Lift Mechanism / Biodiversity Levels / Lost Time / Prepare for Segue

We heard from Danish vocalist and improviser Randi Pontoppidan on her 2021 record Voicescapes, where she memorably teamed up with Thomas Buckner, where the sharp contrast between the grains of their voices created exciting effects. She’s back again with today’s record Inner Lift (CHANT RECORDS CR2105RA), a collaboration with Sissel Vera Pettersen, from the Norwegian group Trondheim Voices (who released Rooms & Rituals in 2018). What’s notable about Inner Lift is that the duo recorded everything live with no overdubs, and very little in the way of preparation beforehand – it seems to be a real case of intuition and instinct making good, which could be taken as a benchmark of quality improvisation. It’s not just voices though, as there are some electronic enhancements (echo, reverb) being added in real time, plus the backdrop of light musical drones supplied by a prepared zither or from Tibetan singing bowls. The duo have a default mode of creating simple song-like melodies and tunes composed of three or four repeated notes, which is pleasing, but myself I kinda prefer the more open-ended extemporisations like ‘Raindrops’, which is more based on non-specific vocal effects and, with its long-form meandering, seems to promise the kind of interior-landscape exploration that is suggested by the cover artworks. Even simpler is the closing track ‘Still Safe’, which isn’t much more than a set of “musical breathing” sounds, enhanced with droning from the Tibetan bowls. (05/05/2021)

Serbian-born musician Manja Ristic recently moved to Croatia, where she’s been busy making environmental sound art and field recordings for some time. The latest of these is the LP Kairos & The Dwellers (FORMS OF MINUTIAE FOM02), where she’s gathered a number of interesting recordings of the sea, the air, coastal life, insects, trees and birds, and layered them all together into dense electro-acoustic drone music. In this way, she’s not too far apart from that school of Phonography which moves forward from simply providing “straight” documentary recordings of a natural area, and instead attempts to construct some form of narrative or a compressed series of unrelated events. She’s also inspired, apparently, by the ideas of Gilles Clement, a very modern French botanist and landscape gardener who is busy developing radical ideas about his craft – he has invented the concepts of the moving garden, the planetary garden and the third landscape, all of which are expressed in his 2015 tome and I assume are informed by ecologically sound ideas about nature and biodiversity. Besides this record, Manja Ristic’s work has also appeared on the Croatian Sonic Matters label, where you can find interesting Sound Maps of the area, as well as her record Life And Death of a Vineyard Cricket. Kairos & The Dwellers presents a very rich sonic surface, and exhorts us to pay attention to ecological matters; Manja Ristic is clearly very engaged with the landscape and the environment, in a sympathetic and protective way. (05/05/2021)

In the course of her career, composer Rose Bolton from Toronto has composed film music and music for multi-media performances, plus she’s a violinist and has made a study of English (and Canadian) folk music traditions. But she’s also skilled with electronic / synthesised music, and that’s the mode we hear on The Lost Clock (CASSAUNA SAUNA 059CS), issued in cassette form on this sub-label of Important Records. Slow-moving, long-form music is what she favours, but it’s some way from being simple drone, and she packs the surface with detail working in a very meticulous way, whether by paying attention to differing timbres and textures, or by inserting simple repeated melodies for piano or keyboards. There’s a lot to be said for her gentle approach, and the poetic titles she assigns to these four works, such as ‘Unsettled Souls’, ‘Starless Night’ and ‘The Heaven Mirror’ remind me of the films and poetry of Jean Cocteau. I found the music a bit shapeless at first, lacking in a tonal centre, as though Bolton didn’t have a clear idea of the overall compositional direction, but in fact this tendency results in a diffuse, open-ended cloud of ambiguous music that works in her favour. (19/05/2021)

From France, entertaining pop-jazz music enlivened with beats, spoken-word and samples…for Cyclotimic Songs (LES DISQUES LINOLEUM LIN 024), the duo Marc Sarrazy and Laurent Rochelle cannibalised their own work into this pot-pourri of ideas, including two albums they made for this label (Intranquillite and Chanson For Oreille Gauche) and use these piano-and-sax tracks as the basis for further cut-up malarkey. Guest vocalists Manel Cheniti, Mike Ladd and Antonie Volodine are brought in to join the fun on a few tracks, and other cuts use snippets of film dialogue to make their ironic observations. In the course of all this, the cinema of Sergio Leone (and of course the music of Morricone) is invoked more than once. To bring the point home, the duo are pictured inside the gatefold cover lying across a sprawl of old vinyl records, somehow failing to look particularly stylish despite wearing their cool shades, and don’t even seem as if they’re having much fun either. The record has its moments of dry wit, and there’s a kind of insouciant all-over-the-shop charm in the way it dines buffet-style at so many musical motorway cafes, but it also feels rather dated, like an overthought version of The Avalanches. Rochelle last regaled us with 7 Variations Sur Le TAO with the Prima Kanta group, playing an unusual form of chamber jazz influenced by the minimalist compositions of Glass / Riley / Reich.