Triumphs in Sound Placement

Annea-Lockwood_-In-Our-Name
I recall seeing the name of electroacoustician Anna Lockwood mentioned for the first time in a now yellowing page of an ancient Record Collector. Her Glass World… on Tangent Records became a grail object for years. Until (and this WILL never happen again), I stumbled upon a boxload of Lockwoods and Henri Chopins (also on Tangent) at a local record fair for 99p a disc!! Since that time, I’ve been following Anna (now Annea’s) career in fits and starts. Still searching for a copy of Harvey Matusow’s Jew’s Harp Band LP in which Anna was a member (after studying at the Royal College of Music), and still playing, on a regular basis, the amazingly sensual and magnificently creepy ‘Tiger Balm’, which can be found on the Early Works 67/82 CD on EM Records of Japan). I urge you to hear this. So it seemed that Christmas had been rescheduled when I received a review copy of Annea’s In Our Name (NEW WORLD RECORDS 80729-2) CD on the American New World Records label. The utterly disarming ‘Jitterbug’ opens this three-parter. It’s a six channel tape composition that pits the micro burble of aquatic insects and fish against a guitar/strings/percussion trio. The main idea being that the touch of hom. sap. shouldn’t overpower the more fragile sounds of Ma Nature. You would have thought that ramming a couple of hydrophones into their watery kingdom might have made its inhabitants just a little self-concious. But no…the curious clicks, pops and flutterings rise to the surface like there’s no tomorrow. And for some of these lifeforms, with their accelerated lives…there probably won’t be. ‘Thirst’ is another multi-channel work. On this occasion, the hubbub and drone of the human worker bees milling through grand central station is captured and set against an artist’s recollections of an idyllic childhood in Damascus. I know which sounds the better option. The title track though, is the piece that should have really caused the biggest reverberations within the avant classical/sound collage circles. Commissioned by baritone vocalist Thomas Buckner (collaborations w/ Robert Ashley, Phill Niblock, Wadada Leo Smith…). it was designed to cut through all the media spin/b.s. regarding the plight of those incarcerated (and forgotten about) at Guantanamo Bay. Instead of the expected rage at this continual injustice, these sung/spoken poems by Buckner, (accompanied by a mournful cello), are delivered in a dignified and measured way, thereby, possibly, giving the work a little more longevity and more leverage on its journey through the airwaves and concert halls of the U.S. More triumphs in sound placement, with a fully beating heart. Extra points are certainly due for copious sleeve notery and thoughtful/considered sleeve art.

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Speaking of sleeve art…turtles’ eggs or ping pong balls?? It’s a question that’s been on my mind since first glancing at the photos adorning the Weird Tales & Elegant Motion (MONOTYPE RECORDS mono052) CD by The Mia Zabelka Trio. Even the out of focus group photo seems to continue the misdirection. And that’s not discounting Mia’s violin skreek which wraps itself in all manner of sound processing, its methods to deceive. She’s been recording since ’87 and has teamed up with John Zorn, Pauline Oliveros and Alvin Curran amongst others. Mia’s joined here by the muscular and supple bassings of Pavel Fajt (ex Dunaj) and Johannes Frisch (also of the Kammerflimmer Kollektief) on drums/percussion. The set can be (loosely) divided into two states of being: powerful, sometimes fragmented avant funk (‘Backyard Funk’, ‘Back to Start’, ‘Nasty Rumours’) and insinuating, mid-paced tone poems (‘Djinn’, ‘Push’) that come with the gift of the unknown tongue and creepy, whispered asides (a la Gong’s Gilly Smyth, but with talons…). A solid body of work with a real sense of band unity. They remind me a bit of Massacre or Crimso extracurricular activity like Project X or Space Groove. And as a p.s., can their ‘Slims and Slams’ really refer to Slim Gaillard/Slam Stewart’s novelty jazz act? I do hope so. It’d be nice to see those purveyors of the ‘Flat Foot Floogie with the Floy Floy’ given a nod. If that’s made you curious – check ‘em out on Hellzapoppin – a nutzoid flick from the war years with Martha Raye, Olsson & Johnson etc etc…

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