View by Territory

Drums, voices, sampling, and live electronics all fizz in a lively mix on Territory (WIDE EAR RECORDS WER059), a vaguely conceptual record created by David Meier and Ramon Landolt and recorded in Zurich. Drummer David Meier apparently plays in Schnellertollermeier, never heard by us, but they play their own unique form of math-rock in the Swiss manner laced with jazz and prog elements, and we quite liked him when he was part of a trio with Flo Stoffner (also on this label). Ramon Landolt plays piano and synth in the Heinz Herbert trio, devoted to avant-garde jazz. On Territory, the duo are trying it seems to say something about the modern urban environment; at least one song has been formed from samples derived from real estate adverts, and there’s also hints about a collaboration with Rotative Studio, which is an “experimental” architecture office. I have no idea what this means but I can’t wait to find out – we’ll see how my job application pans out, provided I can get a visa. When artists speak of “decoding” these signals that blight the modern world, I keep waiting to hear a message or intellectual proposition that’s an improvement on the 1960s movies of Jean-Luc Godard, particularly Deux ou Trois Choses or Pierrot La Fou. Sadly Territory doesn’t really deliver anything like that, and the occasions where the chaos of spoken-word jumbles give us too much information to process are rather few and far between. But it’s nice to hear the cool-and-clever combination of drumming and electronics, performed in a way that doesn’t owe a whole lot to the usual kosmische or krautrock influences, and is delivered with deliberation and precision. (15/06/2022)

NakedEye Ensemble are from Lancaster PA in the United States and are led by the very talented pianist Ju-Ping Song. Active since 2013, it seems they are highly capable musicians who play a mixture of classical, jazz, and rock music in their repertoire. On their new release A Series Of Indecipherable Glyphs (NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS FCR338), it’s mostly rock music that informs their moves – starting out with a ten-part suite by Nick Didkovsky (the guitarist from Doctor Nerve who has played with Fred Frith) and ending with compositions by Aaron Jay Myers and Richard Belcastro, taking in a 1980s piece by Frank Zappa along the way. No denying the technical prowess of all those involved, but – despite presence of electric guitar, bass, and drums – the group haven’t got a rockin’ bone in their body. The music tends to trundle along in a quirky and mannered fashion, and (worse still) does so very politely, not wanting to frighten the horses or scare the middle-class listeners in the front row. It’s as if they had to learn syncopation by rote, rather than playing it from true feeling or instinct. Even the compositions, particularly those by Didkovsky, Mayers and Belcastro, feel too “clever”, with their complicated layered melodies and intricate poly-rhythms. To be honest I’m deriving a lot more listening pleasure from the quiet and minimal keyboard passages played by the leader Ju-Ping Song, who interestingly is a master of the toy piano, a choice of instrument that might account for the very controlled and intimate sounds she makes. You can hear this quite clearly on ‘Less Is More’ composed by Molly Joyce. As to their take on Zappa, I think the man himself would have blanched at this “genteel” and bland performance. (22/07/2022)

Good team-up from French guitarist Raymond Boni and sax player Sakina Abdou on Sources (CIRCUM-DISC CIDI 2203), nine tunes they recorded together in a studio in Lille in 2020. Sakina Abdou is also a member of the Muzzix collective and you may have heard her work on previous records from Circum-Disc. Guitarist Boni is new to me, but I see he’s quite the veteran player and has appeared on records since 1971, starting with the famed Futura Records label and taking in Hat Hut Records along the way – plus anyone who’s played alongside Joe McPhee deserves a place at anyone’s table. He’s what I might call a very fluid guitarist, executing nimble runs at tremendous speed, and though he has a few atonal tricks lurking in his frets, he’s not so spiky as some players who have cast themselves in the Derek Bailey mould and chosen the path of “difficult” or bumpy listening. He’s able to shift into Django Reinhardt mode and switch back to free playing, sometimes within a single tune. It’s been a good pairing with Abdou, who varies the overall sound of the record by picking up her recorder or flute as the occasion demands it, and although the music is often very busy and detailed, it’s never overstated or explosive. “Two generations separate them,” noted Anne Montaron, remarking on the players’ age difference, “but the music doesn’t care about the years.” (25/07/2022)

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