Category: Recent arrivals

New promo CDs in The Sound Projector box

Jazzers Frond

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Michael Vlatkovich Quartet
You’re Too Dimensional
USA PFMENTUM CD077 CD (2013)

Trombonist and pfMENTUM fixture Michael Vlatkovich maxes his track title word count credit card once more for his umpteenth recorded appearance on that productive, non-profit jazz label. Like the preceding trio recording, Pershing Woman, You’re Too Dimensional finds Michael and a new coterie of cohorts comfortably at sixes and sevens: gracefully stretching and flexing brass limbs across their play space, while avoiding collision at every turn. As stream-of-consciousness as Vlatkovich’s signature composition titles, the group’s regular decelerations to deconstruction speed allow us to examine in detail every ruddy-cheeked interaction. The resulting sky of strangely angled skywriting (and sometimes low-energy fizzle) may not always offer balm to weary souls, but by way of ballast it mostly moves in a rounded rhythmic manner to ensure finger pops remain close to hand. The pace is bouncy, for instance, where ‘Pershing’ left me out of breath. The successful blending of tempos is most successfully sustained through the ten minutes of ‘blue peepers’, which gifts each player with generous solo time, Jim Knodle’s warm trumpet-muting being the stand out element.

I’m not sure as to the extent of Vlatkovich’s role as ‘composer’ though, because notated ‘melody’ seems ever subordinated to melodic mannerism; the ever-reliable Knodle, Phil Sparks (bass) and Greg Campbell (drums, French horn) proceeding through their palette of earthy tones with apparent autonomy. It certainly works to his benefit though that Vlatkovich has kept instrumentation quite conventional, spurring as it does his seasoned players to maximise their performance potential. A violin would have jammed up the works something awful. So all seems well enough, though I’ve gotta say, the 5-minute Photoshop cover does favours for no one, even if it does seem appropriately redolent of west its coast jazz provenance. Pay that bit no mind.

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ReDiviDer
Meets I Dig Monk Tuned
IRELAND DIATRIBE DIACD016 CD (2014)

Like Vlatkovich, Dublin’s palindromic jazz combo ReDiviDer favour both the trombone and word play; the title of the present effort: meets I Dig Monk, Tuned (also from 2013) an anagram, I understand, of ‘United Kingdom’ (home to this record’s quartet of guest musicians). If this tingles my spider senses it’s because such intellectual fixations can sometimes accompany dry composition; an apprehension not entirely thwarted in this case. Indeed, as ‘blends (of) composed and free sections’ go, there’s a continuous and palpable sense of stage management that ever weighs on the group’s capacity for ‘free’ expression. As a result, for every second of polite squawking I sit through, I find myself longing for more of the tidier ‘spy jazz’ notation present in ‘Velvet Pouch’.

Such careful manoeuvring does pay off in tracks such as (the appropriately titled) ‘Bin Saved’, wherein earth and air elements cohere comfortably: Derek Whyte’s briwaxed bass playing providing notably snug berth for one and all. At such times I’m distantly reminded of the sardonic contrivances of the first Lounge Lizards LP, but with the comfort of central heating and interior decoration to soothe and smooth every jagged edge. The ‘Arto’ of this augmented quartet might be the bevy of guest musicians strewn sparingly across the six tracks – each of whom provides necessary condiment to their respective plate – but really it’s the subtle thread of (real time and post-production) electronics, which feature most prominently in the dense, slo-mo fug of ‘Animal Code’: the group mood-swinging into a mode of herd-animal brutishness during a slow phase, re-emerging in a fit of lumpy drumming, double weighted by bitumen-thick atmospherics. Interesting as they are, I’m unsure as to whether such details further date or distinguish these compositions.

