Tagged: performed

Monotroniks

tienlai

The album Rhthm (MONOTYPE RECORDS mono083) by Polish combo T’ien Lai is a highly diverse set of music, where the duo of Łukasz Jędrzejczak and Kuba Ziolek attempt many styles, many modes and many methods to realise their ambitions. They certainly aren’t short of ideas for what direction to take next, and there’s a large collection of tools in their box of instruments and synthesizers. There’s the systems-y pseudo-composed ‘W D’, a half-hearted attempt to “do” Terry Riley. There’s ‘Piknik Nad Rzeka Ma’, whose beats and sampled speaking voice derived from a French girl barking out an obscure text seems to have warped over here from around 1985. ‘SMZS II’ is pure Kraftwerk-influenced sequencer malarkey. But the evil robotic-march vibes of ‘Monotronik’ (where they are joined by the percussionist Rafal Kolacki from HATI and cymbal player Mikołaj Zieliński) are effective, and may reflect the fact that at time of writing T’ien Lai now consider themselves a quartet. I also enjoyed the short but chaotic ‘FX6’ which opens the album with a beautiful and illogical firework of noise.

The rest of the set shows them veering around – beats, ambient, melodic tunes…anything they can do to “experiment” with instruments, computers, and the studio, yet there’s always this lazy back-pedalling into conventional sounds and arrangements which blunts the “alternative” edge they wish to project. No denying the instrumental skills of this pair, nor the impressive assurance with which they set about their tasks, and the textural density of these outputs is evidence of much hard labour by Kuba Ziolek at the mixing and production end. Rhthm just feels like they’re trying to say too much in a short space.

This is their second album for the label; their more intriguing and esoteric Da’at was noted by Pescott, and the pair have a declared interest in Jewish mysticism. The release is packaged in a triple-gatefold digipak with a restrained geometric device on the front, and a garish psychedelic collage visual horror on the inside. Plus there’s a Herbert Marcuse quotation printed on the inside. From 21 June 2016.

From the country and the concrete jungle

st1

Two more cassettes from Staaltape arrived 9th May 2016. It so happens both releases are by women, and very coincidentally the imagery on Rinus Van Alebeek’s collaged decorated envelope (which he customarily includes with every mailout) features the faces of women clipped from his vast stack of old magazines.

Patrizia Oliva has created Numen – Life Of Elitra Lipozi, a most beautiful work clad in a smoky black cover with just a single blue butterfly spray-painted on. The A side, titled ‘Danse Des Fantomes’, is dreamy and evocative and makes me a willing dancing partner of the proposed ghosts and spirits. Voices, loops, and even some vaguely operatic elements are refashioned by Oliva into something personal and strange. She’s playing with magnetic tape like a gifted child sets to work with a box of watercolours. I don’t know why musicians (like Michael Nyman) are drawn to the work of Oliver Sacks (this release includes dedication to that deep thinker). But Oliva may be trying, like Sacks, to map the strange pathways of the brain in her atmospheric and charged music.

The B side ‘A Day Long To’ showcases the “Annette Peacock” mode of this performer…vaguely jazzy free singing she emanates from an indefinable part of her singing apparatus, in an inflected and mannered mode…the lonely avant-ness of Joan La Barbara is notched back two degrees and edged a shade closer to a ghostly portrait of Ella Fitzgerald…by which I mean it’s not clear if she’s singing from her mouth, or her brain-waves. Of course the minimal arrangements that back her up are pretty inspired too, making the most of a studio housed in a matchbox and two rubber bands holding everything together. More tape loops and much dreamy unfinished music drifts into the ether. A nice not-quite-there quality, slightly balmy. Oddly the B-side feels to me like separate songs, where the A side feels like a mini-opera telling a story. Not all that’s here is a song; there’s one very effective piece which is extremely abstract, just repeated patterns, sound effects, and whispered / murmured voices, yet it’s uncanny and highly effective in its dream-like mood sustaining of same. The side ends with a fascinating anecdote about synaesthesia, how it’s possible to see music as colours, and how no two people who have the condition ever agree on what the “right” colour is. Interestingly, the condition was first recorded in medical history by another Dr Sachs, this time a German physician of the 19th century.

