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Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer at Spectrum NYC

Taylor Marcus Spectrum NYC

More on Taylor Deupree and 12k: http://12k.com/

More on Marcus Fischer: http://www.mapmap.ch/

Compared to many, I am a relative latecomer to works on the 12k label (within the last 5 or 6 years), but I have listened to experimental, acoustic/electronic and improvised musical works for decades.  Having missed other recent chances to see artists’ work that I admire in a live setting, I was quite pleased that the stars aligned last night to see Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer perform in an intimate and comfortable setting at the Spectrum NYC on Ludlow Street in Manhattan as the final part of The Cellar and Point Presents series.  My elder son also came along–it was nice to share the event with him.

The type of work I do often involves long spans of time between inspiration and tangible result, months and frequently years.  So, being able to witness creativity translated into a reality in a comparatively short interval is pleasantly stimulating.  Mostly I’ve seen it in jazz collaborations or rock music solos—taking a true creative risk and watching the outcome unfold and evolve (although the latter is often pre-scripted these days).

Taylor Spectrum NYCTaylor Deupree

Deupree’s own work I know primarily through his 12k label and I have reviewed a number of his label’s albums here, and Fischer’s with various collaborations and solo works on a number of labels including Tench, Kesh, Optic Echo, Flaming Pines, 12k as well as self-released.  Aside from their live performance with Corey Fuller, Tomoyoshi Date and Simon Scott on the 12k CD Between, Deupree and Fischer also collaborated on a studio project in 2011 entitled In A Place Of Such Graceful Shapes (and I was VERY fortunate to find the gorgeous original limited edition release thanks to a referral from Marcus Fischer who spotted a lone remaining copy at Beacon Sound in Portland, Oregon a couple of years ago).

I’ve been trying to find the text source, but I recall Taylor Deupree advocating that musicians of electronic or experimental works avoid using their laptop computers as primary music generators at performances, recommending artists create sound in the moment via other methods, rather than playing prerecorded sequenced works.  Live performances need not be perfect, and sometimes fascinating things come out of failure or happenstance.  Last night’s performance lasted a bit more than an hour (audio and video were recorded by Joseph Branciforte of The Cellar and Point), and was a sonic journey that could have fallen unexpectedly to quirks of some rather complicated equipment set-ups (see photos below), but the back-up plans in place were not needed at all.

Marcus Spectrum NYCMarcus Fischer

Initially, Deupree and Fischer spent about 15 or 20 minutes recording and layering sounds and textures loosely reminiscent of Graceful Shapes with percussion, melodic instruments, bows and various effects before branching off and working, more or less, independently of each other yet still curiously bound together.  At about 40 minutes, both added new sounds and effects to take the performance into an alternate realm (Deupree being somewhat freer in applying contrasting textures).

Taylor EquipTaylor Deupree’s Equipment

After the opening, Deupree’s sound creation and processing were primarily via electronic means, adding sounds from his modular synthesizer and shifting resonances between the channels of Spectrum’s surround-sound system.  Whereas Fischer used largely acoustic instrumentation, plucking strings, bowing (actual bow and E-bow), tuning forks and other objects to add layers and textures.  Before long, sounds that started as staccato percussives sounded more like fluid, perhaps akin to an ocean or at a shore, and light breezes mixed with occasional Manhattan street noises (the happenstance).

Fischer, who also works with tape loops (such as his recording At Frame) had a vintage tape recorder with an expanded trapezoid of magnetic tape stretched between microphone stands to supplement the fabric of sound.  Fischer would at times modulate pitch by physically moving the tape (also, watching the tape splice pass across the stands was rather hypnotic).  Only occasional glances between Deupree and Fischer occurred as the piece developed, no words exchanged, just the sounds they created that filled the space.  At an appointed moment, Fischer snipped the tape loop, it unraveled, and the music gradually faded into the night.

Marcus EquipMarcus Fischer’s Equipment

It was an inspiring and soothing diversion from the realities that compete for space in an overly active mind, and Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer’s performance gives me hope that in an age where ceaseless media, noise, and clamoring for wealth and power dominates many of our collective daily experiences, it is possible to remain true to a more peaceful and well-crafted vision while remaining spontaneous and creative in a quiet timelessness.