Silenced

Pas Musique / Ben Link Collins / Shaun Sandor
Of Silence
ALREALON MUSIQUE / BLONDENA MUSIC / SILENT MEDIA

Peter Orins
Empty Orchestras
HELIX LX006 CD (2013)

I recently attended a conference in New York about music and film. One of the most fascinating papers given was about how film soundtrack has to approximate silence, through some use of background noise, industrial drone, ambient sounds etc. The speaker started by mentioning John Cage’s 4’33” work, although strangely – given his paper – he disputed Cage’s idea that silence doesn’t exist. I say strangely as it seemed to me that both Cage (whose 4’33” manuscript and other documentation were on display at MoMA) and many film composers agreed, and make us listen to other sounds when we think that we are listening to nothing.

Anyway, Pas Musique, Ben Link Collins and Shaun Sandor frame their CD using Cage’s ideas, but also the idea of silence as a blank canvas, something waiting to be filled, ideas of inaudibility, studio silence, and The Art of Noise. There are nine tracks on this CD, three sets of three, with the 2nd and third of each trio deriving from their predecessor.

Whilst conceptually these are interesting, it has to be said as ‘music’ or even ‘sound’ they are not. The five and a half pages discussing the work is in the end more informative and engaging than the work which is the product of it. I also have to say that in the end the compositions and process seem more about the recording process itself than silence. To amplify and endlessly re-record a original tape of silence is about the noise of technology and machinery, about decay, analogue and digital equipment rather than silence.

Full marks for the thinking, few marks for the music.

Peter Orins’ CD actually has nothing to do with this kind of work, or so says the press release, which suggests Orins uses an electronic treatment to allow himself to duet with himself pushing himself endlessly into new improvisations and dialogue. So why have I put my review here? Well, the CD will not play on any computer, stereo deck or boombox in the house, has silenced itself. I applaud the concept, and as someone who dislikes most drumming intensely can truthfully say it is the best CD by a drummer I have [n]ever heard.

Raw Cello

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The exceptional cello work of Okkyung Lee is well represented on Ghil (IDEOLOGIC ORGAN SOMA012), an album of solo pieces recorded in Norway by Lasse Marhaug in 2012. Although we’ve had some of her earlier records pass this way before – for instance, her duet with Phil Minton Anicca (Dancing Wayang) and her contribution to the four-way improv-noise thing Cold/Burn – this particular release is the one that has really struck home with this listener. I feel we’re getting a raw dose of Okkyung Lee, her ideas and her performance as she would wish, beaming in with zero interference. She’s a well-respected collaborator with some of the Kings and Queens in the improvising world, but perhaps her skills are best appreciated in a solo setting, because she’s doing things on this record that few musicians could possibly keep up with. I don’t just mean the speed of her thinking and execution (although admittedly her fingers do work with the implacable precision of an industrial sewing machine on some tracks), but there’s something about the inventive, wild leaps of logic which her creative spirit has ordained. Down these strange paths a Korean must go, seems to be the motto driving her music, and without doubt she’s skilled enough to execute every command from her inner Colonel Kurtz, no matter how extreme or ludicrous. At one level, there’s just much to enjoy in her sound, which is completely unique – I can think of few acoustic players who have arrived at such a distinctive and out-there sound as Okkyung Lee, where she’s not afraid to stretch the instrument to the limits of possibilities and yet she still somehow remains true to the genuine voice of the cello. There used to be improvising guitarists who hated the guitar so much that they would set out in their playing to undermine the characteristics of what they regarded, in their ideological way, as a “loaded” instrument. Lee has no such agenda. The bold and wild sounds she’s reaching for are necessary, natural, and when heard can tend to show us new possibilities, and expand the mental horizons of the listener.