In all Patrizia Oliva not only has a singular vision but also a very delicate touch in the creation of her work which is determinedly “non-masculine”, which isn’t to say it’s feminine and decorative, but organised along non-aggressive lines, without the usual male need to follow structure blindly and rush to a contrived ending. “Patrizia lives in the country, surrounded by nature,” write Rinus helpfully. “One lady from the old world”. If that’s true, that’s one old world whose passing we will come to regret. Every commonplace remark made on Twitter hastens the death of these old worlds.

The tape by Valerie Kuehne is of a different order. I couldn’t find a title but it might be called Audiozone #3, part of a series; release is just identified by the two sides, called ‘Ball Side’ and ‘Other Side’. Patrizia Oliva is pleasantly balmy, while Valerie Kuehne is an inspired screwball, in the nicest possible way of course. “Valerie moves in the concrete jungle”, writes Rinus about this American performer. Her songs here feature a kind of demented folk-inflected chanting and yawping, for instance the opener ‘Haul Away Joe’, a sea shanty which requires the artiste to remake herself as a crusty nautical cove on board an 18th century rigger. A grotesque opener. ‘The Graviton’ is better, more of a shamanic free-form wailing trip…like a lost ESP Disk recording from such waywards as Erica Pomerance, much free warbling with plenty of percussion and manic performances from her side musicians. ‘Apocalypse Berliner’ is a spoken word recit which gradually becomes more, erm, impassioned…as she describes some situation which sounds like a grave social injustice, her sarcasm shoots through the top of the thermometer and she becomes positively demented with her passion and commitment to the cause. The sort of loopy radical who might have featured in any 1970 Hollywood hipster road movie made in the wake of Easy Rider. Then there’s ‘Long Long Sleep’, which is like a nightmare parody of Edwardian parlour music with its poised and mannered vocalising which over-stresses certain phonemes in an annoyingly pronounced manner. But you can still sense the underlying nuttiness…her cello work, just now beginning to surface among the chaos on offer, is also certainly highly distinctive and evidence of a wild, peculiar talent.

B side of this weirdie in tape form contains ‘Sunshine in the Sunshine’, which is her freakoid take on the Fifth Dimension pop hit, with emphatic singing, chaotic playing from the guest musicians, her mad cello sawing and her frantic attempts to stir up collaboration among all participants. A glorious mess. You’d hate to have her at your birthday party, unless you love to be embarrassed and mortified. A mostly solo work follows, ‘Architecture at Muchmore’s’, with its cracked all-over-the-show melody, and alarming dynamics which require these abrupt shifts of tempo and sudden bouts of intense delivery. Shocking, crazed. Voice and cello only, I think, were used to realise this insight into the cracks of Kuehne’s brain. After this it might be a piece called ‘Leader Eater’ but it’s getting harder to tell one track from another. Part of what we hear sounds like a confrontational performance-art piece that involves yelling at the audience, and further ingeniously complex songs where it’s a wonder she manages to sustain the difficult long tones which the tunes require. I’m a-warming to this release now…Valerie Kuehne is a very acquired taste, but you don’t get this exceptionally high degree of uncut humanity and honesty captured on tape every day. Ably supported by her side players, which include Natalia Steinbach. Alex Cohen, Hui-Chun Lin, The Columbia Orchestra, Matthew Silver, and others, she saws and sings away. Other releases by Valerie Kuehne include Dream Zoo and Phoenix Goes Crazy, both very obscure low-run CDRs.

The tape itself is a provisional attempt at an “album”. Rinus Van Alebeek made the selections and put it together, but didn’t get much in the way of preferences expressed by the creator, who’s presumably so creatively chaotic in her life that she doesn’t bother with bourgeois things like organisation and planning. So “it is not an album by Valerie; it is an album about her”, is the stated claim, along with an attempt to document the “subculture she is a part of”. This provisional aspect is even reflected in the cover, showing details from a notebook, where the track order and even the titles are subjected to much crossing-out and rethinking. Most intriguingly, the result “leads to a couple of obscure passages into 21st century life somewhere in the US.” What in the name of Condoleezza Rice does that mean?

Boxing Match

stefanthut

Has it Started?

