, especially, overtones to resound (the meditative opening "Solstice", or the introvert "Time Canvas") and more dissonant and metrically charged passages (the title track and certain sections of "Crow Leaf Frog"). In "The Whip" we were reminded of Vince Guaraldi's pianism and overall scents: those of you who are well acquainted with Charlie Brown's cartoons will immediately understand. Stacken shows a thoughtful, considerate attitude when he’s following a contemplative vein: the interaction between his spare shapes and Opsvik's frail arco in "Aquatic House" is daintily sustained by Davis' whispered gestures on the drum set. And yet the program is closed by a tune - "Face" - branded by the appearance of power chords, no less. This clever concomitance of diverse aspects of the same artistic personality is what ultimately renders the record satisfying. (Fresh Sound New Talent)

MONROE GOLDEN - Alabama Places

For this reporter, Monroe Golden is a new name and a pleasing encounter. He is interested in the concurrence of commonly tuned and detuned sources, ears open towards phenomena linked to microtones. Alabama Places – his second CD - consists of 73 minutes of rather minimalist vignettes and rhythmic studies executed by Ellen Tweiten (piano) and Kurt Carpenter (microtonal keyboard) with accuracy and genuine interest for the material. To have a vague idea of how this stuff sounds, visualize a semi-synthetic crossbreeding of Moondog and Charlemagne Palestine without the mesmerizing auras generated by the latter's lingering harmonics. The compositions tend to a compact kind of mechanical repetitiveness - slightly modified by frequent, if minor variations in accents - distinguished by a mild melodious angularity. It is quite interesting at times, despite the low-cost nature of some of the presets used; indeed, fake harpsichords, harps and clarinets don't do justice to our aspiration of listening to authentic instruments, occasionally lowering the music's credibility a couple of notches. But, regardless of a slight degree of weariness caused by the methodical immutability after a hour or so, the experiments are legitimately appealing. By mentally fusing these somewhat misshapen visions with the composer's track-by-track description of each piece’s background, one becomes intrigued enough to repeat the playback, searching again for the elusive combinations of overtones that had engendered a positive reaction in the first place. Ultimately, the virtues of a gentle eccentricity prevail on the absence of deviations from the main road. (Innova)


Dauby lives in Taiwan, though he’s a French native. In his current homeland and in Saint Nazaire he gathered – upon commission of two different festivals – the materials for this excellent album of field recordings, whose sources were captured in 2005 and 2006 respectively. The listener individuates a strong connection with the material almost instantly and follows it throughout 44-plus minutes; Dauby chose elements that are reasonably recognizable – industrial noises, environmental glimpses, majestic wind – and assembled them with a sense of musicality that’s rarely found in other release in this area. The title seems to allude to the fact that the scenarios stream one into another: the clatter in a large room is gradually replaced by heavy rain, the engines of passing vehicles and the voices in a crowd introduce crickets and cicadas, and so on. Steadily, but also poetically in a way, the composer puts us in the driver’s seat of a splendid trip through the kind of acoustic consciousness that should constitute the primary constituent of our life, and a reason for being happy just to exist as a tiny part of this world. Too bad that many people will call these human emanations “sheer noise”; it’s not their fault. The finale is a breathtakingly beautiful surprise, which I’ll leave you to discover. (Sonoris)