Independent Music Reviews & Music Label

Archive for July, 2012

Library Tapes – Sun peeking through

CD Time: 29:11 #auecd006

Website and available from: http://librarytapes.com/

Julia Kent – Cello (3, 4, 8 & 9), Sarah Kemp – Violin (2 & 6), Danny Norbury – Cello (7), David Wenngren – Piano

Tracks: 1) Variation II, 2) Parlour (Variation I), 3) Found, 4) Parlour (Variation III), 5) We won’t need you anymore, 6) End of the summer, 7) Lost, 8) Sun peeking through, 9) Parlour (Variation II), 10) Variation I

Music takes me places, always has.  Sometimes there is emotion, a memory or colors, but it is always spatial.  Although a relative newcomer to some artists, it is not that I am unfamiliar with David Wenngren’s work, but as for Library Tapes I have some catching-up to do.  A while back I reviewed his hypnotic album with Kane Ikin entitled Strangers, and I have both albums Our House Is On The Wall (as the moniker of Murralin Lane with Ylva Wiklund), and The Meridians of Longitude and Parallels of Latitude, his collaboration with Christopher Bissonnette.  All are different explorations of sound and place, but Sun peeking through seems more personal. Wenngren’s piano is deftly blended with a spare ensemble of strings.

Something a bit different this time; I won’t attempt to describe where Wenngren is taking me, but I will show you where I have been.  These are often places I don’t want to leave once I am there (even if melancholy is involved).

1) Variation II

 

2) Parlour (Variation I)

 

3) Found

 

4) Parlour (Variation III)

 

5) We won’t need you anymore

 

6) End of the summer

 

7) Lost

 

8) Sun peeking through

 

9) Parlour (Variation II)

 

10) Variation I

 

The title track (to me) is beautiful, almost beyond words—a deeply reflective meditation.  David Wenngren as Library Tapes has assembled a collection of poignant vignettes, and a treasured diary of sound memories.

And now, off to explore more of his previous recordings.

****

All photos (except album cover) are by wajobu.


The To-Listen Stack

I’m slowly working my way back to a stack of LPs that I have been avoiding due to the summer heat.  My main turntable is connected to a pair of tube amps, and in hot weather tube output only makes a warm room…hot!  So, time to move a “sand amp” into place until cooler weather.  Here’s what I’m spinning:

Kink Gong – Xinjiang: An “ethno electronic collage” with incredible field recordings combined with electronics recorded by Laurent Jeanneau in China.  Jeremy Bible at Experimedia recommended this in one of his (what I now call “dangerous Friday e-mails”).  Available at: http://www.experimedia.net/index.php?main_page=product_music_info&products_id=5182

 

Hands Off Cuba – Volumes of Sobering Liquids: More sound experiments from a number of musicians who have worked in Lambchop over the years.  Available at: http://www.sebastianspeaks.com/

William Tyler – Behold the Spirit: Long time guitarist with Lambchop and Hands Off Cuba, this is William Tyler’s latest solo work.  Available at: http://www.tompkinssquare.com/william-tyler.html  A short film on the release is here:

 

Jonas Munk – Pan: I know Jonas Munk’s work mostly from Manual (Confluence, I think is the best album under that moniker).  Available at: http://www.elparaisorecords.com/content/jonas-munk-pan-cd

 

Mark Fosson – Digging In The Dust: Taken from the long lost home demo recordings of 1976 after Mark Posson had just acquired a 12 string guitar; even the final version of this recording was shelved and went unreleased until 2006 as The Lost Tokoma Sessions on Drag City Records.  Available at: http://www.tompkinssquare.com/mark-fosson.html  You can stream the record here: http://www.fretboardjournal.com/audio/mark-fosson-digging-dust-exclusive-stream


MOLE – What’s The Meaning?

