Wednesday, 25 February 2009



Jon Rose once titled one of his albums Violin Music For Restaurants, and now Mike Khoury (same instrument) and Piotr Michalowski (soprano sax, bass clarinet) revise and expand that concept, as a large chunk of this CD was recorded at Argiero’s Restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the typical background of such a place often emerging behind the playing: jangling of knives and forks, curious children and the meagre, almost distracted applause at the end of the performance. Yet these guys are not rendering a muzak version of “Just The Way You Are”.

As a matter of fact, the combination of timbres generated by the comrades is exquisite, although not all the pieces are immediately graspable. Neatness and serenity appear to be the main traits of this collection, those qualities also informed by a technically superior, if modest nobility. Khoury and Michalowski sound like men whose single dilemma is defining a kind of expression that even ordinary people can understand, despite the complexity of some of the intertwining lines. A commitment to near-perfection that leaves a lot of room for instantaneous creativity, the mix of ingredients generating a sort of advanced folk-ish idiom contaminated by a good measure of non-conformity under an apparently trouble-free façade.

A not-quite-consonant ode to relax, masterfully executed by artists who could act as condescending virtuosos but instead are content of sharing their vision with those who happen to be in front of them, either eating or listening – or both. An unassuming loveliness is what remains for us at home.

Monday, 23 February 2009

CORY ALLEN – The Fourth Way

Quiet Design

After reading the press release’s depiction of The Fourth Way as “a collection of rich minimal ambient works” I was surprised to be greeted by a couple of pretty aggressive tracks such as “Exedra” and “Telepathic Solve”, constructed on acridness and interference more than relief-inducing signals and calming timbres. The latter piece gives a good idea of Cory Allen’s ability in attributing inherent movement to a static soundscape: restrained embryonic chords are practically engulfed by a continuous flow of radiations until they manage to emerge in the mix as glittering remnants of infatuation for an indefinable object of desire.

The instruments privileged by the composer are a Fender Rhodes (clearly at the basis of “In Search Of Miracul” and the beautifully nostalgic “All Suns”) and a Moog Voyager, with the “assistance” of a Moog ring modulator in some instance. The scenarios generated by these machines are then subjected to a sprinkling of “various software environments and raw computer data”. This prevents the music from becoming too sugary, keeping it sufficiently distant from the routines typical of many operators in this field. Two short episodes named “Chordata Analysis” contribute to lower the overall level of consonance through inhospitably noisy settings and ominous purrs.

The final “We Have Lots Of Time” – a title expressing a feeling which is exactly opposite to the one this writer is perennially burdened from – is possibly the album’s best, evoking atmospheres reminiscent of Thomas Köner and Christopher McFall while showcasing Allen’s original concept quite satisfactorily. It’s a worthy conclusion for a fine outing, a record that grows with each listen and – at least in my case – was better enjoyed without headphones.

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Resonant Embers

Edition Sonoro

This compilation does not include a single line of explanation, nor it indicates a basic concept around which the artists involved have worked, and right now I'm not in the condition of surfing the web for clues. The names are known enough for the cognizant ones to keep the aerials up, though, and the record indeed delivers. Matt Waldron aka irr. app. (ext.) opens the show with a thunderous cross of ritualistic reminiscences constantly altered by buzzing accumulations and entrancing harmonics, a congregation of drunken whales attacked by amplified giant flies ending in sad decadence. John Grzinich - or jgrzinich if you will – places metallic tampering and inaccessible machinations in isolated faraway ambiences, a sonic frugality somehow exalted by the threatening reverberations of the environment where the event takes place. Ubeboet (Miguel Tolosa) daydreams of a better future, his painful harmonic superimpositions and poignant string fragments floating like sorrowful butterflies eliciting currents of deep spirituality and hopeless despair.

Colin Potter persuades us about the inevitable necessity of bells by extracting the essential juice of their metal and paralleling it with almost epic surges of willpower-annihilating chords, the whole thrown slightly off-centre by peculiar resonances that strengthen the muscle of the piece by rendering it more dissonant. Paul Bradley calls out a squad of guitar-elicited fireflies illuminating a cold evening with alluring pulsations and Fripp-ish brightness in what's probably the most easy-to-memorize track of the album (which, oddly, recalls Djam Karet's Suspension And Displacement), while Maile Colbert & Tellemake analyze the discoloration of vocal counterpoint and the androgynous essence of reappearance through a different routing of murmured discretion, sort of a re-embodiment of the evocative cycles heard in Akira Rabelais' Spellewawerynsherde. Finally, Andrew Liles' piano and electronics introduce a touching violin elegy which seems to represent an ode to the perpetuation of apprehension, yet it results as an angelic song.

