Saturday, 30 January 2010

Entranced At The End Of January


An unassuming, but interesting enough recording mainly constructed with – guess what – sounds from the composer’s house. Mostly tending to the drone area (Shenton had released his first record on Ian Holloway’s Quiet World), the CD does contain a handful of absorbing moments. “Househum” is a rather involving hypnotic growth of not-so-gentle superimpositions of static buzz, powerful subsonic pulse and other indefinable layers, “When Swoosh Comes To Shove” a paradigmatic dark ambient episode with reverberant percussive traits and ominous tones. Then, a few environmental niceties with birds and all the rest, an abstract electronica-cum-musique concrete finale (“The Epic Journey To The Garage Door”) and an overly lengthy track - “Beating The Bounds” - that was better left in the vault, as it unfortunately diminishes the record’s otherwise higher mark of at least two points. If you cut off that piece from your listening session, this is a good work for its genre. (Phonospheric)

CELER – Pockets Of Wheat

The newest Celer album at the moment in which I’m writing is yet another example of how a multitude of instruments and field recordings (plus the voice of the late Danielle Baquet-Long) can become, through opportune processing, a mental balm where no one of these sources is discernible. Will Long is releasing records at a rate that, were we not sure of their quality, would be alarming. But documenting his and Dani’s activity is a mission that cannot be left unaccomplished, and we’re ever happy to listen and get mesmerized, because this is the best static ambience that you might find today: simply conceived, extremely linear in its unfolding, penetrating the inside defences without the need of imposing anything. Hazily luminescent resonances destined to be absorbed just before going to sleep at the end of the umpteenth day full of considerations about the worthlessness of many of our daily gestures, neuroses and human meetings. Pockets Of Wheat is a specimen of true therapeutic radiance, always welcome when the seriousness of the people who created it is a fundamental element. (Soundscaping)

OIER I.A. - Dedalu

Thirty minutes of complex stillness. A contradiction? Maybe, but this is exactly what happens in Dedalu, originally a net release on Larraskito and now available on a humble CDR. This music wouldn’t be out of place on a label like Antifrost, as it made me think of Ilios, AS11 - you get the point, the Greek danger zone of hypnotic electronic/processed sounds, frequently with an acutely gritty edge. Yet Oier Iruretagoiena - aka Oier I.A. - is obviously a Basque. Unrecognizable sources, and that’s a fact. Increasing tension despite the scarce movement, frequencies that don’t look so menacing at first, but do sting: at the end of the disc - and the volume isn’t even that high - my ears are behaving halfway through ring and gurgle, as if they were filled by an invisible liquid. Quite often the sonic mass elicits aural hallucinations, according to which I heard organ chords and voices in the acute register. Never believe your dishonest brain when electroacoustic stupor is involved. This man knows what he’s doing, I can feel it. A candidate for infinite repeat: a single concept throughout, applied with intelligent inflexibility. No holiday-card echoes from remote lands, no extensive reverbs, no bullshit as Phill Niblock would have it. Grab a copy of this one and get lost in a mental maze. (Self Released)

JOÃO LUCAS – Abstract Mechanics

Fascinating semi-solid conceptions for piano, accordion and electronics (Lucas) and a delightfully evocative cello (Miguel Mira). The soundtrack to Era Uma Coisa Mesmo Muito Abstracta - a choreography by Andresa Soares - Abstract Mechanics is a work of uncomplicated digestibility despite the involvedness of some of its parts. An unambiguously poetic music, either used to highlight a (probably very intriguing) series of dance figures or enjoyed as a musical piece per se. Lucas and Mira explore the instrumental registers with a combination of obsession and scientific curiosity, alternating passages bordering on the romantic side of things (never deprived of surprising factors) with moments of apparent scarcity of rationality permeated by a larger use of improvisation and discordance. But they always manage to fall straight on their feet as one realizes that the tumbles were just picturesque tricks, the couple remaining entirely aware of where the music is going. A passionate yet at the same time light hearted performance, emanating scents of transcendence but also revealing a painstaking care for the sonic details. The fact that this writer has not been able, in about six listens, to compare the material to anything else in recent memory should tell a lot. Perhaps those who recall Joachim Kühn’s playing on Carolyn Carlson’s Dark will find something here that might gratify their taste. Just a faraway association, though. (Creative Sources)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A Pair Of Not So Recent Clean Feeds