Then of course there’s her multiple techniques; it would be instructive, I’m sure, to see her playing in the room; conventional classical cellists would faint dead away at the sight, and conductors would be eating their own batons with cream cheese. What is Okkyung Lee doing with her fingers and hands to produce these crazy “tearing” sounds, as though the strings of her cello were like elasticated tendons embedded in the calves of a cadaver, and she’s the surgeon trying to extract them…how does she generate those gorgeous harmonics that vibrate in sympathy and provide subtle drone effects to accompany her intense sawing actions…how does she arrive at this unique twilight area between music and noise, as though she’s a spirit able to exist in the air and the water at the same time..? 1 It’s mightily impressive, but nowhere do I get the sense she’s showing off her advanced techniques for their own sake, and it’s all in the service of beautiful music, somewhat melancholy, complex to the point of neurosis and also utterly simple, blessed with poetic titles such as ‘The Space Beneath my Grey Heart’ or ‘Hollow Water’, alluding to mysterious states of mind and wonders of nature. It remains to mention the sound of the recording on this release, which is simultaneously intimate and vivid yet also slightly limited and with the occasional dying fall, as though the aural perspective were being flattened out. This is deliberate; Marhaug used a 1976 cassette recorder for the sessions, experimented with less-than-conventional microphone placement, and did it in a range of locations around Norway (including some outdoor sites). He explicitly states that he wished to record Okkyung Lee’s music “in an expressionistic way” and likens his decision to using black-and-white photography. Fellow NYC-dweller C. Spencer Yeh provided the cover photograph, and Stephen O’Malley overprinted this image with one of his characteristic grids printed in clear ink. A beautiful LP. Now I need to investigate her 2008 solo LP for Ecstatic Peace…

  1. This takes the cake for the most laboured sentence I’ve ever constructed. Sorry about that.

It’s a thin line…

DEVINDISANTO

Devin DiSanto
Tracing A Boundary
TASK RECORDS TR001 CD (2013)

This is an odd one. At first, this sounds like a fairly standard airy slab field recording. Someone, presumably DiSanto, is going about his business. We can hear the sounds of people and traffic in the background, and what sounds like DiSanto rummaging around. Occasionally there are more dissonant sounds, a loud hissing, for example, which suggests some other activity. There’s the odd twang of a guitar and ukulele at around the 35 minutes mark. Not exactly the most dynamic thing I’ve ever heard, but actually quite engaging. There’s looseness to it, a lack of focus that renders it pretty engaging, not engaging the deep listening way that you might listen to a more intense nature recording, but the kind of pleasure you get on those afternoons when you can hear the neighbours bustling around in their backyard and you can’t help but eavesdrop.

Yet there are several things that hint this might not be as lackadaisical a recording as you might expect on first listen. The first thing is the number of musicians credited on the back of the CD. Trumpet, trombone, two guitarists and a ukulele – not to mention a bass clarinet credited to DiSanto himself. Then there’s the fact that, as well as these musicians, a group of different people are credited as ‘performers’. Finally, there are the periodic vocal interventions from Desanto, mainly announcing lengths of time. So, for example, at around the 13-minute mark, he says ‘Eight minutes’.

What is going on? If I’m honest, I have no idea. But I like it. It’s as if Disanto has assembled his musicians for a Wandelweiser-style quiet performance, but one where the process of setting up and preparing to play is as important as the playing itself. By doing this, it unpicks the conventions of this kind of performance. It seems to conflate the bustling, workaday nature of preparation with the intense focus of the playing – an act which itself combines as it does the physical acts of plucking or bowing with the intellectual activity of listening and responding to other musicians – into a single plane of action.

Or it might be something completely different. There’s no talking, for one thing – apart from the aforementioned vocal interjections – which undermines my thesis that we’re eavesdropping on preparations for a performance. It’s all very mysterious. But it is a playful mystery, like Tom Waits’ ‘What’s He Building?’ as performed by the cast of The Good life. It’s something that invites us as listeners to join the dots that DiSanto has left for us, pushing us to bring our own view of what we think this piece should be. An enigmatic, beguiling and yet strangely satisfying work.

Progressive? Moi?