CD: RareNoiseRecords RNR027: 70:39

Website: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/mole-store/whats-the-meaning-cd

Album samples: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/jukebox/mole/wtm/

Also available at: http://darla.com/

Mole Productions at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MoleProductions

Tracks: 1) PB; 2) Stones; 3) Trees And The Old New Ones; 4) Flour Tortilla Variation; 5) What’s The Meaning; 6) Greenland; 7) Grass; 8) Grubenid

Spirited, funky, and at times reflective is the vibe of the debut album What’s The Meaning from the Mexican, Argentinean and American contemporary jazz quartet known as MOLE.  Originally started as a duo about eight years ago, Mark Aanderud (on piano and composer, from Mexico) and Hernan Hecht (on drums, from Argentina) sought out New York guitarist David Gilmore for his diverse recording credits and touring experience with Wayne Shorter, Steve Coleman’s Five Elements and others, as well as Jorge “Luri” Molina (on bass, also from Mexico).

Mark Aanderud and Hernan Hecht

So, the music?  Think food…GOOD food…Mōl-eh!  The album starts quietly and mysteriously with PB.  The individual ingredients are being prepared for what will become a great meal.  PB develops as the quartet gradually mixes together, an exchange of themes and solos.  In Stones, the drums take a powerful lead and the solos gather around.  With each track the intensity of the album grows, although there are some pauses along the way.  The most delightful is Trees And The Old New Ones.  It has some calming shades of Metheny and Mays’ 1981 album As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (September Fifteenth in particular).  Bowed bass and cello (played by Dorota Barova) almost mournfully open the piece.  The woven piano and guitar themes echo each other throughout along with skilful and gentle percussion.

Flour Tortilla Variation has a driving drum, piano and bass opening.  Solos are traded and echoed between guitar and piano, including a closing guitar solo reminiscent of Al Di Meola’s expressive work.  Brooding and syncopated is the feeling at the start of the title track, What’s The Meaning?  Initially, a gentle piano and drum exploration between Aanderud and Hecht (think Bill Bruford’s Earthworks), which then weaves in Gilmore’s guitar to explore with piano interludes, and builds to a closing solo by Gilmore with chops reminiscent of Carlos Santana.  Hecht and Molina lay down an upbeat foundation on Greenland for Aanderud and Gilmore to vamp and solo over—it’s a spirited romp.

Greenland

 

Grass is a languid piano and bass pulse with a repeated piano and guitar theme and is one last pause before the last track; Grubenid gets its funk on.  This is a great piece with plucky shades of Stanley Clarke.  After the guitar and bass opening vamp it stomps and Aanderud and Gilmore carry the somewhat off-key main melody.  Gilmore then leads the rhythm with a growling and energetic solo and Aanderud responds.  Guitar and piano return to the original theme before the rhythm section fades.

Let’s hope MOLE does some touring to support this album—they’re cookin’!

****

This is a solicited review.


unrecognizable now – two rooms

CD Time: 33:14* #KESH018

*With forthcoming excerpt remixes by Simon Scott and Kane Ikin

Record Label: http://www.keshhhhhh.com/

Artist Website: http://unrecnow.com/blog/

Sound Samples & More Info: http://kesh.bandcamp.com/

More on Matt Jones: http://www.matthewjones76.com/Unrecognizable-Now-1

More on Marcus Fischer: http://mapmap.ch/index.php?/ongoing/unrecognizable-now/2/

Tracks: Track 01, Track 02, Track 03, Track 04 (mastered to have seamless transitions)

unrecognizable now is an occasional collaborative project of Matt Jones and Marcus Fischer.  They consider their work to be “gradual layered music” based on live improvisation, found sounds, a range of instrumentation, and laptop computers.  In 2004, Jones and Fischer scored various experimental films by Portland, Oregon filmmaker Rob Tyler.  The relationship of sight and sound was further explored by Fischer, Jones and Tyler in the first of a series of events in 2006 entitled Vision+Hearing.   Fischer and Jones released their debut CD in a cave or a coma in mid-2006 on the Pehr Label (with 10 tracks and a short film by Tyler).  In 2008 a live performance of unrecnow was captured on self-released limited edition CD entitled for sleeping it off.  Marcus Fischer is a well known solo and collaborative sound artist, to date releasing more than ten recordings on labels such as 12k, Tench and Flaming Pines.  Matt Jones is a photographer, artist and sculptor.  Both are based in Portland, Oregon.

