Reliable Radio

Another fine item from Sound Proj. favourite Tim Olive, that resourceful Canadian fox. On Okay Grand Dependable (VERZ IMPRINT #025), he’s applying his disruptive and imaginative skills to radio sets…waving his arms near a hundred transistor sets and making uncanny sound art out of the noise of tuning dials and distorted voices, sounds floating mysteriously in the controlled noise, everything produced by the actions of his typical magnetic pickups. One day I’d like to see Tim walk into a call centre or a shopping mall, armed with his magnets, and witness what fine mayhem might result from his interventions. No modern communications network is safe from him and his polarising forces…he could certainly bring down the stock market, at the very least. In this instance, it’s a form of concrete-noise-poem he’s creating from the airwaves. “He summons ghosts of tubes and transistors past,” states the note on Phil Maguire’s Verz Imprint page, suggesting that Tim isn’t merely manipulating the present, but is somehow reaching back into history and capturing the voices from the air, hopefully rewriting outcomes as he does so. Wouldn’t John Cage have loved to see this exciting new take on his 1956 “Radio Music”? You betcha. Another essential gem with a great cover and lovely package too. From 22 March 2022.

Here’s Jörg Zemmler with his self-released Piano Bar (NO LABEL) record. I wasn’t too keen on this one at first gazoon, as it seemed to be some form of post-modernist update on cocktail lounge music, but now I’m warming to its insistent processed tones, suspecting genius at work under these simple fugues and patterns. The music starts on a regular upright piano, but Zemmler is applying live loops and a digital sustain to extend his simple melodic figures with repetitions and patterns, thus turning even the most rudimentary sequence of plucked notes into a miniature pocket-symphony. The musician is in full control of his devices and already adept at using them for subtle, nuanced results, particularly so with the syncing of his loops – in lesser hands, any looping device might easily spin into chaos and create an over-layered murk, but the music here is crisp, deliberate, precise. All the more poignant when these digital effects are combined with the original piano foot pedals, like the sustain. Even without the loop and sustain set-up, I’m finding now that these short tunes have an elliptical quality which appeals to me, with plenty of gaps and exciting moments where things are left hanging like an unanswered question. Though at first sceptical of his claims to refer to such monumental talents as Satie, Cage, and Feldman, I can see more clearly that part of the salon wherein he dwells. Jörg Zemmler is Italian-born and living in Austria just now, with a background in writing prose and poetry, cinema, performance, music, and sound engineering. (21/03/2022)

Understated yet very effective group playing from the five-piece ZiMT on their Ganz (BESO DE ÁNGEL 001) album, recorded in 2020 at the Klangspuren Festival. Unusual instrumentation – there’s the paetzold flutes, the prepared dulcimer and the contraguitar (an unusual 19th-century hybrid with two necks) playing alongside clarinet, live electronics and electric guitars. Although ZiMT are all renowned improvisers, and an improvising group, they had the intention of playing their own versions of 20th-century compositions when they first established themselves in 2007. In particular, “forgotten and neglected icons of 20th century music”, which they planned to adapt and recast on their own terms. I never heard any of these, and would like to – Marcel Duchamp was one beneficiary of their plan, as was John Cage. (The press notes here rehash the oft-repeated notion that there is some overlap between Cage’s use of the I Ching and Duchamp’s ready-made art objects.) The music on today’s CD isn’t that of Cage or Duchamp, but it’s this same conceptual rigour which they’ve been following for 15 years that has fed into all of their work, and you can feel it in the gravity and deliberation of this quiet, but very determined, music. The players are Angélica Castelló, Kai Fagaschinski, Barbara Romen, Gunter Schneider, and Burkhard Stangl. We’ve noted three of these great players in previous pages of The Sound Projector; Stangl used to be a member of Polwechsel, another group noted for its enthusiastic embrace of all forms of modernism, and he’s often teamed up with Angélica Castelló for various releases on Mikroton. A fine release, endorsed by Jérôme Noetinger and Peter Waterhouse in the attached notes; Noetinger writes that “Zimt is an art of pointillist and atmospheric, non-idiomatic and landscape improvisation. Five musicians…who know how to listen to each other.” (21/03/2022)