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Skadedyr
Kongekrabbe
NORWAY HUBRO HUBROCD2536 CD (2014)

The press release for Kongekrabbe is, it has to be said, slightly over-the-top and prone to hyperbole, although the idea of a twelve-piece democractic/anarchistic band from Norway is an exciting one. It’s difficult to deduce from the publicity sheet whether this is improvised in the studio or not: there is mention of two musicians being ‘the driving force behind the inventive material on [this] debut album’ and also mention that ‘the members of the band rehearse and arrange all the music jointly – without notes, but with wide-open ears and eyes’. Maybe I should just listen?

A noisy introductory piece leads into an almost ska-driven track, ‘Linselus/Due’ which also fleetingly recalls some dreadful 60s bands with its use of wordless vocals, a mad kind of Swingles Singers, if you know what I mean. These voices, a little more focussed this time, also appear in ‘Kongekrabbe’, the next track, weaving through some precise and careful brass arrangements. It calls to mind not only the dense arrangements of Terje Rypdal’s early works, but the jazz band Azimuth, and perhaps odd moments of Henry Cow (which is high praise indeed).

‘Partylus’ arrives like a demented ragtime song, before swiftly turning the corner into a more minimal moment which is then interrupted by the arrival of a brass band who are pushed aside by some violinists. In fact it’s hard to shake off the idea of musicians being elbowed aside by the next musician; the track is a kind of endless procession of moments that are never allowed to develop, are merely interrupted and pushed aside, although a female singer is allowed to outstay her welcome. It’s a confusingly structured and thought-out piece that to these ears lets down the album.

‘Lakselus’, which concludes the CD is a more intriguing piece which slowly develops from abstract soundscape into apocalyptic noise then unfolds into a new musical spectrum underpinned with percussive rhythms and then distant piano. The by now expected wordless vocals make an entry and spoil this otherwise standout piece.

If Skadedyr can roam their ‘broad musical landscape’ a little less, and perhaps talk to each other more about the type of music they want to play, they will produce even more original music. As it stands it’s a little bit pick’n’mix at the moment, underdeveloped and unfocussed, but exciting nonetheless.

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Gushing Cloud
Beat Wings In Vain
USA INTANGIBLE CAT CAT-18 CD (2013)

Whilst the press release for Skadedyr mentions ‘an appreciation of psychedelic, progressive and outrageous’, that for Gushing Cloud’s new CD prefers the ‘realms of groovy electronic, thoughtful ambient, and noisy/experimental.progressive rock music’. It’s hard, however, to hear much of interest on this CD, which mostly sounds like bedroom synthesizer doodling.

Simplistic programmed grooves and beats underpin simplistic approximations of Tangerine Dream guitar and/or keyboards, which meander on towards promised aural epiphanies which never arrive; instead, each track drops away into another rhythm which gradually returns to the starting point.

The hyperbolic press release’s comparisons with Eno and Faust do nobody any favours, neither does the claim of ‘an organic earnestness’, as though some kind of honesty, truth or well-meaning intention might make the music good. This is dull, second-rate ambient noodlng that needs both disrupting and focussing to get anywhere with. When I say that I mean it has neither the chaotic freshness of Faust, nor the kind of focussed process or concept which often underpins Eno’s own work. I have no idea what Gushing Cloud is trying to do here, and I don’t think he has either.