With many more to come (…). This makes me think that roundup reviews are not so useful after all. In the future I won’t wait for publishing a write-up until having listened eight CDs of the same label. It’s probably better to break them in smaller groups, or it could take years…

TRINITY – Breaking The Mold

A Norwegian quartet mingling dissimilar influences – jazz, space rock, harsh electronica – through predominantly jarring procedures that could appear scarcely lucid on a first try, but instead let slip a substantial degree of imagination. Ultimately, and most important, Trinity don’t sound like anything else (at least in the Clean Feed catalogue). All the four members have gone through the most disparate kind of collaboration: Jaga Jazzist to Mats Gustafsson, Raoul Bjorkenheim to Nate Wooley, the leader – saxophonist and clarinettist Kjetil Møster – a metal rock bassist in his past, before switching to reeds. Implausible yet efficient solutions abound, powerful sax blasts juxtaposed with half-ethereal, half-acrid atonal keyboard fluids (Morten Qvenild) that possess the rare gift of not sounding like an amassment of presets. The “rhythm section” – bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Thomas Strønen – is in actuality half of a palette where abstraction, violence, rituality and persuasive soloing succeed, seemingly in lack of a definite compositional planning. The complete nonexistence of ambassadorial accents and inconclusively politic neutrality typical of a fat chunk of contemporary jazz brings the whole to an acceptable balance, though. After a couple of spins one realizes that these bizarre sonic concoctions cannot be filed in the archive of banality, despite the difficulty of welcoming them with real infatuation. In any case Trinity deserve attention, if only for their different sound and explorative curiosity.


Given the presence of a flute (Nate Lepine) and the album title, one would think about Focus. But this record is more like a finely detailed replica of certain past atmospheres involving medium-sized jazz combos and larger orchestral entities, the music skilfully devised in absolute respect for the tradition, lush arrangements and extensive solo sections alternated with sapience and sensitiveness. The large part of the tracks were written by drummer and vibraphonist Dylan Ryan, which might appear as an oddity but it’s not, the music possessing indeed an effervescent pulse that animates scores where, in some circumstances, the tremendous contrapuntal richness might induce someone to think to relative sluggishness. In that sense, David Mcdonnell (alto sax, clarinet), Nick Broste (trombone) and Patrick Newbery (trumpet and flugelhorn) provide a significant miscellany of non-invasive colloquialism and management of virtuosity, gratifying the ears with a melange of piquancy and obedience. Guitarist John Beard’s clean-toned rationality and bassist Greg Danek’s solidly corpulent presence complete an ensemble that consider revolution a dated concept while trying to revolutionize behind-the-times music. One can’t help but admit that listening to this attempt equals a lovely chat with a beautifully aged woman; even lovers of Frank Zappa’s The Grand Wazoo could find something palatable here. Good stuff.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Thirty Minutes (Or Less)

RADU MALFATTI – Wechseljahre Einer Hyäne (To Ulrich Krieger)

Performed by Intersax (Ulrich Krieger, Martin Losert, Tobias Rüger and Reimar Volker), this composition for 2 x baritone, alto and soprano saxophones by Malfatti is among the most fascinating I’ve heard from his repertoire (which, admittedly, is not exactly my specialization). This recording is dated 2003 and was captured live at Berlin’s Podewil. Amidst the expected silences (in this case we can really say that, thanks to an excellently behaved audience who literally seems to hold their breath during the execution) gently blown clusters of the peaceful kind materialize at different times - sometimes closer than one would expect - over the course of 30 minutes, fading neon signs involuntarily trying to indicate the right way to a lost soul in a street at late night. When those murmured chords vanish, a single saxophone maintains a note a little longer, remaining alone for a few instants to nail the meaning of that figure to the ground. I don’t know if it depends on your reporter’s not exactly sundrenched mood in a gloomy, coldly plumbeous Sunday afternoon, but the piece results an ideal sonic complement to the aura of pessimistic resignation which has been lingering in the house for a while today, and that someone – not me, though – might associate with a pre-death sensation, like if everything that’s made appeared as a waste of time, the living organism just going through the motions to arrive at tomorrow. The intrigue of life also lies in the correct mental management of similar moments, and the music is very effective in that sense – especially when enriched by the circumstantial noises coming from afar. (Et Le Feu Comme)