While two rooms is a further exploration of the electro-acoustic improvisation realm, this project also seems to nod to earlier works like Brian Eno’s seminal Ambient 1 – Music For Airports (1978) and the somewhat darker Ambient 4 – On Land (1982).  unrecognizable now including a diagram of how the music was recorded is not unlike diagrams included on the reverse of both of the noted albums by Eno.  This release is not only the literal music recording, but an in-situ analysis of how and why it exists as it does.  Not a “field recording” per se, rather an interior anti-studio recording, one where it is important to document not only the music, but the ambience of the setting as well as the process.

The microphone placement for two rooms (in the basement of a downtown Portland office building), with the varying distances from source material and varying sound decay rates gives a tangible sense of space.  This treatment also counters a sense of claustrophobia that one might expect, being recorded in a concrete tomb, of sorts.  It has a remarkably expansive sound (historical note: the vocals for the David Bowie song Heroes were recorded using a series of remotely placed mics similar to this).  Since this is a live improvised recording, it includes all the sounds associated with movement and production of the work by the artists (walking, changing instruments, etc.); adding a sense of transparency and intimacy.

The progression of this work is similar to Fischer’s recent 16 minute live release EP At Frame. Non-representational yet (depending on the listener) it can evoke memories or visions.  For me, parts are like being on a sailboat, anchored or just drifting in light wind, and at others like wandering through an old dark factory and wondering about the history of the place.  two rooms has the pleasant effect of allowing the mind to wander while occasionally being nudged by recognition of a particular instrument in the soundstage.

unrecognizable now photo by barry hill

The feeling in Track 1 is largely one of comfort. This section is more guitar and string-based (with some bowing) with pedal effects.  Track 2 transitions to more keyboards, and then strings blend and the sound is fuller and brighter.  After a graceful lull, deep and gentle waves begin at about the midpoint.  There is a slight recurrent low-register plucked-string theme and then one is cast adrift at about 9:00.  Track 3 is more ethereal than the other parts, especially at the beginning.  Guitars return again at 1:30 and are blended into the omnipresence.  At about 3:00 the density increases and bowed strings return to then be consumed into a cavernous silence.  Late in this track there are various percussive effects to announce the transition to Track 4.  This section is plucked, strummed and somewhat simplified; in a sense returning to the beginning and later an overlay of a nearly hidden repetitive melody appears and vanishes as the piece closes.

two rooms will be released on July 16th and digital files will be available for download, but if you are so inclined for a physical release, there will soon be 300 CD copies available in numbered and letter-pressed recycled card sleeves and related artwork—reasonably-priced, for such a beautiful work of sound art.  This is an intriguing exploration of sound and space (an interior “field recording” of sorts), evoking different images and experiences.  Perhaps now, rather than incidental music to a short film, this piece could be the creative inspiration for a visual work of its own.

*Postscript on the forthcoming remixes – More information on these soon (to be released on July 28th), but the Simon Scott remix is taken from the second half of Track 2 (one of my favorite sections) and finishes with the sound of a vinyl runout groove.  Given Simon Scott’s recent work on his Below Sea Level project, I can see why he would be attracted to what I think is the most marine-like section of this work.  The Kane Ikin remix has mysterious origins (to be discovered by the listener) with added treatments and loops.

***

This is a solicited review, although I have the physical release on pre-order.