Tales of the Riverbank

Another very good fine art record from the German Corvo Records label. Corvo may not flood the market with dozens of releases in the style of the all-conquering Editions Mego, but everything touched by the hands of Wendelin Büchler is always immaculately presented and a well-considered and curated item, so that the listener is guaranteed a condensed slice of high-octane art (both music and visuals) in the manner of a good slice of roast beef. In the case of waterkil (CORE 004), a record concocted by the duo of Axel Dörner and Jassem Hindi, said roast beef may at first appear so transparent and wispy such that you wonder how the chef ever managed to carve the meat so thinly, but just the same it’s packed with solid nutriments. Yes, it’s another “quiet” record, the product of a situation where one of the performers Axel Dörner has spent many years refining and reducing his trumpet playing method in pursuit of an ever-more minimalist goal. It seems to me like only yesterday I was being floored by the audacity of Durch Und Durch, a single 40-minute improvisation of breathy and abstracted trumpet tones he recorded with Tony Buck – but that was ten years ago. On this record, which was recorded half at EMS at Stockholm and half in an art gallery in Berlin, we see Axel Dörner V2.0 at work – he’s now equipped his instrument with small microphones, a mixing desk, and a special interface designed according to his wishes and desires. With this very electro-acoustic mode of setup, he’s able to bring in feedback and live sampling of his own trumpet playing – which is to say nothing of his ultra-refined playing technique, which allows him to wring uncanny snake-like tones and hisses from the bell of his trumpet. With the exception of some recognisably trumpet-like parps I can remember hearing, his playing on waterkil is mostly about extremely abstracted and minimalist sound art; I can tell you’re already shocked by the rigour of his stern, unforgiving approach.

However Jassem Hindi leavens the equation somewhat, adding a requisite dose of who-knows-what to these recordings…I don’t say this lightly folks, as this Saudi-born fellow who studied at the Sorbonne has made a studied attempt on his own behalf to make sure he falls between the cracks of the pigeon-holes. He may have worked with samples of other music, he may have created installations in art galleries, and he may have worked with experimental dance troupes…all this is admitted…but he states, quite insistently, that he is not a musician, visual artist, or a dancer. On his performing table we may see contact mics, tapes, assorted broken objects, and machines that are being diverted for the purposes of sound art. He also carries non-artistic field recordings around in his pockets, by which we understand that they are not “aesthetic” field recordings inviting us to savour the joys of a waterfall or a night-scene in Africa, but are instead badly recorded and distorted views of incredibly banal domestic scenes, like families closing the kitchen door, or something. This approach I like; it’s already starting to make Chris Watson and his imitators look like old-fashioned landscape painters. Hindi steers all of these diverse sound sources through the ever-present mixing desk, and when these gobbly nubbets of his are performed together with whatever Axel Dörner is doing, the results have made it onto these two sides of clear-pressed vinyl in an unedited suite of perplexing art music. They’ve been working as a duo since 2008, even if they don’t have many published recordings to show for it. This may even end up as their definitive statement.

It’s suggested that we listen to waterkil as a series of “audible snapshots of a river course”; even a particular river, the Moldau, is proposed for such an exercise. We’re aided in this idea by the superb cover artworks, heavy pencil drawings by the artist Matthias Reinhold. The sleeve itself is triple-gatefold, beautifully printed on both sides of white card, has a die-cut hole in one panel, and given the size of the LP edition the sleeve has every right to be regarded as an art print. I like the interior side with its idiosyncratic little shapes placed judiciously on a white field (it comes close to illustrating the music we hear). But note how the front cover represents a river, possibly, lurking behind a thick growth of brambles and reeds. I like this river-course notion, but waterkil is a largely static piece of music; or to put it another way, its forward movement is very halting and constantly interrupted. No sooner has the river voyage started than Dörner and Hindi decide they’ve found a leak in the canoe, and we have to pause for ten minutes while they think what to do about it. Or they simply pause with no explanation given, and go and stand on the riverbank looking profound and lost. There are a few aural moments of real drama on the record, where the combination of sounds makes for highly effective listening, but for some reason the duo don’t care to sustain that mood, and abruptly break off into mysterious silence (a silence punctuated by odd hisses and creaks). However, we’ve got to admire the boldness of this statement, one which shows how Dörner is pushing his work away from the confines of the “improvised” and into a more thrilling zone of collaborative, electro-acoustic / experimental sound art. Hindi, meanwhile, continues to fall through the cracks. Received in 2012.