SAP(e) featuring BERNHARD GÜNTER – Improvisation

The trio of Aurélien Besnard (clarinet), Christophe Devaux (electric guitar) and Guillaume Contré (laptop) moves around the regions where concentrated instrumental tampering borders with micro-sonic extemporaneity; that’s why the presence of Günter – here on pocket trumpet, clarinet and effects – appears as virtually perfect for the occasion. The interchange between the artists is informed by a constant impression of unexploded intensity, mainly characterized by timbres seemingly unwilling to depart from the grey area between corroded metal and suburban dimness. The only instantly identifiable voice comes from Devaux’s intimately miked strings, from which knotty snippets, luminescent oxidation and quiet drainage raise their small heads amidst brain-cuddling longer tones emitted by the reeds. The computer’s activities are clearly discernible but not overstated, the lone exception a looped fragment that disappears ten seconds after having entered the audio frame. An odd sense of organic liquidness permeates a sizeable part of this appealing work, whose persuasiveness ultimately resides in its capacity of holding our concentration in a grip without pauses, halfway through tangible matter and sinister reflectivity. (Et Le Feu Comme)

PIERRE GERARD – Plateaux (For Gilles Deleuze)

The common denominator of this three-headed review is Pierre Gerard, a Belgian composer who also happens to be the boss of the above linked Et Le Feu Comme net label. In keeping with the typical Koyuki standards Plateaux is very minimal, both in the sonic and the graphic design (the latter courtesy of Luigi Turra). The inexpert ear could easily position it in the undeserved company of less significant onkyo-derived releases, yet this would be terribly wrong, as Gerard knows what he’s doing much better than hundreds of so-called “alternative” artists. His sense of event placing is astonishingly acute: there’s not a moment in the whole album in which a sound appears unnecessary or unwanted in that particular instance. Speaking of tone and timbre, he masterfully alternates vapour and grain, sequences of hovering low-frequency “presences” interspersed with jagged interruptions and piercing interferences, like needles waking us up from a hypnotic illusion. One feels isolated and enraptured at the same time, the practical incapability of defining the sources of these undersized daydreams an actual advantage. This mixture of dynamic activity, extreme accuracy and mesmerizing minimization of nervous peaks - clocking at the perfect length of half a hour - should not be left disregarded. (Koyuki)

Monday, 11 January 2010

Three On Mutable

TOM HAMILTON – Local Customs

When it comes to finding new relations and correspondences between the world’s regular occurrences and a musical idea, Tom Hamilton is unquestionably among the most inquisitive minds around. After having composed works based on the index of stock and gold markets, this time he relied on his “electronic harmony generator” and a small ensemble comprising Jacqueline Martelle (flute), Richard Cohen (clarinets), James Martin (trombone), Terry Kippenberger (contrabass) and Rich O’Donnell (percussion) to concoct five pieces whose basic structures derive from “coding and recoding various readings, investigations and experiences during a summer residency in Italy”. The result is somewhat strange, although definitely refreshing. The contiguity of sumptuous acoustic timbres with the clearly (voluntarily?) “plastic” quality of the electronic presets is at times difficult to swallow, to the point that one thinks that the combination was so conceived to add a pinch of irony to the composition. In a couple of instances I was slightly reminded of Andrew Poppy’s The Beating Of Wings, but don’t consider this quote as a parallelism. What strikes positively – and ultimately wins the game – is the enthralment generated by the contrapuntal redemption which the different instruments elicit, often unexpectedly; music where the balance of mild heteromorphism and utter transparency is nearly perfect, offering repeated chances to the listener to react sympathetically to something that is felt as familiar and bizarre at once.