David Fiuczynski – Planet MicroJam

CD: RareNoiseRecords RNR025: 60:51

Website: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/david-fiuczynski-store/planet-microjam-cd

Also available at: http://darla.com/

Artist Website: http://torsos.com/  Album Website: http://www.planetmicrojam.com/

Album samples: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/jukebox/fiuczynski/pmj/

Tracks: 1) Micro Emperor; 2) Mystic MicroJam; 3) Meditacion; 4) Sun Song; 5) Horos Fuzivikos; 6) Drunken Longing; 7) Madoka Blue; 8) En Secreto; 9) Green Lament; 10) Apprehension; 11) Ragaku

Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance that you might see every five or ten (even fifteen) years, and then for some inexplicable reason they disappear into the ether?  When you next see the friend the conversation picks-up where it left off, without skipping a beat?  The intervening years are important and they might filter into the new conversation, but immediately the old connection is solid again.

The last time I saw David Fiuczynski he was with John Medeski and I am embarrassed to say that it was…eighteen years ago…it was a Lunar Crush back then.  I have stayed in touch with Medeski and his compatriots, Martin and Wood, but I do not have any excuses for why I have not seen Fiuczynski in quite some time.  So, after all these years, we reach again, this time on Planet MicroJam. This is where Brand X could have traveled after Moroccan Roll had they hit the teleport button to a laterally warped microtonal universe.

I will say it now: I think this is a great and colorful album.  This is one of those times when the connection for me is instantaneous, even when it is challenging.  The reason is the interest in exploring, pushing the edges of musicality, and at the point where it seems like it might break apart, there is a sonic magnet that pulls it all together, and that is the Fuze.

This time guitarist David Fiuczynski is microtonally jamming with Evgeny Lebedev on keyboards, David Radley on violin and Takeru Yamazaki on keyboards.  Special guests also include Kenwood Dennard, Jovol Bell, Jack DeJohnette and Eric Kerr on drums with appearances by Trout (Fuze’s pup).

The album opens with Micro Emperor (based on a fragment of Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto) and it slides and twists immediately into stimulating fretless territory.  Mystic MicroJam starts with a lazy vamping rhythm, strums on the piano soundboard with twisting guitar and keyboards syncopating.  After a speedy refrain, meandering violin joins and all peregrinate and then return to edgy indolence and then solos play off each other.

Meditacion starts with playful chordal-quartertones by Fiuczynski and then drums, violin, guitar, bass and piano meander in a delightfully light-hearted banter.  The piano at times harkens back to Corea’s work on Romantic WarriorSun Song is based on Sun Ra’s piece of the same name with polite melodic percussion and guitar on the edges and in between.  As the piece continues, layers are added into a soothing fabric.  Horos Fuzivikos is a spinning tarantella that does stop and then romp with a great spirit.

Horos Fuzivikos

 

Drunken Longing is a traditional Chinese interlude.  Madoka Blue’s guitars and keyboards cascade then guitar, bass and drums have a layered conversation with strategic interjections from a treated piano—a bit like a herd of wrens in the trees.  En Secreto’s trio furtively creeps and is based on a quartertone string quartet by Julian Carrillo.  Green Lament is a subdued guitar solo.  Apprehension starts by taking it easy, then the rhythm quickens, sound expands and dissonance appears.  Takeru Yamazaki solos on violin, trading themes with guitar and piano and the structure switches between chaotic and rhythmic.  There are times when John Goodsall-like phrases appear.  Ragaku is a Far Eastern postscript and there are percussive stops emphasized with growls and barks by Trout.

For some, this work will be an acquired taste (quarter and micro tones can take some getting used to…for dogs too), but if you are in for a tonal adventure, I say take the leap and turn it up.

So David, let’s stay in touch more often, OK?  I know; it’s entirely my fault.

Photo of Fuze by Gaspard Duroselle

***

This is a solicited review.


