Stellar Minx and London Heir

In keeping with the Autumnal climes, Sone Institute have packed a number of dried leaves into the jewel case of Silver Leaves and Woolly Dreams (THREE TOWERS RECORDINGS 013), a six-track EP in CD form. Also some small feathers and cut-out paper shapes. I suppose the same playful spirit may be discerned on the music they make, which I think derives from cut-ups and samples of easy-listening records perhaps combined with some original electronica playing as well, mostly issuing from synths and drum machines. For me, the resultant queasy mixtures verge on the indigestible, and the lack of structure lends each track a certain disjunctive incoherence. But perhaps everything makes more sense heard in the right nightclub environment rather than on a home stereo. 60 copies only.

The great Bela Emerson is a UK cellist who captivated me with her Scythe EP for The Slightly Off Kilter label. Now here she is with a fine full-length solo effort Hespera (BIP-HOP BLEEP 38) for the French Bip-Hop label. While not exhibiting the same attack and tension I recall hearing on the EP, this CD does much to demonstrate her skills with FX pedals and live sampling, presumably used in real-time situations. Of course she is a first-class cellist too! Emerson never conceals her talent with indulgent echo-chamber play, and beautiful rich melodies are never far away, summoned up by her skilled, gripping fingers. Man, I bet she could open a jar of pickles just by looking at it. On this record, remarkable sonic textures rub up against each other to the extent that I would say the instrument’s true voice is unleashed, rather than being buried under a pile of studio effects. In fact, make that several true voices – she makes her instrument speak in tongues.

Pinko Communoids are an American trio of improvisers who made Volume 1 (INHARMONIK 001) in 2006-07, recording it directly to tape at a venue in Virginia. The low-key results seem to be quite heavy on the Gamelan percussion and the languidly-thrummed electric guitar, alongside occasional mournful parps and squeaky barks from a saxophone. I wondered at first if this was more evidence of the ‘quiet mode’ school of improvisation’s influence, a school which has enjoyed such prominence in Japan and parts of Europe, but in fact I just think it’s just regular improvisation played and recorded in a rather subdued way. The Pinkos don’t have quite the same iron-willed control you hear in the work of Toshimaru Nakamura, for example. A little too meandery for me, but their combinations of sounds are not without interest.

I haven’t heard from the Austrian Mosz label in a while, it seems to me. Here’s an excellent double CD set Till the Old World’s Blown up and a New One is created (MOSZ 016), played by the trio of stalwart improvising-laptop-guitarist-chamber jazz ensemble of Christian Fennesz, Werner Dafeldecker and Martin Brandlmayr. Time was when these guys seemed to be ubiquitous on the international festival circuits (maybe they still are) in individual or collective set-ups. The package offers the 34-minute title track on one CD, with three shorter cuts on its sister mini-CD, packed in clear and minimal dressage of plastic and paper. The slow and heavy music, not without a nostalgic and melancholic air, is absolutely perfect for November listening. Christian’s guitar draws out those ponderous and leaden notes in a way that Oren Ambarchi used to have monopolised as his personal style; meanwhile, the acoustic bass, vibes and drumkit setup pulls the sound in the vague direction of small-ensemble jazz (an interesting update on the Blue Note sound), while sparingly-used computers occasionally add layers of abstracted digital noise. Grand!