Italy is again heavily involved in this superb set featuring bionic-fingered Bergman (77 this year…) and a violinist from Genoa, a big surprise for yours truly who never met him previously. Pastor’s style is a cross of sorts between Stephane Grappelli and Don “Sugarcane” Harris, born from an extensive period of experimentation culminated in the adoption of hard-tension electric guitar strings on the violin, thus obtaining a hoarse kind of sound which recalls those wind instruments from which Stefano was principally influenced during the formative years. This doesn’t detract from the astonishing poignancy that those lines evoke, chains of call-and-response jewels with Bergman literally touching the soul’s deepest depths. The pianist is obviously his usual extraordinary self, the legendary independence of the hands generating coordinated movement halfway through a Nancarrow piano roll and the purest poetry that the human ear can listen to. He seems to wander carelessly along the keyboard at supersonic speed then, all of a sudden, lets us realize that an eye had been left open, masterfully returning to the tune’s foundation with supreme nonchalance sprayed with unequalled technical elevation. A welcome extra presence in the recording is the local bell tower, whose tolling appears several times to add further magic to the duo’s exchanges. Ultimately, it’s the strong logic of insightful personal research shared by the couple that allows this music to shine, placing Live At Tortona at the inner edges of an elite neighbourhood.


Floyd defines himself as “pianist, composer, improviser”, this album ideally representing a showcase of all three characters fused into a sole entity. In Crossing The Busy Street is practically conceived like two mini LPs in a single CD, the first with baritone Thomas Buckner, the second with drummer George Marsh. The basic materials are the pieces with the former, duos for piano and voice whose lyrical content derives from a poem by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore. This is the place where I personally prefer to stay, the singer’s unique delivery characterizing the ravishing chord inversions spelled by Floyd’s hands over the course of eight mainly magnificent tracks. The music’s temperament is at the same time tenderly melancholic and intellectually bright, each part characterized by a peculiar solution which inserts an element of slight discordance – still extremely digestible – in an otherwise completely fluid harmonic itinerary. There are repeated moments of poignancy here, and the overall feel is one of total gratification at the end. The duets with Marsh, which originate from improvisations and variations on some of the existing chapters, are certainly gifted with style and poise, yet they lack a bit of the emotional intensity of the exchanges with Buckner. Piano and drums gel quite well, but the jazzier vibe appearing every once in a while renders the whole a little more “normal” to these ears, deprived of the enchantment that the sung verses had generated. However, this remains a fascinating document of refined musicianship. But if there’s a reason behind the necessity of owning this disc, it surely resides in the original material.


Saturday, 9 January 2010

Cold Rain Medley

A small selection of diverse recordings, either relatively recent or from up to two years ago. All of them were examined during one of the most horribly damp, bone-freezing Januaries that I can remember of.

OLD DOG – By Any Other Name

The stunning photograph adorning the inner leaflet of this CD, a group portrait of the entire staff of an olden circus, is only a part – admittedly important - of a generally satisfying package. The rest consists of contemporary jazz, finely executed by Louie Belogenis (tenor sax), Karl Berger (vibes, piano), Michael Bisio (bass) and Warren Smith (drums). The bassist and the saxophonist share the compositional duties, five pieces and four respectively. A precise stability between tradition and modernity is achieved right away, Belogenis’ confident forthrightness taking instant command of the operations. His lines – impenitently prattling one moment, pronouncedly sweet the next – constitute the guide lights that lead the quartet across extensive moments of articulate creativity, both in the extra-tight execution of gaunt themes and in the technical blooming of the solo sections. Bisio and Smith are known quantities, providers of a mannerly pulse that, however, leaves room to several discursive circumlocutions during the episodes in which free will attempts to rule. Berger represents a jolly of sorts, well-placed outbursts explicated through a level-headed-yet-spirited pianism (which is what this reviewer preferred to hear) and rather talkative, though a little more predictable vibraphone flurries. The clear definition of the instrumental details - the consequence of a near-perfect recording - wipes out the sense of humdrum that usually turns the analysis of countless jazz albums into a chore to avoid. (Porter)