Friday, 20 February 2009


Another Timbre

From his adventures with Cremaster to the recent collaborations with the likes of John Duncan, Alfredo Costa Monteiro has been analyzing the fundamental nature of harmonic resonance through methods that could appear as not really innovative on a negligent listen. What we need here is exactly the opposite, as the 32 minutes of Centre Of Mass clearly show that the core of a vibration is perceivable – make that “visible” - only to those who are impermeable to words but have the channels of responsiveness wide open.

The record is built upon separated episodes of different length, all generated by the simplest means: a cymbal and “resonant objects”. Beginning with straightforward quivering essences that we can barely define as “tones”, various gradations of harmonics are explored by extracting the grime and the acid to convert what superficially appears as a grim diversification of frictional harshness into something that must be investigated starting from the rear side of the skull which, at serious volume, is the first part of the body that gets aroused by these stimulating, if admirably controlled phenomena.

Those apparently jarring superimpositions gradually evolve until they become an aggregation of protective reminiscences, as we’re thrown back in a critical setting which is probably nearer to the preliminary phase of biologic life than to the painful qualities of dissonance. Although impressively resounding the frequencies never threaten to overwhelm, looking at the listener with a sort of severe benevolence. They eclipse fear and stupor at once, tracing a mental path to be followed without hesitation in order for the very nerves to undergo a beneficial effect, a sharing of the overall wavering in the energetic flux of existence.

When the music abruptly ends one is left pondering about buried meanings and trying to give an answer to a massive amount of doubts, yet the lingering sensation is that what’s just passed might have been a rare glimpse of afterlife under the outer shell of sonic waves that – while harmonious for the well-trained – are not going to absolve the ignorant.

DARREN TATE – A Strange Artifact


The weirdly familiar cross of open-mindedness and ingenuity typical of Darren Tate’s solo outings is shown once more in A Strange Artifact, a not-always-quiet adventure constructed with a few instruments, the customary circumstantial participations of extraneous noises that become fundamental as the composition goes on, and Tate’s visionary reliability. The humanity, honesty and Franciscan nobility of the sonic landscapes offered by this reclusive man from Acomb, Yorkshire have been a proverbial aid for this writer’s wish of forgetting pre-digested music, nowadays remorselessly thrown up upon my patience’s finest tablecloths. Contrariwise, such a kind of album tickles the will of coming back time and again to find us absorbed by moods that only a talented artisan like Mr. Tate is able to suggest.

The first half of the CD is branded by the almost autistic undulation of a harmonium (or is this the accordion that Darren’s late neighbour Kathleen Vance left to him?), its animation underlined by an incomprehensible background hiss, probably of mechanical derivation. Halfway through the program we acknowledge the entrance – and persistence - of a meowing slide guitar and the scattered appearances of barely traceable radio snippets mixed with remote urban disturbance, the whole assuming the semblance of an abstract picture emphasized by the stable presence of an earth loop’s hum and outlandish echoes, a sort of pictorial representation of the world as equalized from within a drain hole. The general sound is transformed in an environment of sparsely peek-a-boo-ing ghosts whose immateriality is on a par with the beautifully unclear shapes characterizing the artist’s cover artwork. As usual, this is a complete, if undersized package of unpolluted artistry.

Knowing that this type of people exists, attempting to render their operations manifest (although exclusively for the small number of lucky ones who receive a copy of these very limited editions), is a motivation that reinforces the resolve of still hoping in something good for the future of human race.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

BLACK TO COMM – Fractal Hair Geometry


For this CD, Marc Richter aka Black To Comm – who is also the label’s boss – utilized Casio and Farfisa organs, a huge amount of electronics and treatments and voice to concoct what the press release keeps describing as a “drone album”. The only way in which one can refer to that term is that all the pieces are harmonically immovable, based as they are on fixed “tonal” centres; yet there’s much more to find in Fractal Hair Geometry, an easy-to-digest outing realized via a systematic process of layering of semi-static tones, altered vocal emissions and – in “Leigh Bowery” – a 4/4 pseudo-disco beat.