****

A couple of pre-show photographs by jotabu

marcus1Marcus Fischer Pre-Performance Set-up

marcus setupMarcus Fischer’s Equipment Close-up


Marsen Jules – Sinfonietta

MJSinfonietta

CD DR-28 – Time: 45:56 (Limited Edition of 100 and Deluxe Edition of 100)

Dronarivm – http://dronarivm.com/2014/11/21/marsen-jules-sinfonietta/ & http://dronarivm.bandcamp.com/album/sinfonietta

Almost two years ago The Endless Change of Colour (12k1074) presented a peaceful timelessness borne from a phrase on a jazz record split into three stems disguised as something entirely different.  The resulting single movement instrumental work was grounded in a calming earthiness.

Sinfonietta is similar in form, although in contrast it’s loosely held to the bounds of sonic gravity.  From the opening, the music phrases materialize definitively then ease in gently to create a feeling of gazing over what could be a familiar realm below with the observer being gently suspended and the vision staying just beyond reach.  Recurrent themes occupy a somewhat narrower range of sound and emotion compared to TECOC, yet there are no detectable patterns and the entire work is elegantly devoid of monotony.  Periodically, slower flowing waves materialize and vanish gracefully, like evaporating clouds, a languid aurora or another vision from the imagination.

Even with a seemingly minimal palette, Marsen Jules (the nom de plume of Martin Juhls) cleverly interlaces and produces three dimensional visualizations in sound.  Listening to Sinfonietta, I feel as if I am serenely traveling in space, perhaps orbiting the Earth (or another as yet undiscovered planet) and marveling at the sights from my comfortable observation craft where I am quite content to remain.

Happy traveling.

 

This is a solicited review.


My Favorites of 2014

2014 has been a year when I’ve been relatively quiet on reviews, but I have been listening to many things, and I was very fortunate to attend some fabulous concerts that I’ve documented here with brief write-ups and photos (no photos of King Crimson!).  I’ve also been focused on other things, including making noise with some guitars.  As in the past, my listening is concentrated on what’s available to me, which is relatively narrow in scope, but I do listen to a pretty wide array of music.

This is my list of 14 favorites for 2014 (in no particular order) and then a few special categories.  Each title on the list links to the artist or record label website.  Happy Listening and I hope you all have a nice Holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.  Thank you for reading in 2014!

Albums

Sturgill

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

 

n'monix cover

Nick Magnus – n’monix

Northlands

Tony Patterson & Brendan Eyre – Northwinds

Should WM 38

Should – The Great Pretend

Kosloff

Hallock Hill – Kosloff Mansion (My review was somewhat unconventional in interpretation–a really nice album).

Gareth Dickson

Gareth Dickson – Invisible String (a compilation of recent live recordings)

HGM

Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers

SH Royal Albert

Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited: Live at the Royal Albert Hall 2CD/DVD (a fabulous live album & DVD with excellent sound quality!)

12k2031

Stephen Vitiello + Taylor Deupree – Captiva (double 10” LP)

MSMW

Medeski Scofield Martin Wood – Juice

Ben Watt

Ben Watt – Hendra

Beck

Beck – Morning Phase

Levin Bros

Levin Brothers – Levin Brothers (It’s only taken decades, but the Levin brothers got together and made a really marvelous jazz album)

Rosanne-Cash-The-River-The-Thread-300x300

Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread

Soundtrack

Blizzard

Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd – White Bird in a Blizzard

Boxed Sets

ANTHONY PHILLIPS

Anthony Phillips – Harvest of the Heart (Anthology Boxed Set): Unlike the recent R-kive Genesis box set, Cherry Red knows how to put together a proper anthology, complete with many tracks of never-before heard music from AP’s archives.

Songs Ohia

Jason Molina – Songs: Ohia – Journey On (7” 45 RPM Compilation Box Set, a really beautiful set, probably rarer than hen’s teeth by now.)