Modular Synth Doom

ZENIAL

Zenial
Chimera
POLAND ZOHARUM ZOHAR 051-1 LP (2013)

Zenial is an alter ego of Lukasz Szalankiewicz, a Polish composer and sound artist who has been putting out experimental electronic music in a variety of guises since the 90s. Chimera offers us five tracks of modular synth doom composed during a time spent among the Buchlas and Revers at the legendary EMS studio and research facility in Sweden. That distinctive chunky sound permeates these tracks, placing it squarely within this growing sector of the experimental music world.

Nevertheless there are some delights here that make this release stand out from many of the patches and wires gang. The title track is one such beauty, kicking things off with a series of abrasive squiggles and hums. Lacking any forward structure, it is instead a series of sound bursts, an electron microscope bringing quantum particles into brief focus as they fizz into existence for a few seconds before vanishing forever into the void.

The more I listen to it the more I’m entranced by this piece, by its sense of space – rendered even more tangible and clear by Rashad Becker’s impeccable mastering – and its choice of sounds. Around three minutes in a beautiful chattering polyphony fades in, flooding the soundworld with the excited chattering of alien children. A minute or so later, Szalankiewicz builds a delicate collage bleeps and glitches, set against a blanket of cicada-like chirrups in the summer night.

In contrast, ‘unclean/clean’ is a sullen and gritty thing, at crowded with fuzz and static, building to a heaving crescendo of ecstatic white noise.

This album’s final pair of tracks is dedicated to Czech scholar and occult hero Franz Bardon. These two pieces are full of occult dread, dark cloaks of sound building with mesmeric force, hypnotic electronic incantations.

Both pieces deploy a surging, repetitive drone is tailor made to drill into your skull and force you to its bidding. On and on it goes, tension growing to almost unbearable levels. On ‘Rosara 28′, Sza?ankiewicz weaves whirling synth motifs around the monolithic chiming, spinning and glistening like giggling daemons.

Its companion piece, ‘Rosara 28 : wymar 4/5′ is brooding and malevolent, with only the occasional gritty burst of noise to leaven the oppressive effect. After nearly ten minutes, the drone fades. Suddenly the only thing we hear is birdsong. The spell is broken.

A Letter to Krohn

Krohn Jestram Lippok
Dear Mister Singing Club
GERMANY DISTILLERY STILL 22 CD (2013)

F.S. Blumm
Up Up And Astray
GERMANY PINGIPUNG 39 CD (2013)

Dan Melchior
The Backward Path
USA NORTHERN SPY RECORDS NSCD028 (2012)

Christian Meaas Svendsen / Christian Winther
W/W
NORWAY VA FONGOOL VAFCD006 2 x CD (2013)

Dear Mister Singing Club,

I don’t know what to do with another singer-songwriter proclaiming over acoustic guitar and muffled, boomy percussion. I mean, I like John Martyn and Nick Drake when I am in the mood, but that was the 70s, and I’m not sure we need any more confession and angst, especially with echoing backing vocals and tricksy sound effects in the mix. I almost laughed when the tuba and glockenspiel – or synthesized versions of them? I don’t know – arrived. The nearest comparison I could come up with was Peter Blegvad or Slapp Happy, but only on a really bad day. Your CD doesn’t come close.

I could recommend you listen to Dan Melchior’s CD, who has the grace to put some quirky and at times moving instrumentals, each titled as a numbered ‘S.P.’, around his songs, but I’d be kidding myself and you. Whilst he thankfully stays away from tubas and glockenspiels, those jokey musical arrangements you seem to like, when he gets to the actual songs, his doom-laden intonation and heavy-handed guitar chords are dull and lifeless. “I have known the emptiness and have tried to love it” he says. I’m sorry for him, but can only hope he learns to stay away from the attempted profundity and focus on the short, intriguing instrumentals.