Stefan Thut
Un/even And One
RUSSIA INTONEMA int018 CD (2016)

Swiss cellist Stefan Thut debuted his score Un/Even and One in St Petersburg in 2015 with a bevy of (somewhat more) local musicians who do a top job of sounding like they aren’t there. A short Youtube clip reveals much to this theory: for the 5-strong assembly, virtue is expressed in restraint from virtually any physical movement at all; just a young lady pushing a box around in the foreground while five instruments receive attention only spasmodically. I sense that the concept behind Thut’s scoring is one of meticulous refinement; that of distilling full bars and phrases into the merest of gestures, upon the blank canvas of near-silence. We should not be surprised to learn therefore of Thut’s affiliation with the Wandelweiser group, for whom such matters are a preoccupation.

Silence is, in fact, is one of two canvases common to Thut’s work. The other is ‘the box’. There’s one drawn on on the cover, with semi-explanatory text describing how Thut ‘joined the sounds from transcribed language played through the surface of a moving cardboard box’ to add to the enigma. As I understand it, the musicians’ fingers were prerecorded rubbing words into the surface of cardboard boxes, which recordings were played back during the performance, effectively encompassing the space in conceptual cardboard. The value of the symbol of the empty-box-as-pure-potential is appended by the actual movement of the box throughout the performance, its location at any given point conferring on each musician the right to play.

Over 40 minutes, silence intersperses with sounds barely identifiable: low-volume cello massage and rummaging beneath a layer of tape hiss; a mass of slippery shadows, exhaling emphysemically and pierced by sine waves in a dark basement that yawns with an ancient hunger. What the recording may lacks in terms of immediatism, it at least makes up for by stirring the imagination.

pisaro

Is It Over?

Michael Pisaro
Mind Is Moving IX
RUSSIA INTONEMA int017 CD (2015)

Something of a go-to for less voluble composers, guitarist Denis Sorokin facilitates a recent work by another of the Wandelweiser composers, Michael Pisaro, for the novel combination of electric guitar, radio, stones and whistling. No prizes for naming the other, unnamed ingredient as silence (or a recorded approximation of) in immodest volume. The piece was refined in performances over two years (2013 to 2015) before being deemed medically fit for recording, in which: you’ve guessed it, the instruments/sound sources are addressed only sporadically between far lengthier and more considered pauses.

That the hapless listener might come unstuck is occasioned by the fact that the performer’s means of interpretation and the composer’s means of evaluation are equally nebulous. At what point is the performance deemed ‘acceptable’ and how is the listener to know when the standard has (not) been met? When the form of the piece stands so readily to baffle, it is difficult to gauge and this much is neither divulged nor easily relatable. However, one senses such judgements rely at least partially on attaining the ‘Goldilocks’ balance between pause and play that ‘the listener’ stops wondering whether the piece is contiguous and/or continuing. Reaching this sweet spot presumably necessitated a good deal of fine tuning of both composition and intuition.

Thus, the recording takes its place in Pisaro’s ever-satisfying catalogue, alongside fine companions such as 2016’s Melody, Silence by Cristián Alvear. Along with the Stefan Thut CD, it also brings further respectability to the Russian label Intonema, based in St Petersburg, where many of these performances are recorded. Limited edition run, needless to say.

Hvilken vei er ingen steder (del 3)

stop_freeze_wait_eat-34907423-frntl

Ivar Grydeland
Stop Freeze Wait Eat
NORWAY HUBRO MUSIC HUBRO 3538 LP (2015)

Enveloped in warm and fuzzy nocturne is this serene yet sturdy surprise from the ever-reliable Hubro label, nestling within which we find the laconic Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, one Ivar Grydeland – member of improvising trio Huntsville (previously reviewed here) – and his 6 and 12 string guitars, drowsily picking and tapping out morse code m’aiders in honeyed droplets to the sound of soporific alarm bells. However, the draping of every long tone in echo serves more than simply a sedative function; it is Grydeland’s ‘extended now’ that allows him to improvise atop the sounds of his own playing in a window of time that he likens to a painter’s stepping back from the canvas to regard the work underway. Meanwhile the listener is free to sink deep into a crackly dream world of pin-pricked, low-frequency harmonics; a less focused take on Oren Ambarchi’s soundworld, but a cosy blanketing that never smothers.

hubrocd2566

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra / Christian Wallumrød
Untitled Arpeggios And Pulses
NORWAY HUBRO MUSIC HUBRO HUBROCD2566 (2015)

Our first (and last) encounter with the Norwegian ‘jazz’ pianist Christian Wallumrød was bemusing to say the least, an effect partly brought about by the connotations of using the j-word, by Wallumrød’s history with the ECM label and by that record’s unfailing ambiguity of style and intention. Intriguing to a fault, Pianokammer defies the finger of categorisation, falling somewhere ’between the realms of easy listening and cold abstraction’, to the point at which questions such as ‘do I like this?’ become redundant. Whatever motivations led to the recording of that strange selection, they remain invisible to the naked ear.