KC Elements

King Crimson – The Elements (Tour Box, archive, live and some new material as a companion to the 2014 US Tour)

Reissues (Vinyl)

ERP

East River Pipe – The Gasoline Age (vinyl reissue, my introduction to the brilliant songs of F. M. Cornog when it was first released on CD in the early 1990s)

Lambcop XX

Lambchop – Live at XX Merge (I’m so happy that Merge Records decided to release this in honor of their 25th Anniversary.  Looks like the LP is out of print for the moment.)

EPs

William Tyler Lost Colony

William Tyler – Lost Colony

Olan Mill Half Seas Over

Olan Mill – Half Seas Over (Live performances 2012-2014)…too short for an album, too long for an EP, but what the heck!

An Accidental Concert Photo

SH


Steve Hackett – Ridgefield Playhouse – 13 Nov 2014

A great show last night by the Steve Hackett Band at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, Connecticut for the Genesis Extended fall 2014 tour of the USA and Canada.  More information on the tour is here: http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html

This will be the last tour with exclusively Genesis material in North America, with a South American tour scheduled for early 2015.  Hackett will have a new solo album in early of 2015 with a planned late summer/autumn tour likely in 2015–stay tuned!  The Band: Steve Hackett (guitars), Roger King (keyboards), Gary O’Toole (drums), Nick Beggs (bass, Chapman Stick and guitars), Rob Townsend (woodwinds, keyboards and percussion) and Nad Sylvan (vocals and percussion).

Set List: Dance On A Volcano, Squonk, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, Fly On A Windshield, Broadway Melody Of 1974, The Return Of The Giant Hogweed, The Fountain Of Salmacis, The Musical Box, I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), Horizons (acoustic, preceded by an excerpt from Bay Of Kings), Firth Of Fifth, Lilywhite Lilith, The Knife, Supper’s Ready  Encore: Watcher Of The Skies, Los Endos (including an excerpt of Slogans)

Hackett 111314 020

From Broadway Melody of 1974.Hackett 111314 024

From Broadway Melody of 1974.Hackett 111314 025

Hackett 111314 028

Hackett 111314 031

Hackett 111314 042

Acoustic section with excerpts of Steve Hackett’s acoustic solo material, plus Horizons from the album Foxtrot.Hackett 111314 044

Hackett 111314 045

The opening section of Supper’s Ready.Hackett 111314 047

From the opening section of Supper’s Ready.Hackett 111314 019

More about the color and the mood, rather than getting a perfect focus.Hackett 111314 059

Encore with Watcher of the Skies with Roger King on Mellotron and Nad Sylvan as the Watcher.


Allan Holdsworth Trio – Iron Horse Music Hall – Sept 17, 2014

Information on the Allan Holdsworth Trio Tour: http://www.therealallanholdsworth.com/allanlive.htm

Holdsworth 091714 003

What a treat to see Allan Holdsworth, Gary Husband and Jimmy Haslip last night at the Iron Horse Music Hall (I used to know it as the Iron Horse Cafe) in Northampton, MA.  The lighting could’ve been better (so the photos aren’t great), but the food was pretty darned good (as was the company and others in the crowd).  This was the first gig of the trio and there were some kinks with equipment (and some timing), but all three were in fine form and probably the most energetic I’ve ever seen Allan Holdsworth on stage during his solos especially.  The trio worked well together and all took solos throughout the nearly 90 minute set.  Jimmy Haslip scatted along with a couple of his solos and Gary Husband was explosive at times–really a treat to watch him play again (it’s been a long time!).  Great humor and chemistry between the band and the crowd.  The opening trio (Beledo and Friends) was a nice complement to the music of the night and members are from Uruguay, Ireland…and BROOKLYN!!).  Gary Husband spent a great deal of time hiding behind the ride cymbal from where we were sitting, but he was pretty much a blur all night anyway!