As opposed to certain arrogant-sounding projects in which what shines is exclusively the composer’s sense of self, this record – which, let me be extremely clear, doesn’t belong on my hypothetical desert island anyway – is lively, funny and enjoyable. The tracks are crafted with genuine good intentions, a naïveté which renders them akin to the collections of toys of those children who don’t like going out to play with friends, preferring instead to remain secluded in their room building strange structures inhabited by teddy bears and rubber dogs. Millions of microscopic sonic events succeeding at breakneck speed while a (preferably detuned) organ symbolizes the termination of any pretence of compositional wizardry. This is music that exists merely for the duration of this selection, but in that time span it works quite alright - which is already a success.

Monday, 16 February 2009



Currently (and luckily) in a period of hyperactivity, Nate Wooley - the grey eminence of incompatible trumpeting - holds to his painstaking search for marketable lost causes in this, a disobedient trio with the gruesomely attractive cello-cum-electronics of Fred Lonberg-Holm and the humdrum-killing infection of bassist Jason Roebke. The comrades need no preamble to start stinging the ears in “Tacones Altos”, where the comparative oppositeness of registers becomes a pretext for cantankerous macerations of common sense, achieved by oscillating between the extremes of timbres with intolerant know-how. “Sans Aluminumius” (sic) is inaugurated by a fantastic series of raggedly dirty glissandos, then proceeds to mock the phobia of dissonance typical of formulaic improvisation by blowing the remnants of tone all around the place in a quest for sheer disreputableness, malevolent oxidation corroding the strings in an unprompted exhibition of low-budget anarchism.

“Southern Ends Of The Earth” is a meeting of Webern aficionados whose incorruptibility is tested by an undesired guest trying to sneak smoothly blown intimidations in the existing conversation; yet, at one point, the music sounds like psyched-out frogs commenting the insane practices of a Alfred Hitchcock-loving jazzbo. “Saint Mary” begins with micro-crickets and misbegotten parsimony, the squeaking qualities of the wood and the cunning behavior of the three exploiters at the basis of a surreptitious degeneration of instrumental configuration ending in friction-and-howl proficiency. The album is completed, in dilapidated glory, with “Anywhere, Anyplace At All”: drops of wretched electronics underlining an ungovernable sonic gossip, kind of a soundtrack for the attempted larceny in a depressing hole already visited a hundred times by other thieves. Nothing left to steal, those previous missives didn’t tell the truth, the song is over.


Glosses Fur Die Masses

Adam Thomas is a writer, musician and performer based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Pretext / Context his third release under the PLS moniker. The record comprises two performances broadcasted by Resonance FM from the Middlesbrough Institute Of Modern Art in March 2008. For this work, Thomas utilized four dictaphones reproducing an assortment of sources: spoken text, radio signals, granular noise, extemporaneous appearances, birdsongs, urban landscapes. The artist’s aim was to “recontextualise the original material into new improvised compositions”, in this case achieved but not without a degree of difficulty.

There are recurring elements in this piece – old-style jazz, for example – which attribute a desolate familiarity to an already dismal atmosphere where the low audio quality and the worrying sentiment of certain situations make us feel projected in a previous era, the mood, in general, perceived as somewhat dejected. Jagged distortions and disconcerting juxtapositions contribute to a displacement that grows as the time slips away: this is not your typical shatteringly regretful ode to a past that won’t return. It has more to do with a latent powerlessness, not including hints to particular aesthetic laws. The music is, in that sense, literally “concrete” and should be taken and appreciated (or less) as such.

Nearer to Ake Hodell than William Basinski, PLS doesn’t really elicit ecstatic sighs and veils of tears. At times disturbing, definitely inquisitive, this composition requires attention, rewards lurking behind the corner if one’s patient enough.

Monday, 9 February 2009



Erdem Helvacioglu is a young, budding Turkish musician who is very active in a variety of fields related with contemporary art (including films, multimedia, dance and theatre). His work has already been commissioned by important organizational entities and ensembles - two examples at the opposite sides being the 2006 World Soccer Championships and Bang On A Can All-Stars - and he has been joining forces with names comprising Mick Karn, Elliott Sharp and Saadet Türköz. In 2007, his Altered Realities on New Albion – despite receiving critical acclaim and good reviews – somehow hadn’t managed to sufficiently motivate me, but Wounded Breath is definitely a major step forward and an outstanding acousmatic record, period.