Machinefabriek – Stroomtoon

Artist website: http://www.machinefabriek.nu

Available at: http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/ &  http://www.metamkine.com/

Label: Nuun Climax #Nuun 11 CD: http://www.nuun-records.com/?page_id=718

CD Time: 35:51 Tracks: 1) Eén; 2) Twee; 3) Drie; 4) Vier; 5) Vijf

Prolific composer, artist and performer Rutger Zuydervelt (known as Machinefabriek) has written that the intent of this short-format album is to experiment with the sound of electricity using a new live set-up tone of analogue tone generators, effect and loop pedals.  As I have noted in a recent review, I also keenly appreciate his background in graphic design—the quality of the visual aspects of his work, the design, layout and presentation of a given album’s artwork.  Perhaps unintentionally, Machinefabriek has evoked some historic sound explorations in a similar vein to those made by Kraftwerk in their 1975 album Radio Activity (though without the seminal electro-pop sound).

The first time I listened to Stroomtoon, I immediately thought of the Kraftwerk track The Voice of Energy.  The overall feel of the album is like touring a large industrial building late at night, passing through mechanical rooms or an electrical generation station.  The recording is sharp, with piercing clarity at times and the visceral depths at others.  This is not a conventional music album; it is experiential and visual ambience.  Stroomtoon consists of one long format piece, followed by four shorter glimpses.

Eén is an industrial-strength ambient world.  It is like a tour through a power station with turbines winding and cranes moving equipment overhead. This track starts with a sound akin to the long wind-down of electric motors. It is hypnotizing, and the layering gives the sense of descending while remaining in suspension. Ascent begins at about 8:00 as other incidental sounds enter the scene.  It has some shades of the opening titles of Louis and Bebe Barron’s soundtrack to Forbidden Planet.  At about 14:00 it is as if we have moved into an electrical switchgear room.  A high-pitch whine permeates the space and the clicking, beeping and thuds here are like the systems within a building (even the sound of high pressure steam passing through pipes above).  The piece builds almost to the point of the threshold of pain, and suddenly at the close there is an expansive low frequency cluster and the large switch is thrown—OFF.

Twee pulses and pumps, like a heart.  This track builds slowly with a sharp clicking edginess of static electricity.  Low frequencies push in, switches are thrown, and adjustments made then…click into a quieter zone, yet with radio interference.  Drie opens with low frequencies and a sense of building tension; an ominous rhythm shadows and there is a sudden deep buzz like passing through an energy field.  Gradually, chaos builds as radio interference overtakes and builds to a sudden full stop.

Stroomtoon (Preview)

 

Vier is pure tones; high, low, blending and slowly warping.  There is tranquility in it.  It is more the sound of systems at rest, on stand-by, and monitoring.  Vijf is the sound of perhaps the giant transformers at the heart of this power station.  Here there is deep humming with blending harmonics, as if moving between enormous pieces of electrical distribution equipment.  As the track continues a door seems to be opened and the listener is transported into a vast room of pulsing energy; made me think of scenes of the long abandoned outpost of The Krell.

At first, I was concerned that I would have a hard time relating to a recording like this; I tend to gravitate to more musical works.  Yet the intent of the recording is quite compelling and the results very effective—a cinematic journey through a densely energized realm, a really fascinating work.  One last note: Because of the wide range of frequencies and the great clarity of the recording, be aware that Stroomtoon may challenge some audio systems.  It could even be considered a reference recording for audio system evaluations.

Photo of Rutger Zuydervelt by Michel Mees

*****

This was a solicited review.