I recognized most of the set from albums like  The Sixteen Men of Tain, IOU, Sand, All Night Wrong and it’s always a treat to hear Zone, Water on the Brain, Lanyard Loop, Fred and one of my (more ambient) favorites Above & Below.  In the middle of the set there was a piece that I didn’t recognize and it was rather free form with three equal solos.

Thanks for a great night, and by all means–get tickets to see this trio!

Holdsworth 1Holdsworth 2Holdsworth 3Holdsworth 5Holdsworth 9Holdsworth 6Holdsworth 091714 009Holdsworth 091714 011Holdsworth 091714 013Holdsworth 10


Zammuto – Anchor

trr227-233x233  trr227_deluxe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temporary Residence TRR 227 LP (CD and D/L) Time: About 39 Minutes for 11 LP Tracks

Artist: http://www.zammutosound.com/ Label: http://temporaryresidence.com/

1) Good Graces 2) Great Equator 3) Hegemony 4) Henry Lee (Trad) 5) Need Some Sun 6) Don’t Be A Tool 7) Electricant 8) IO 9) Stop Counting 10) Sinker 11) Your Time 12) Codebreaker* Bonus on Deluxe LP download with silkscreened cover

zammuto-studio-real-1Many scientists have labs and equipment, and there are parallels between science and the creation of music.  Discovery and creativity take hard work, inspiration and many tools—some of the work is also drudgery and can take a long time to complete.  Some experiments succeed and some don’t, but research presses on.

Nick Zammuto’s lab is in Vermont and while Zammuto’s current work is more accessible and song-oriented than work of his previous collaboration with Paul de Jong (The Books), Nick and his bandmates are still looking for music and inspiration in unexpected places (sometimes in quirky infomercial videos, physical inventions, admonitions from a parent and odd audio samples).  Sounds are discovered, altered, created and spun into a fabric of song, and more often than not the results are downright fun.

It took about a year from the very successful IndieGoGo campaign to the release of Anchor, but along the way Nick Zammuto kept backers well informed on progress and entrusted early previews of the final tracks, along with the background for inspiration and in-depth technical information on how many of the sounds were developed.  The resulting album varies from calming drones to chest pounding beats along with idiosyncratic melodic turns and spirited lyrics.  Many of the tracks are based around odd rhythms, some created with scratches deliberately made on LPs at planned intervals.

scratchAlthough I’m not always an advocate of loud music, I think this album better with the volume knob UP—it’s often an absolute romp.  Most of the music is also well suited to their live shows, where Nick Zammuto and his bandmates know how to have a good time, often with accompanying videos.  I can attest it’s also a great album for driving (at safe lower volumes!).  In general, I find this album to be more reserved (almost cautious, at times) compared than their first.

After Good Graces eases-in, the more dynamic tracks like Great Equator, Hegemony, Need Some Sun, Electricant and the aggressively percussive IO give the album its verve.  Anchor also has its quieter and more drone oriented moments, and can be quite introspective at times, as in Henry Lee, Stop Counting, Your Time and the acoustic percussion and guitar swells of Sinker.  The bonus track Codebreaker is a syncopated keyboard, guitar arpeggio and electronic percussion pattern study.

I think my only criticism of Anchor is that Zammuto might consider exploring some longer form works.  Peculiar and energetic always work for me.

TRR227_ColoredVinyl_WEB

The limited edition deluxe LP with silkscreen print cover

 

Photos are courtesy of Zammuto’s website, but I participated in the campaign and got myself a deluxe LP.


Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers

HGM Lateness of Dancers

Merge Records MRG 523 LP CD FLAC and MP3 Time: About 43 minutes

1) Lucia 2) Saturday’s Song 3) Mahogany Dread 4) Day O Day (A Love So Free) 5) Lateness of Dancers 6) I’m A Raven (Shake Children) 7) Black Dog Wind (Rose of Roses) 8) Southern Grammar 9) Chapter & Verse (Ione’s Song) 10) Drum

Artist Information http://www.mergerecords.com/hiss-golden-messenger Samples: http://www.mergerecords.com/songmgr/radio.php?album=60195&song=61865

Saturday’s Song:

I got to know Hiss Golden Messenger’s (M. C. Taylor) music after perusing the online catalog of Tompkins Square, where I had purchased William Tyler’s solo album Behold The Spirit (prior to his Merge Records release Impossible Truth).  I ordered the HGM album Poor Moon, and that was all it took for me to go off hunting for more, which led me to his 2013 album Haw (on Paradise of Bachelors) and ultimately to his first complete album Bad Debt, recorded in his kitchen shortly after the birth of his son in 2009.  There are overtones of concern in that album, since it was created as the global economic crisis was hitting financial markets and was having tangible effects on people.  It took Bad Debt a long time to see the light of day due to a warehouse fire during the London riots a few years back—most of the original CDs were lost.  Amanda Petrusich has a brief essay about Taylor at the Merge Records link above, and it will give further insight on the roots of his music and her impressions.

Lateness of Dancers is quieter and a bit slower in pace compared to Haw and the recording is more intimate, even introspective with some of the qualities of Bad Debt.  It includes some musicians from the previous albums along with primary collaborator Scott Hirsch (most often on electric and bass guitars) and William Tyler.  Taylor’s songs appear to be largely personal self-reflections, laments on vulnerability, restrained joy, explorations of faith and optimism.  This album sounds to me like it’s rooted in the early to mid-1970s in sound.

Taylor’s voice is at times like a melodic version of Bob Dylan as on Lucia, which has a gentle sway to it (as do other songs on the album).  I immediately felt like I was back in the early 1970s during Saturday’s Song (a time when I listened to albums for hours on end).  Saturday has a Jackson Browne Doctor My Eyes vibe to it and is instantly familiar and comfortable.  The spirit of Mick Fleetwood was present for the back beat of Mahogany Dread along with an early incarnation of Fleetwood Mac (for those of us old enough to remember!).  No doubt, Taylor’s son’s voice opens Day O Day (A Love So Free) with his self-assured proclamation (present in younger children) of the song’s title.  It’s quiet and contemplative and the subtitle gradually becomes an incantation of joy.  Lateness of Dancers is one of the more serious sounding tracks on the album, the other being Chapter & Verse (Ione’s Song), which is revealing and very contemplative.  I’m a Raven (Shake Children) growls with a heavy beat and is a contrast to the slow-dance quality of Black Dog Wind (Rose of Roses)Southern Grammar channels a gentler (yet still funky) version of Lowell George and Little Feat of the Dixie Chicken era (oh, how I miss Lowell George).

The album ends with a lightly orchestrated version of Drum (that first appeared on Bad Debt) and it has the spirit of a recessional, and it sounds hopeful “I’ll rise in the morning, take the good news and carry it away…”  Lateness of Dancers is good news indeed, and it seems like Hiss Golden Messenger has landed at a good spot with Merge, where his work will hopefully get to a wider audience, and they will let M. C. Taylor continue unencumbered to do what he does best: write thoughtful and beautifully crafted songs.


Gareth Dickson – Invisible String

Gareth Dickson Invisible String

Sleeping Man Records SMR005 – CD Time: 70:16

Also available on vinyl from Unwork Inc. or cassette from Beacon Sound

http://www.garethdickson.co.uk/

1) This Is The Kiss 2) Once Upon* 3) Song, Woman & Wine 4) Agoa 5) Like A Clock 6) Jonah 7) Get Together 8) The Dance* 9) The Big Lie* 10) Fifth 11) Technology 12) Noon 13) Nunca Jamás 14) Harmonics 15) Two Trains 16) Climbing 17) Amber Sky*

* - Not previously available as a studio recording

These are live recordings from a 2012 tour in support of Dickson’s album Quite A Way Away (and includes songs from his Collected Recordings CD, resissued by 12k) with concerts in Reims, Istanbul, including an apartment lobby in Caen, France.  I reviewed Quite A Way Away in early 2012.

****

From the moment this album begins, it’s magic.

The deeply resonant chords, the natural reverberation, the open tunings and Gareth Dickson’s hushed voice all combine to create a captivating and magnetic sonorous atmosphere.  Whether it’s gentle incantations, trance inducing vocal meditations or arpeggios this album is exquisitely gentle, yet curiously riveting and at times hypnotic.