These pieces, composed by Sousa (who plays piano, guitars and organ, while Correia only handles the drumming chores) and recorded in a bedroom, are imbued with sadness. This could be OK for starters; the problem – at least to these ears – lies in the fact that they also appear, for the large part, both overly consonant (read: predictable) and permeated by a sort of stretched-out glumness, like if the producers were trying to manufacture a mood that must necessarily emerge as pessimistic - somewhat unnaturally, in a way. Although certain atmospheres, always informed by a dismal temper, would be useful as cinematic commentaries, the playing often sounds quite undeveloped (an exception being Ricardo Ribeiro’s clarinet, when it appears). There’s a measure of “barely tuned piano” infelicity here, a pinch of “long-gone-times” melody there, slow movements and invariable mournfulness all over the place. For my personal inclination, all of the above doesn’t work well enough; however, I’m sure that people less punctilious than myself will love the “poor man’s Tim Story” aura that hovers around during the playback. Since it’s a downloadable album, decide for yourselves. (Humming Conch)


Saxophonist Carrier (here on alto and soprano) is an instrumentalist who gives the idea of having everything under control even in the most liberated sections of his improvisational course, the phrases always flowing effortlessly, exclusive of great surprises yet perennially serene, strongly rooted in some kind of superior ideal. This set with Lambert on drums and Avenel on bass, recorded at the Calgary Jazz Festival in 2007, constitutes a good example of unpretentious jazz that respects the tradition and (carefully) attempts to look beyond certain borders at one and the same time. The trio is not infatuated with unwarranted difficulties and labyrinthine investigations: as Avenel – a splendid arco player, if you ask me - and Lambert create instant junctions and rhythmic diversifications without saturating the aural space, Carrier navigates the waters of creative melody with confidence and inspiration, never affecting the music’s tranquil pacing with unnecessary boisterousness. Overall, this is a hour of well perceptible spiritual bonding, three musicians who let their inner peace prevail upon the obvious technical adroitness, the music – although not reaching the rank of an actual classic – definitely benefiting from this approach. (Leo)


Speaking of spirit, this album sounds more as a celebration than a momentous artistic statement, although the participants (and other presumed experts) might censor what I’m saying - and maybe they’d be right, who knows. But stay with me, please. Lambert was the meeting’s instigator: being the protagonists both drummers and painters, he wanted to see how Moses’ “powerful drum language and expression with his intriguing visual art style would interplay with my sound and images iconographies”. The recording was made in a single torrid afternoon of July 2004 at Moses’ home in Quincy, Boston. That these men are A-grade players is out of the question; this writer’s problem, after seeing the program’s duration of over 70 minutes, was “how am I going to accurately appraise something for which my grounding is probably insufficient?”. Then the music started, the eyes closed and the memory went back at early childhood, where everything found who had some percussive character would become an instant source of beat, to the point that a toy drum set – bought by two desperate parents – became my very first instrument. The secret behind this CD is unveiled at last, the keyword is “go with the flow”. Listening to Meditation On Grace without thinking about the technical aspect of things - merely enjoying the music’s essence, nearly ritual temperament and multiform shapes - rendered the experience positively congenial. Forget drums, Lambert and Moses are great musicians, the strong link they have developed detectable throughout. So, while this record will never be considered as unforgettable here, it is nevertheless a good demonstration of the way in which preconceptions try to obstruct the freedom of the mind. (FMR)