Its successor – Untitled Arpeggios and Pulses – arrives in a similar cloak of cool mystery and a title suggestive of the anonymity and simplicity of its ethereal ways. Carried by The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra as a commission for Kongsberg Jazz Festival’s 50th anniversary in 2014, the ‘action’ has moved from the fire-lit living room in winter to the chilled auditorium where quiet coughs mingle with the steam of musicians’ breath. Suspended in air, rendered sluggish by hibernation instincts or lurching like locked groove vinyl, the four sections of this 50+ minute composition consist of short, semi- and atonal phrases repeated ad infinitum by small and unusual instrumental assortments that include piano and pedal steel peddling peace and forgetfulness (part 2), to a trudging, trash-coated behemoth for graunching guitar, Supersilent-style electronics and jubilant bursts of winter-numbed brass.

Clearly intended for a single sitting: walk in at any moment to find an absolute mess. Sit back however, and enjoy the unfurling from afar and things might start to click into place. Devoid of straight up ‘jazz’, the orchestra’s dedicated pursuit of the ‘pulse’ overrides all other aesthetic commitments. It’s challenging music in the best possible sense, and best of all, it knows when to keep its mouth shut.

Sisterhood Of Breath

midaircondo_iv

Midaircondo is an unusual duo of players, Lisa Nordström and Lisen Rylander Löve, who seem to have called it a day after 12 years of playing; this record, IV (TWIN SEED RECORDINGS TWINS004), may be one of their final releases. They play a variety of non-standard instruments, including the zither and kalimba, along with their saxophone, bass flute, percussion, and live electronics, both of them pitching their mannered and brittle vocal utterances into the midst of these rather contemplative pieces, which are generally sedate and slow, occupying a vaguely pastoral stretch of turf in a very poised fashion. Some of their works do introduce a more energetic rhythm, such as ‘Higher’ and ‘Veins’, and while the latter might be mistaken for a lost tributary of psychedelic rock, the latter is most certainly a work-a-day poppy-techno piece that’s not quite in my line. ‘Panther’, featuring guest drummer Mika Takehara, may be closer to what they intended when they had the idea of adding beats to their fragile work. For the most part, we have the impression of two orphaned girls who escaped from a cold 1950s nunnery, dressed in stiffly-starched white dresses with collars to hold their necks in a rigid position; under these cramped conditions, they attempt to recite forlorn poems or diary entries from their wretched lives. It’s to the credit of Midaircondo that all of this stuff was completely improvised, and what’s more they did it in front of a live audience (in Gothenburg, in 2013). The duo didn’t make that many records when they were around, but they toured a lot, and did music for TV, theatre, dance and radio. Their stage show used to include video elements, and you can tell from the palpable atmosphere of this album they had a strong dramatic element. Released in 2015.

Office Surprise

oct16313

Ryu Hankil, Noid, Matija Schellander And Others
Foreign Correspondents
RUSSIA MIKROTON CD 43/44 2 x CD (2015)

Foreign Correspondents is an unusual double CD of music and sound art which is highly intriguing…I thought it might be nice to investigate it “blind” without aid of search engine to begin with, as the information printed on this Russian release is not exactly forthcoming with contextual information. Rather, a few lines of bare facts is all we have to go on. On Disc One, there’s just a single stretch of music some 47 minutes long, which might be an improvisation between Hankil Ryu, Matija Schellander, and Noid. It’s called Tokyo Office and might well have been recorded in such a location, given that Ryu plays the typewriter as a percussion instrument. For starters, it’s reassuring to think there might still be typewriters in a world where everyone taps out digital messages on smartphone and tablet, freeing their trivial blather into the void. Ryu’s relentless hammering on that old-school analogue device is music to the ears of those who still cherish tangible messages written on a medium you can hold in your hands. Meanwhile Schellander plays the double bass and also emits buzzy explosions from something called a “Victorian synthesizer”, while Noid bows the cello and the jinghu, a Chinese bowed instrument whose wailing drones you may have heard if you’re an aficionado of the Peking opera. Their performance is an endearingly peculiar piece of acoustic improvisation, full of mysterious rattles and stabs, and equally puzzling tracts of silence. It was recorded at Ftarri in Tokyo in October 2013. Ftarri is not the deserted office block I was hoping for, and instead turns out to be a small shop and music venue, but I still can’t help hearing this piece as a document of an office cubicle take-over, performed by mutinous staff in the middle of the night, protesting against their restrictive lifestyles by means of forming an impromptu band playing pieces of office equipment. That’s a revolution we can all get behind.