There isn’t much more that I can say except buy it, and see if you can find the source of the album’s title.

 


Harold Budd – Jane 12-21

HB Jane 12-21

CD: Darla DRL289 2014 Time: About 39 minutes

CD available at this link to Darla (To be released on September 9, 2014)

Tracks: Jane 12 through Jane 21 with track Jane 16 subtitled (For Pale Saints)

I took some time off from writing reviews; primarily to just take some time off, but also I have been awaiting preorders for a number of releases as well as getting more serious about making some music instead of just listening.  It’s a hard road training old fingers to do new things, but it’s about the journey for me, not just the destination.

What a treat it is to return to a new album by Harold Budd (and I understand that another collaboration with Robin Guthrie has been recorded and will be released in early 2015, the title will be Another Flower).  Jane 12-21 is another fine example of Harold Budd sitting at a piano (or other instrument) and just playing without rehearsal or embellishment, one take without revisiting and then moving on.  There are some apparent treatments and minimal overdubs.  It’s difficult for me to tell if the percussion is actual or keyboard-based sampling, but it does sound like actual percussion most of the time.

This album is simpler and less adventurous compared to Jane 1-11, and that’s not a criticism at all, just an observation.  The cover design is also rather stark by comparison, with one panel by artist Jane Maru and minimal information about the tracks, recording and times, adding a bit to the somewhat mysterious nature of the album.  Jane 1-11 was created in response to videos created by artist Jane Maru (which were later released as a companion CD/DVD: Budd Maru Collaboration ) so without the benefit of input from Harold Budd (so far), I wonder if Jane 12-21 was created as a response to further videos by Maru (see video for Jane 8 below).

The album contrasts between recordings that are intimate and those which are spatially broad, more distant (whether the distance and reverberation were achieved with actual spaces or electronically, I don’t know).  To briefly describe each of the tracks on the album: Jane 12 is a stark and up-close, yet resonant piano with brief references to Debussy’s Clair de LuneJane 13 also uses a piano with light melodic percussion.  After the first two tracks Budd moves to more experimental territory and Jane 14 consists of melodic percussion (bells, glasses) with reverb and has a very calming effect.  Distance, like a dream on the edge of consciousness is how Jane 15 sounds, with hushed piano and a spatial reverb.  Whether intentional or not, I do find some of the pieces referring back to other previous Jane 1-11 pieces.  Jane 16 does this for me—reminds me of Jane 8.  It’s placid keyboard chords with gentle piano accompaniment and minimal apparent treatments.  The piano is responding to the chord movement of the keyboard.

Air moving through pipes is how Jane 17 starts, it’s a strong sound with treated piano and minimal percussion, and a pronounced flow and movement.  Jane 18 bends and twists with a somewhat downcast sonorous keyboard.  The melodic references to the first Jane series return with Jane 19, again keyboard and resonant chimes.  It sounds a bit more reflective to me with shades of Budd’s earlier work.

Jane 20 has a breathy keyboard melody, somewhere between wind chimes and woodwinds along with a gamelan (at times sounding like vibraphone) and deep percussive overtones.  This track more than any other in the series evokes a scene from a film with a vast landscape of mystery.  Budd closes this collection with Jane 21, a modest and delicately resonant cross between piano and celeste and themes appearing in various other Jane tracks, making it part of the larger cohesive whole.

Harold Budd’s work takes me to a place where I like to be, and return there as often as I can.  I think you’ll want to add this album to your collection.