If I knew where you lived, I might actually send you F.S. Blumm’s CD to listen to. It reminds me of Animals That Swim (without the vocals), or perhaps Tindersticks, both bands who use arrangement and composition to exquisite effect. I mentioned Slapp Happy earlier, and there are touches of them, as well as other European Rock in Opposition bands here. This is sunny, happy contemporary chamber music, which gently subverts itself with odd dynamics, instrumental combinations and careful use of sound and dynamics. I like it a lot.

You might also like W / M, a double CD by the two Christians, one of whom plays double bass, one guitar. I take the music to be improvised pieces, and although the sometimes noisy double bass explorations on M are intriguing, it is the exquisite guitar album W that deserves your attention. Winther moves from fingerpicked etudes to finger-thrumming abstraction to ruminative introversion, occasionally with Svendsen guesting on double bass. (He returns the favour on some of Svendsen’s tracks.)

I’d like to hear you forget about emoting and expressing yourself, and paying this kind of attention to your music, but then I guess you’d have to call your CD Dear Mister Guitar Club, which isn’t quite the same.

Best wishes

Rupert Loydell

A Horse with No Name

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On Asto Ilunno (IDEALSTATE RECORDINGS ISR1-13) we’ve got a single piece of improvised sound art which lasts some thirty teeth-grinding minutes, delivered by the capable mitts and shovels and Miguel A García, Tomas Gris and Lee Noyes, the latter of whom released the item on his own idealstate recordings label in Goteborg. I’m always drawn to anything where my favourite abrasive Spaniard García is involved, but Noyes is a new name to me, so I looked up his dossier. This Canadian-born fellow has spent a chunk of time in New Zealand before moving his base of operations to Sweden, and he’s a firm believer in the collaborative and co-operative ideals of improvisation, priding himself on his listening and communication skills, while exploring the sound potential of percussion, feedback, and the piano, which is what he plays here. Asto Illuno is one of those exploratory improvisations that seems to take a long time to get started – there are some eight minutes of barely-audible fizz and rattle before the players feel comfortable enough to commit themselves to anything more than stalking around each other like lions in a cage – but thereafter it’s a topnotch example of hypnotic, distilled free noise operating in a carefully-controlled, almost rigid environment. García belches out polite chunks of crackle from his electronics set up, Gris performs peculiar and nameless actions on his table of objects, while Noyes punctuates the floating atmosphere with well-judged blocks of minimal chords struck from his dampened keyboard. Indeed it’s Noyes’ piano trills and stabs which stand out for me on this record, occupying their space in the ether with a clarity and starkness that’s akin to the voice of a tall Presbyterian preacher delivering a sermon from the pulpit in stern and clipped tones. I never thought I’d hear anyone defeat the mighty García in an improv standoff, but Noyes succeeds here in putting all that undisciplined scrabbling and doodling in its place with just a few seconds of his coldly ethical piano work, damping down the Spanish fire with his jets of ice water. In all, a near-ceremonial trance experience emanates from this steely and grim session, an impression which is bolstered by the bizarre shrine drawing on the front cover decorated with skulls, zombie heads, snakes, and quasi-Masonic symbols. This was provided by our good friend Nick Hoffman of Pilgrim Talk. A real grower…from 10 October 2013.