Noid is the Austrian cellist Arnold Haberl, whose music we noted previously on another Mikroton release called I Hope It Doesn’t Work. He might be the pivot to this particular release as he is credited with recording and mixing the music, plus he appears on most of the pieces on the second disc, a collection entitled Field Report. From the same date range, Oct-Nov 2013, we have 23 tracks here on Field Report, interspersing improvised music with short snippets of field recordings captured in parts of urban Japan, China, and Korea. The latter include observations of Japanese city life which must have seemed intriguing to the European Noid; subway doors, traffic light signals, and a pachinko hall. But they also include such oddities as the machine drones heard in the staircase of the CIA building in Hong Kong, and a “fuel tank filled with sound art” (whatever that may be) in Shanghai. Some of the best field recordings can be given an extra dimension through such imaginative titles; the true poet should be looking for flashes of the divine wherever they poke their lyrical luminous nose.

These charming and understated field recordings convey a sense of peace and mystery, which is the exact opposite of what we might expect to find in these densely-populated parts of Asia such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Osaka, and Tokyo. Viewed through Noid’s audio snapshots, it’s as though the people, buildings and traffic have all been reduced by 75%, and the locations feel like some pre-war innocent paradise of birds, flowers, and contented spirits. The same sense of peace emerges from the extremely quiet improvised music on offer. It’s centred, tranquil. Hankil and Schellander are here again as the core members of this ad-hoc grouping, but also guest appearances – including notable Wandelweiser player Radu Malfatti, the guitarist Kazuhisa Ucihashi, Syo Yoshihama with a laptop, and Jin Sangtae. Most of the music is slow, unobtrusive, and with few notes; not only that, but it’s recorded in such a way that the acoustics feel very diffuse, and it’s hard to separate the sound of the instruments from the sound of the locale where it’s taking place. In this way, all of Field Report becomes of apiece, the edges blurred between music and sound art. This is most clearly demonstrated with the various instances of “street music”, where the musicians blend in with events, people and sounds out in the open; one track documents Noid and Schellander “playing air horns while walking away from Mullae Art Center”, while another piece from the same Dotolimpic Festival treats us to the sound of an entire orchestra performing on the “Victorian Synthesizer”, involving participants in a workshop. The results – less than 90 seconds of strange scraping sounds – are not quite as spectacular as that build-up may lead you to think, but what is more relevant here is the event itself, a spontaneous outbreak of sound and activity, a tiny wonder.

oct16314

Foreign Correspondents is the document of Noid and Schellander’s 2013 trip to the Far East. It was planned they would meet musicians and exchange ideas… “carrying compositions, sound art pieces and workshop preparations in their luggage to be tested by changing social and artistic settings, by everyday tour life and to be used as starting points for debates in various forms,” as the label website describes it, and “exposing sometimes strict concepts to confusing listening situations”. As to this latter area, I think it’s this intoxicating mix of control and chaos that emanates from this CD. For most of the time it does so hesitantly, as befits the potentially bewildering situations that these roving Europeans found themselves in, out East. As for the “Victorian Synthesizer”, this appears to be an ongoing project by J.M Bowers since 2004 to build an electronic instrument using 19th century technology, and an “imagined historical reject” is what he calls the end result. We received a copy of this release on 14 April 2016, but it’s been out since 2015 and is sadly sold out at source.