SCISSOR SHOCK – Synonym For The Word Decay

Adam Cooley (vocals, programming, guitars, xylophone, marimba, saxophone) and Aaron Booe (trombone, double bass, keyboards, bells) are nuts, but nice. If I recall correctly, a couple of years ago they had already sent another scribbled CDR like this, which was not reviewed. Perhaps this is better or it made me laugh enough, at least for a while, so here we are. The guys, as (probably) per their name’s intention, make music where the cut-and-paste factor is fundamental. Everything, and I mean everything, is sliced, fragmented, crumbled, disassembled and shaken into a gazillion of snippets characterized by completely spastic rhythms and assorted harmonic/melodic absurdities, with sporadic and basically unintelligible rants “sung” by Cooley with a (modified?) snotty-brat tone. The only defect is that the pieces, on the long distance, tend to sound quite analogous in the basic conception. Yet one benefits from a degree of genuine fun, and some of the titles are alone worth a mention (“Psychic Vision Of A Strangulated Woman Who Is Missing Her Shoe” and “Johnny Merzbow Is Dead” my favourite ones). The real throwaway tracks are “Fahey Ghost” and “Ghost Fahey”: irony aside, that’s not the way to torture a fucking guitar, Adam. (Seizure)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Trumpets, Noisy Pulsations, Advanced Pop And A Wonderfully Unclassifiable Fricassee

AMY HORVEY – Interview

A young virtuoso of the trumpet (she was born in 1980) who has worked with Pierre Boulez among others, Horvey presents works from different composers, of which only Giacinto Scelsi I’m familiar with. The latter’s “Quattro Pezzi Per Tromba Sola” are the best introduction to the artist’s outstandingly eminent know-how, her timbre a thing of beauty – control and restraint mixed with eloquent intensity. After this fine start, the program swiftly tends to an area of music which is experimental but not in a really innovatory way, thus hindering a little our full appreciation of the protagonist’s irrefutable qualities. Two pieces – Anna Höstmann’s “Interview”, dedicated to pioneer trumpeter Edna White, and Ryan Purchase’s “Apparatus Inconcinnus” make use of spoken fragments amidst the instrumental lines; the final “Overture To The Queen Of The Music Boxes” is an interesting parallelism between Horvey delivering a klezmer melody against Jeff Morton’s small mechanical universe made of toy boxes, toy instruments and electronics. Cecilia Arditto’s “Musica Invisibile” is instead almost entirely forgettable: a dusty, old-sounding piece that manages to render even the employment of extended techniques uninteresting, if not annoying. With a better repertoire, Amy Horvey will definitely shine. (Malasartes)

BASELINE – Estado Liquido

This was sent in 2008, one of the many items to which this reviewer arrives with indefensible delay. Basically we’re dealing with low-frequency pulse music, sometimes on the droning side, otherwise rhythmically defined by some kind of “recurrence” (including a heartbeat - I believed that Pink Floyd were the last to use it, in 1973’s The Dark Side Of The Moon. Hey, just kidding). The record grows rather nicely on the listener – especially in the first half – and can definitely be digested without excessive remorse. Then again, it’s not something that made me raise the head and stop breathing, if you get my point. Had the “regular” rhythms been left out - thus avoiding a sense of ordinariness typical of certain cheap pseudo-industrial entities, to which Baseline don’t seem to belong – and the throbbing resonances developed in a deeper way, this would have amounted to an almost excellent release. It still works, but only in spurts. Too bad. (RMO)


Producer Lawrence English has, once again, done a great job with this group, always an extremely pleasurable listen in their brand of refined pop slightly contaminated by mildly noncompliant arrangements. This EP – nineteen minutes total – is all the more laudable, for several reasons (including the duration!). The short tracks are fused together, following one another in a single flux like in a concept album; the straightforwardness of the compositions is enhanced by willowish sonic combinations that valorise the instrumental nuances (especially the guitars, whose timbral range spans from fuzzy layers of creamy meta-Frippery to cleaner arpeggios generating suggestive reverberations). English’s hand does the rest, the sum of his individual types of harmonic halos and slender resonances an added value. Music that might remain circumscribed to a certain kind of audience, but nevertheless can be frequently enjoyed also by an investigative listener like yours truly. (Someone Good)