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Linear Obsessional Recordings continues to produce CDRs of improv music produced in England which are quite often very extreme and testing in terms of their sound, and exist in very small editions with hand-made packaging. The three-track EP by The Horse Trio, Pesade to the Left (LOR039H), is in an edition of just 30 copies. Here the label boss Richard Sanderson plays his melodeon (a squeezebox related to the accordion family) with Hutch Demouilpied and Sue Lynch, for three decidedly modest workouts, all of them rather quiet and unobtrusive. I think I’m getting this impression mostly from the sound of this short album, which is very flat and dry, allowing for little in the way of natural resonance. Even the tiny photo of the trio inserted in my copy makes them appear somehow cramped, their music painted into a muffled corner, as though they were trying to defend the ideals of improvised music in a tiny school gym while the rest of the world has become one gigantic amphitheatre for manufactured pop bands. I assume this is a deliberate strategy and they’re aiming to present their work in as natural and untreated a light as possible, but it may be they’ve gone one step too far down the route of all-out honesty. However, the sustained tones of brass / woodwinds / melodeon do indeed work together in a most pleasing manner, guaranteeing a pleasant 20 minutes with no wild outbursts. One of the pieces, ‘Piaffe’, is their interpretation of a graphical score composed by Carl Bergstrom-Nielson, so presumably the other two are all-improvised. Trumpeter / flautist Hutch Demouilpied is a composer, songwriter, and sound artist from London, and a lot of her work has appeared as soundtracks for small independent films. Saxophonist Sue Lynch may be familiar to some as a member of The Remote Viewers with Adrian Northover, but she’s also worked a lot with Caroline Kraabel and has a pedigree in improv / free playing that goes back to 1983, when she was a member of the agitprop big band The Happy End, the jazz-song troupe who worked hard to oppose Thatcherism. The Horse Trio probably take their name from the Horse Music Improvised Club, which at time of writing meets up every month in a pub on Kennington Road in South London. There’s certainly nothing particularly “horsey” about their music, which is more like being transported on a slow canal barge to Richmond than riding a black stallion over Hampstead Heath. From 21 October 2013.

Dialogue and Discussion

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Keith Rowe / Ilia Belorukov / Kurt Liedwart
Tri
RUSSIA INTONEMA INT011 CD (2014)

As you might expect from Keith Rowe and anyone he plays with, tri is a carefully considered, improvised soundscape that mixes scrapes and scuffles with textural electronics, pauses and almost inaudible details.

As I listen through again this morning, my study window is open, and the birds outside, the distant sounds of the road and the window cleaner’s whistling, have changed the music again: the treated guitar sounds like distant thunder, contact-mic sounds like the wind pushing a storm away. Then something buzzcuts across, something rings like a distant phone, and the scene changes again.

Drones underpin much of this musical exploration, holding the noises together as a composition, one which ebbs and flows, regroups and splinters, time and time again. There is perhaps little unexpected going on here – musicians have been improvising this way for 40 or 50 years now, but Rowe and his colleagues on both long tracks here offer some of the best work in the field: tri is an enchanting, focussed example of abstract dialogue and discussion as composition in the moment.

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Ilia Belorukov
Tomsk, 2012 04 20 [Live]
RUSSIA INTONEMA INT005 / AKT-PRODUKT AP10 CD (2013)

Solo, Ilia Belorukov’s saxophone recorded live – the sleeve note says with ‘preparations’, whatever that means – is a noisier, looser affair. The first part sounds like wind in a tunnel, treated and amplified breathing made into endless cyclical wooshing drones, which the second’s sustained blown notes initially come as some relief from, although the slight shifts and repetition soon become tiresome. The third part is more textural to begin with, utilising more abstract sounds in the mix, before high skittering notes arrive, developing through a kind of electronic ping-pong section into a shriller solo with barking bass undertones. This lower end exploration gradually unfolds into a slower, more sonorous, Braxton-esque solo which, with its use of some kind of echo or delay, works as a stunning conclusion. The ghost of Evan Parker and other giants of improvisation can’t help but hover in the wings here, but Belorukov makes his own mark in a flurry of fragmented melodies and cascading tones.

Where Belorukov is perhaps most interesting is the way he moves from minimal, more abstract soundscape to solo saxophone improvisation within a more established field, musical genres which to some extent have diverged and separated over the years rather than engaged. As a CD, tri is more convincing, more focussed and engaged, but Tomsk… is perhaps more surprising and challenging, though I think Belorukov’s real strength is working with the saxophone rather than around it.

Intonema, a new label to me, produce exquisitely designed gatefold card CDs, with recording and artist information included on neat little card inserts housed in one half of the cover, the CD in the other. These are accessed by the neat trick of a shaped cutout across the inner card edges – perhaps in the shape of a person.