A Certain Ratio

dsc_0013

Ted Lee is co-owner of the Feeding Tube Records label in New England, that part of the United States generally associated with a resurgence in underground noise, free rock jamming and freaky-folk of all stripes over the years…as regards his own musical contributions to culture, we were less than impressed by the Zebu! record in 2014, tho’ had more time for the scrambled gibberish of the Curse Purse record in 2015 where he appeared as one part of a trio. Seems he’s also performed with Egg, Eggs (though one cynical riposte there might be “who hasn’t?!”) and Sunburned Hand Of The Man. Now Ted Lee has made a solo record, and a fine statement of mystifying art-drone-noise shoutery it do be. Appearing here as No Sod, Lee has seen fit to press his record in blue vinyl, manufacture only 100 copies of it, and call it 1:11 / 11:11 (FTR 223), a mystical numerical equation that may mean he’s inviting us to find parallels with Alan Sondheim’s Ritual-All-7-70, or not…it’s something to do with ratios…he’s also included a monochrome printed booklet of baffling artwork daubs, some of them resembling human heads, most of them distorted and stretched in the computer in some way…so far, a lot of “artiness” abounding.

I enjoyed what’s in the grooves, though. Each side equally abstract and puzzling, but packed with dense noise, drone, and feedback…the first side opens with some beautifully delicate chords, which is a way of ushering us into the main event…said main event being a protracted bout of free drumming and semi-crazed vocal yawping, an entity writhing like a trapped fish in the sea of humming noise and distortion…it’s a much more successful bid at what I always expected Sunburned Hand Of The Man to deliver, but they never did. As No Sod, Ted Lee has evidently decided that the best art music is primitive, inexplicable, and utterly spontaneous. Don’t look for hidden messages in this primal goop, but enjoy the warm, blood-filled presence while it still throbs and vibrates your torso…if we’re still dropping ESP-Disk references, maybe the Cromagnon or Mij LPs would align themselves at this juncture too.

The B side feels kinda more refined after that caveman gorge-fest of fire, blood, and bones, emitting a strange multi-layered chilling drone for some 15-20 minutes that feels like a glimpse of infinity, or least a view round the immediate upcoming corner. Somehow it manages to evoke very mixed emotions, of simultaneous dread and happiness, without really doing much to vary its general continuum. While not as roary as its flip side, this No Sod endorsed drone is nowhere near the over-processed, polite and synthetic drones that tend to emanate from mainland Europe and the million and one laptops that pass for musical instruments in these grim times. Instead, it’s as rough-hewn and cranky as a Claes Oldenburg slab of painted plaster, or a Rauschenberg canvas packed with found images and detritus. Good stuff. I always wondered why Alvaro kept on mentioning Ted Lee and his ever-present bottle of maple syrup, and now I know. From February 2016.

Masters Of Suspense

the-necks

The Necks
Vertigo
UK ReR MEGACORP ReR Necks 12 CD (2015)

It is received wisdom that The Necks do what they do better than anyone else, in the same way that the Dead C do what they do better than anyone else, the way that This Heat do/did what they do/did better than anyone else. One could also say; no-one else does what they do.

Those familiar with The Necks’ recent output will recognise the ingredients; watery rotary speaker-processed Hammond organ, sampler glitches, sinister bass tones, hard-edited reversed drum hits, cymbal shimmer, playful long duration, repetition and slow, relentless real-time development of a theme. This remarkable Australian trio – pianist Chris Abrahams, drummer Tony Buck, and Lloyd Swanton on bass – take the classic jazz piano trio format and subvert it. As an important component of the Sydney music scene over the last twenty-odd years, all three have also regularly performed as part of more recognisably “straight jazz” projects as well as operating as session musicians and enjoying opportunities to follow their own individual paths. The fact that they still come together and can produce sessions of this quality tells of a shared musical pursuit that may be very close to a compulsion.

Vertigo is apparently the Necks’ eighteenth album. That’s some achievement for a group concerned only with pure improvisation operating in a commercial field. The fact that a project as outstanding as this has come out of a country whose popular music history has often been unfairly presented by some in the music press as being relatively unremarkable, is in itself faintly bizarre, yet pleasing; not to say surprising. They seem to have never put a foot wrong; from 1989’s debut Sex to what I have here on my desk today – there’s a sense of continuity and achievement to their work. In particular, they have been successful in presenting their own unique brand of freedom. According to the album’s press release, the Necks are “…powered by an idea”. Their idea is to perform music which has little pre-ordained about it. Improvisation in jazz is nothing new of course. But it’s kind of how you do it that counts. In the world of piano trios, the Esbjörn Svennson Trio knew what they were doing, for example, whereas arguably The Bad Plus don’t.