Celer Machinefabriek – Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake – Numa/Penarie – Hei/Sou *UPDATED sound links*

Artist website: http://www.machinefabriek.nu

Artist website: http://www.thesingularwe.org/celer/

Available at: http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/ and http://www.experimedia.net/

Videos by Marco Douma: http://www.marcodouma.com/

“Having a great time, wish you were here…”

While some on holiday are sucked into over-crowded commercial tourist traps, and others are off in their resorts or private villas, some of the most memorable places and experiences are the somewhat unusual, even off the beaten-path locales.  Picture postcards often contain brief accounts or memories of travels to these places, being descriptive, cryptic or comical anecdotes of a given day’s events, compressed into a few short phrases—a substitute for longhand letters.  They also serve to freeze a moment in time in a more permanent and retrospective fashion than the immediacy of a quick e-mail or photo sent via the internet.   These moments in time are what the trilogy of releases by Celer (Will Long) and Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt) are like.

It started when they performed together in November, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan and then decided to collaborate remotely on a series of short releases beginning in October, 2011 between Tokyo and Rotterdam.  The pieces started as larger works and eventually were edited into musical postcards, or drone poems* of sorts, evoking a place, event or state of mind.  Artwork found by Long in Tokyo has been used for the covers of the 7 inch vinyl releases with design and graphic layout by Zuydervelt.  As much as I appreciate the convenience of digital-format music, there is something quite special about the 7 inch record, packaged in artful sleeves of re-purposed postcard and souvenir images.  Even better, each piece is accompanied (via download) by a beautiful and timeless video interpretation by multimedia artist Marco Douma.

The soon-to-be-released Hei/Sou is the last in this trilogy.  Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake and Numa/Penarie were the first two releases.  Digital files are also available and the vinyl pressings are limited to 250 copies each (Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake vinyl is now sold out).

 

Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake are readily identifiable places.  Maastunnel is a tunnel in Rotterdam and this track has some mystery.  The piece opens on the outside approach to the tunnel (with the ambient sounds of water).  There is an apparent twist in the plot where voices can be heard, “I didn’t see his face…he might have been just anybody…just anybody.”  Suddenly, a break to the interior where vehicles are passing over expansion joints creating pulses that resonate throughout the underground structure before a quick return to the roadway above-ground.  Mt. Mitake is a contrast to the underworld.  It starts with a sense of floating in the clouds.  The second section creates a sense of tension with the calming effects of the first section in the background; kind of a panoramic view with scenes changing.  The peaceful opening section returns to close the track.

 

Numa/Penarie are more obscure experiences.  Numa is almost like a collection of sounds experienced throughout the day; clusters of lights buzzing, bell-like sounds, subways braking, jets taking off in the distance.  The second section is more intense (again, a feeling of being underground), expansive and layered with lower frequencies underneath.  The close brings a return of lighter and higher frequencies, returning somewhat to the opening themes.  Penarie is perplexing; it’s dense, electric and unrestrained.  It expands and contracts with clusters of tones.  Then there is a pleasant interlude of Mellotron-like waves before mixing with the original themes and sounds, while being accompanied by a clock and then fading quickly, almost like a fleeting dream.

 

The forthcoming Hei/Sou is the more contemplative of the three releases, and the most abstract.  Hei starts with a cymbal-like percussive and then drifts into a gentle sustained keyboard mantra with a wandering background of gentle buzzing and contrasting deep bell-like tones.  The cymbals return and are combined with a placid cluster of sound.  Sou opens with a Morse-code-like pulse and omnipresent warping tones that gradually combine with a fabric of lightly sequenced rhythms, and there they hang in suspension as the pulsing grows stronger and then fades.  Gradually an undertow of deep liquid sound emerges to the foreground and the rhythms are overtaken and then disappear.

These self-released sound postcards are beautifully presented visions of places and experiences.  Where will Celer and Machinefabriek be traveling to next?

Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake Preview

 

Numa/Penarie Preview

 

Hei/Sou Preview

 

***

*Drone Poem: Like Tone Poems, a shorter format single musical work, within the drone or electro-acoustic genre, based on or evoking the content of a poem, story, place or event.  The term initially inspired by some of the recent shorter-form works by Nicholas Szczepanik on his album We Make Life Sad.

***

A solicited review, but I have purchased the first two releases and now preordered the latest.


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