Tactile Stories (CACOPHONOUS REVIVAL RECORDINGS CRR-015) is is acoustic duo improv from Colin Fisher (sax or guitar) and Mike Gennaro (drums), both respected Canadian players. I found it monotonous; in spite of all the frenetic blowing and pattering activity, the music simply stays in the same register and the same place for long periods of time, even when it slows down and starts up again. Mostly stuttering saxophone workouts from Fisher, though he picks up the guitar on ‘Epinoia’, and despite the change of instrument he soon finds himself mired in the same musical difficulties, unable to resolve them. English clarinettist Alex Ward (with whom they have recorded) mastered the record.
Unusual item is Seen (REDSHIFT RECORDS TK519), an album of accordion music by contemporary composers played by the classically-trained Joseph Petric from Guelph. The works of David Jaeger, Norbert Palej, Robert May, Peter Hatch, Erik Ross and Torbjorn Lunquist are all represented. I suppose the title piece might be considered the centrepiece – composed by Palej, it’s in three long parts and uses fragments of Catholic visions and holy epiphanies to express spiritual themes. Movement III of this grand work is titled ‘Miracle of the Sun’, but Petric himself fails to exhibit any sense of the transformative power implied by such a title, and instead occupies himself weaving his exquisite small melodies. It’s as if he missed seeing the miracle taking place because he was too busy sewing buttons on his shirt. I quite like the melodrama of ‘Leviathan’ (composed by Ross) with its layered minor-key melodies and odd sounds in the background, but (like much of the music here) it can’t escape the narrative scenario it’s set for itself and emerges as a rather prosaic whaling story, told in abstract versions of sea shanties. You might enjoy ‘Spirit Cloud’, since composer Jaeger adds live electronics which brings a certain frisson and oddness to the music. Petric’s an immaculate player, but he’s mainly focused on playing intricate and challenging melodies with his nimble fingers, and doesn’t do much to experiment or explore the sonic potential of his bellows, stops, or keys.
On A Cup Of Sins (REDSHIFT RECORDS TK478), the composer Parisa Sabet pulls off a pretty impressive feat several times over, recasting the music and culture of her own country within a classical chamber-music setting. Sabet is Iranian-Canadian, and her music is played by a small group of talented performers including the soprano singer Jacqueline Woodley and the violinist Matthias McIntire, who is showcased on ‘Geyrani’. Besides drawing on the melodies and rhythms of classical Iranian music, Sabet namechecks specific composers and performers from that part of the world, i.e. Ali Ghamsari and Kayhan Kalhor, plus she manages to inject the essence of ney-playing into the classical flute of Laurel Swinden on ‘The Seville Orange Tree’ – a title which, by the way, refers to a sacred site in Shiraz. Plus there’s the epic ‘Maku’, which draws inspiration from the Báb’s letter to Muhammad Shah, the King of Iran in the 19th century. At the same time, the music here is sure to appeal to listeners who enjoy conventional Romantic music, with all its western traditions. The pieces with vocals – either spoken, sung, or acted with gusto by the hard-working Woodley – are perhaps the ones with the most melodrama and excitement here, though the sparing use of electronics and electric guitar also add their own jolting moments to the record. Parisa Sabet certainly has unique ideas, often expressed with quite wild and forceful melodic adventures, though she’s more than capable of producing quieter reflective pieces too. For all this, I couldn’t really engage with this interesting record, finding it rather mannered and inhibited, when I kept hoping for more passion and emotion.
All the above from 20 July 2023.