Vertigo is one 44-minute improvisation. As always, The Necks “…explore the development and demise of repeating musical figures…”, as their Wikipedia entry explains. And there’s something Lovecraftian about it. The recording begins fairly subdued, yet with simmering purpose; when the electric piano comes in out of nowhere at 15:14 it’ll give you the heebie-jeebies. Throughout, the music is suspenseful; it promotes a sense of unease in the listener. It’s not overt – it’s just a feeling that there’s something unacknowledged and nameless contained within; or within the listener, even; waiting to get out. The trio drive the music on; not forcibly, but with clear deliberation, and as relentlessly as a summer gale. It is elemental; like fog at twilight or a sea mist. Not all boats that leave port return home safely. Rotary speakers are dashed on the rocks. The final few minutes are like dinner party music; for when the hors d’oeuvres get served round at Cthulhu’s house. Indeed, there is an inscrutable photograph of a large body of water adorning the sleeve, so I reckon I’m not far off imagining the tentacles.

Long Overdue Part 17

hint19_front

Lubomyr Melnyk is the Ukrainian composer and pianist who makes beautiful long-form music. We noted The Voice Of Trees in 2012, a composition for two pianos and three tubas released on the Swiss label Hinterzimmer Records. They also put out Windmills (HINT 19) in 2013, of which the main event is ‘Windmills (For 2 Pianos)’, performed by the composer and recorded in “Omni-Sonic sound”, presumably the better to help us enjoy the sonorous nature of this deep and rich music.

‘Windmills’ is a very old-fashioned narrative piece, telling the story of an old windmill and based on Melnyk interpretation of an early Walt Disney animated cartoon. Presumably this is The Old Mill, a 1937 Silly Symphony directed by Wilfred Jackson with music by Leigh Harline. The sleeve note to this Hinterzimmer release gilds the lily somewhat, by giving us a written description of the visuals which ought to be conjured by the music, and treat us to such heavy-handed gems of prose such as “we hear the massive but worn gears begin to toil as the wind wakes the windmill from sleep…”. This feels rather like school magazine English literature and doesn’t really do the music any favours on this occasion. But it also brings home to me how prosaic Melnyk’s music can be. I enjoyed the transcendent majesty of The Voice Of Trees, but this music seems to be making one simple statement over and over again, and stretching it out for 45 minutes. However, I don’t object to the romance and beauty of these simple arpeggios and repeated phrases, and Melnyk’s sustained performances are clearly fuelled by passion and belief, not just stamina.

Long Overdue Part 14

sep2016102

Yol is a great performer of ugly English noise. His Cordless Drill Faces Separation Anxiety CDR (NO LABEL) was released in 2013. We noted him before with the cassette Neck Vs. Throat Volume 2 released on Fencing Flatworm, where he teamed up with the guitarist Miguel Perez. On Cordless Drill, we have seven short tracks of manic energy where Yol grunts and howls like a half-human pig, aiming to make contact with his feral self. There is also much banging about of tea-tray percussion and makeshift drums, creating an unpleasant rattling which brings the old cliché about “bull in a china shop” to mind.

You want music? Well, on ‘Eco’ he does play a toy chord organ (probably an old 1970s Rosedale) and forms mangled chords to accompany his incoherent spoutings. Plus there’s use of lo-fi and distorted backing tapes on ‘Rain Gutter’ which are strangely evocative. You may even make out some audible English words on ‘Short Horses’ in between the attempts at forced vomiting and strangled gasping, and he yells out these broken phrases in a desperate manner as though his life depended on it. It’s like he was a political prisoner undergoing torture, and trying to save his hide by reciting absurd blank verse to his captors.

For all his efforts at primitivism, there’s evidently a deal of rough-hewn sophistication at work behind the scenes, like a Neanderthal man wandering into a recording studio and gradually teaching himself how to generate musique concrète using a stone axe and leather hides. This Hull fellow has made a couple of records with Filthy Turd, our favourite Yorkshire genius of disgusting and stinky supernatural racket, and the two may share some common ground. Great work Yol.