The five tracks, whose length ranges from nine to seventeen minutes, are properly conceived and better assembled, gifting us with several moments of astounding trepidation halfway through the indefiniteness of the majority of timbres and the vibrant dynamic multidimensionality that characterizes every single minute of the CD. The composer wisely chose not to exacerbate the spectacular aspect of the sonic events; as a matter of fact, this music frequently shows a deeply touching side, finely represented by the recurrent, almost motionless interruptions – mainly established on a basis of harmonic impenetrableness - that once in a while appear to deliver the pieces from any potential surplus of disaggregation. In that sense, “Lead Crystal Marbles” and “Blank Mirror” present preeminent attributes, alimenting a well-perceivable sensation of uneasiness with surprising changes of circumstances, all the while avoiding the implacable untidiness that often destroys good intentions in today’s electroacoustic melting pot. Not wanting to sound blasphemous, at times this listener was reminded of Roland Kayn’s evolutional climaxes, if only for a few seconds.

A remarkable album indeed, at least on a par with the best offered by labels such as Empreintes DIGITALes. If this is the path that Helvacioglu intends to pursue for the future, we’re all ears.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Alien 8

Recorded “in person and in real time” by the protagonists in a Portland studio in 2008, Unleash (nomen omen) is the first of two collaborations between Menche and Karkowski, here exclusively credited with “live electronics”. If you had pictured a sort of mega-rumble clash of noise gods, the Ali vs. Foreman of royal harshness, the outcome should be adequately gratifying for your (possibly damaged) ears to place this album among the most interesting releases of both artists, at least as far as intensity and viciousness are concerned.

The six consecutive movements leave no doubt indeed: apart from Menche’s pseudo tribal drumming appearing every once in a while and soon engulfed by a mass of rapacious stridencies, the overall feel is one of pretty conscientious craft in the assemblage of growingly harsh manifestations of barely controlled power. Surges and discharges are unequivocally unremitting, the hurtful quality of the distortion a veritable threat for ill-equipped cerebra, the systematic onslaught of medium-to-high frequencies absolutely relentless except for the last couple of minutes, as the piece reaches its natural demise.

At the end of this nuclear confrontation my head is literally buzzing, the mind asking if we’re still young and fresh enough to keep enduring this kind of aural cure. The delirious scribbler is renewing his subscription for another season in the belief that he’ll be healed, definitively delivered from the bags of idiocy that human words continuously try to dump in all those unfilled skulls.


Clean Feed

What transpires from Elm City Duets after repeated dutiful listens is an impression of mutual regard, a quality which should be at the basis of cognisant interplay in every juncture. All the more complicated is fulfilling such an ambition in a guitar/double bass duo, a situation that only on the odd occasion warrants really good results - especially in terms of dynamics. Morris manifests a fan-like mindset in the liner notes, where he recalls his first meetings with Phillips many years following his “melting” the B side of Archie Shepp’s New Thing At Newport.

The actual music in the CD doesn’t reveal any sort of excessive veneration, though, thus we can effortlessly appreciate the consideration given by the artists to the infinitesimal detail as opposed to prefabricated incidents. A sparkling chord occurs because it was meant to be there at that moment, yet no one knew in advance; a touching arcoed lament appears out of nowhere to project our own inner tremor in the area of unintentional thankfulness. In essence, we’re talking about a fairly untreated acoustic interface between two distinguished improvisers who give birth to frequent moments of superb artistic purity, either slightly encrusted by the strident features of the instruments or defined by an extremely efficient juxtaposition of smart clusters, percussive clattering, minimal patterns and strenuous contrapuntal digressions.

In times of abundant eruptions of psycho-babbling vacuum, here’s a rare chance for the appreciation of a rather complex, yet kind-hearted expression of zealous musicianship by creative entities who have turned their will to remain unadulterated in a world of dubious circumstances into a distinct trait of tightly established earnestness, the sort of skill where even a minor blemish becomes an attribute to approve and learn from.