Miguel Isaza – Levedad

Isaza - Levedad

CDr éter-06 Time: 38:42  Edition of 70

Tracks: 1) Pneuma, 2) Infraleve, 3) Indeleble, 4) Transparencia, 5) Levedad, 6) Gravedad

Links: http://eterlab.bandcamp.com/album/levedadhttp://miguelisaza.com/

Label: http://eter-lab.net/en/eter06/http://eter-lab.net/en/https://soundcloud.com/eterlab

 

I listened to Levedad a few times and instead of immediately formulating thoughts about it, I moved on to some other activities allowing the impressions to coalesce in my subconscious.  A day later I listened again and found myself thinking about cosmology, and the mystery that we cannot see or explain approximately 95% of the mass and energy in our Universe—what has come to be known as: Dark Matter and Dark Energy.  It’s a conundrum of knowing that something is there out there, but not knowing what exactly it is.

Although I have no expertise in astrophysics, I have read some of Stephen Hawking’s and Carl Sagan’s works.  Why I had this macro-scale reaction to Levedad, I’m not sure.  By sharp contrast, there’s also a micro scale parallel as in the communications between (nerve) cells, the electrical impulses that pass via dendrites and synapses (which we KNOW to exist and have been observed in real-time using powerful laser and electron microscopy).  And what of the 5% of the Universe that we can describe, see and hear?

In this album I think I would equate the tangible 5% of the Universe to the micro-sounds that populate the sonic ether throughout the six pieces on this album…like the flash of a small meteor that almost fools the eye when it disappears as quickly as it appears, the electrical pulses of a distant quasar captured with a radio telescope or the intensive shimmering ribbons of an aurora borealis.  The vast remaining aura of sound is the indescribable and unknown.

****

Miguel Isaza studies sound and philosophy and conducts cross-disciplinary research on listening.  His work includes composing, exhibit installations, performance, visual art (including computer generated images) and research.  Isaza explores the relationship between creators, educators and students with workshops, talks and publications as well as creating, recording and producing music.  He works with museums, academic institutions and on web-based projects.  He co-founded the Éter label along with Alejandro Henao in Medellín, Colombia and also runs the Monofónicos, Invisible Valley and Sonic Terrain music labels.

****

Levelad is a series of micro-montages that are akin to the recent long exposure Hubble Deep Field images of a fraction of our visible night sky.  The longer the time of the exposure the greater the detail that is revealed and the further back in time one travels visually; like letting one’s eye adjust to the dark and eventually more stars appear in the dome of the sky.

In my brief e-mail correspondence with Isaza, I asked if there are any underlying concepts for the album, and he had a reply that was curiously similar to my impressions (after I had already listened to the album and formulated my opinions):

“The work has for me a sense of nothingness, inspired on thin, delicate and suspended activity of bodies…”

So my reaction to the album, I have concluded, is plausible in the broadest sense.  The album has varied textures and moments of contrast from crystalline (almost piercing) individual tones to broad and intense walls of sound.  There are some recurrent sounds and themes giving a sense of familiarity within the largely ethereal sound-scape.  It’s my opinion that the aura of two of the latter tracks (Transparencia and the title track Levedad) somewhat belie their titles, but that in no way diminishes the listening experience.  Perhaps they were titled with a somewhat Duchamp-esque irony.

Pneuma (roughly translates to a vital spirit or creative force) opens the album with a vibrant clarity.  It begins in relative silence and then merges into sonorous glassy environs, and moves briefly into cavernous and buzzing electric depths.  Infraleve gives the impression of being nearby an audio jet-stream with micro-sounds and other sonic activity dancing below and in front of the high and fast-moving heavens.  There is somberness in Indeleble, as if evoking a distant memory during a passage of time.  In contrast to the jet-stream of Infraleve there is a feeling of an almost brooding undercurrent.

 

As noted above, and despite the title, there is a broad three-dimensional frontal density to Transparencia.  It meanders a bit with the faintest sounds of distant voices.  For me, Levelad (lightness) is ever so slightly referential, sounding mildly like the Opening Titles and backgrounds to the soundtrack of the film Bladerunner where Deckard is reviewing surveillance photos, which is followed by the Blush Response segment.  Eventually a layered drone blends into the piece, but is delicately penetrated with avian sounds of an outdoor environment.  Gravedad is appropriately grounded and has familiar sounds of nature, perhaps marking a return from the exploration of the unknown.

Enjoy the flight.

Isaza - Levedad 2


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