PERFECT VACUUM – A Guide To The Music Of The 21st Century

This writer considers himself lucky when receiving obscure releases containing excellent works by many friends all over the world, and hopefully Lukas Simonis will forgive me if I dare to enclose him in the “friend” category, given that we never met personally (sure enough, this kind of relationship is much truer than counting on Facebook or MySpace’s “friends”. Incidentally, anyone noticed yet that Facebook is your way to being snowed under an avalanche of spam? End of parenthesis). The music of the 21st century – if you respect Simonis and Dave Marsh’s view – is still something to embrace very warmly. This 13-song cycle is absolutely exquisite, to the point that calling these little jewels “songs” doesn’t do a favour to their quality. They’re flawlessly trimmed but, at the same time, radically altered, definitely including large doses of improvised melange. Easy melodies get intertwined with dissonant crisscross, deviated New Orleans-style arrangements meshed with Beatles-derived acoustic simplicities, gentle choirs and fiendish rasps swapped according to the necessity of a particular section. The seaming of the different parts – because a single three-minute piece can contain up to a dozen of them – is so well executed that one would be almost justified in thinking “Zappa” during the quirky itineraries of selected fragments. A series of infringements of compositional rules that, absurdly, generate a music obeying to other imperatives: those of quick-minded entertainment informed by unadulterated musicianship. Rare commodities in today’s stereotyped “art”. Honourable mention to the extraordinary players who flank the main characters: Nina Hitz, Noortje Köhne, Colin McClure, Trend Watkiss, Ingeborg Muller, Nazmiya Ibrahim, Pascal Tabarnac. Keep’em coming, Lukas. (Acid Soxx)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

A Japanese Poker On Taâlem

Can’t remember if I already reviewed the second-to-last batch that Jean-Marc - boss of this label devoted to contemporary ambient and relative derivates - had sent me earlier (hopefully yes and, in any case, thanks JM!). Yet I managed to listen to these four several times, in different conditions. Speakers are highly recommended for all these 3-inch CDs.


The best of the batch, and not by a little. A mesmerizing soundscape constructed upon gently wavering guitars that sound like if their wooden bodies were left to float in a placid sea under the summer sun. The winning card is constituted by the slight, but extremely effective harmonic shift occurring after 15 minutes or so which creates a fascinating movement in the music, thus rendering the piece a true composition that can live autonomously, beyond its ambient status. The plucked strings (some of them acoustic guitars, others perhaps kotos, the rest is there to be guessed) are very well deployed amidst the vapours, the consequent underlying reverberations unquestionably beautiful. Hatakeyama has already published records on Kranky, Spekk and Room40, and it shows.


A mixed bag that starts with an excessively tonal, if well crafted piece, continues with several minutes of absolutely useless processed liquid sounds (it could be an underwater recording, but it’s just ugly) and – luckily - ends with the best track, a calmly resonating stasis that, at low volume, is pleasant enough. Declared influences: Reich and Ligeti. I didn’t hear a second of them. Let’s not swear at the gods, please.


A multimedia artistic collective, the music created by Hiroki Sasashima and Takahisa Hirao. The first segment is an ethereal electronic suspension resembling thousands of similar ones, and that for good measure reveals horrific presets (something that, as you know, is very much hated here). Things get better with the subsequent tracks, always static yet quite alluring in their combination of pulse and choral motionlessness. The finale is a bit on the “invocation to the setting sun” side, still nicely droning for our relaxing pleasure. The whole is rather easy on the ears, yet there’s at least a degree of dignity (but those synthetic voices…oh, boy).


A plastic miniature replica of the perpetual looping brought to fame by William Basinski made with guitars and effects, superimposed and layered for 23 minutes. It goes on and on without changing, aesthetically acceptable but meaning absolutely nothing in terms of artistic weight. Useful (hardly) as a background wallpaper – which indeed is what ambient should always be, right? Frankly, I myself could release three CDs of similar stuff a day and maybe my economy would be a little better. Real prayers - and real music, which is the same - are completely different matters, you know.