Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2 Days - Bryan Day

Bryan Day/Alex Boardman: One to Seven (public eyesore84). A combination of guitars (from both) and Day on taisho-goto and radio (these two are half of Shelf Life reviewed earlier). This a relaxed and satisfying improv album. The guitars are dominant, being played, strummed, picked, melodic - almost bluegrass, but that feeling is probably reffecting the 'guitar' sound. Some of the strings are loose and woobly: almost like manipulated tapes, adding a variation in sound. There are shorter atmospheric opening and closing parts. The second track is the longest, at about 13 minutes, with some extended tones underneath at times, skittery runs, loose playing and absorbing spaces, drawing you in. Three is a fuller piece, more connected as the strings interweave. The tones in the second return as big humming in Four - probably the radio, I decided now - in a piece that is rapid and playful. Five starts a little harsher before an interchange between melodic runs and strumming. Darker feedback in Six introduces the most scrapey 'difficult' piece before the aforementioned melodic short final section. This is a very nice release - the two players working nicely off each other, combining the tighter and looser string components.

There is a
youtube taishogoto ensemble video for those who, like most of us, don't know what it is

Nagaoag is Bryan Day and Luke Polipsick and Yama Labam A is a release on Eh? (28), a Public Eyesore off shoot. The two play guitar and drums respectively, and the music on this is an avalanche of percussive energetics across the whole armoury of drums cymbals and other banging pieces and complex guitars (electric and acoustic) that all at the same level in the mix: you can either focus on the clattering fast-forward momentum or the intricate and at time surprisingly melodic guitar: or even let them both wash over you. But then there is the third element - vocals by one of the two which swings between Waits-ian growls, Japanese noise squeels, high singing. Generally not-English (my guess is created noises [yaps, squeeks, expostulations, Dada poetry] but possibly other languages) it occasionally emerges with words and phrases. On the whole it works well, it is equal in the mix with the other components. The level of activity changes, but there is always a strange swampy feeling to this, probably from the Dr John vocal-phrasing and sound which seems to pervade it (alabamy could be somewhere in the title). More unsettling than Day/Boardman this would have benefited from perhaps a little more variation (the last track is more relaxed) as it becomes harder to take over the full 50 minutes - but is enjoyable in smaller doses.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Shelf Life and Fernandes/Horist

The cynic says that you start a record label to publish yourself – and that is often a stimulus to small labels. But usually they grow beyond that, and here are two label bosses whose labels have never really been about themselves – but about their music community

Shelf Life – Bryan Day, Alex Boardman, Joseph Jaros and Jay Schleidt from various States and different groups – started in 2003 (by the first two) and has gradually developed over the years. The instruments include guitars, stringed things, percussion, electronics, reeds, Theremin, sampler, contact mikes etc. In 2006 they spent 2 days a week improvising in Bryan’s Omaha apartment studio to produce 80 hours of material – edited down to 80 minutes for Ductworks (public eyesore pecd107). This is, therefore, quite an unusual improv album. They usually seem to be recorded in a day and we get ebbs and flows, crescendos and noise. The selection of the 13 tracks (titled with some anagrams of ductworks) seems to focus on stasis and mood. The selections are 2-8 minutes long and combine the same range of sounds (scrapes feedback percussion electronics somevoices bowing picking clatter twinkling mellotron-tones) so that without concentrating you don’t notice one piece changing to the next. However they do have different flavours or moods with different elements highlighted or collected. It is therefore some of the more ambient improv I have heard, with a steady subtlety that makes it quite distinct. I found myself warming to this more and more as I replayed it and I am sure it will be a favourite. A fine work. (a strange indicator of the smallness of the world – this comes in a card sleeve printed in the Ukraine)

And from Accretions, Jerks and Creeps by Marcos Fernandes (phonography, electronics) and Bill Horist (guitar, electronics) (, ALP046) which is primarily two tracks from concerts in Japan. In Kobe which supplies three fifths of the album, they were joined by Haco on electronics and voice, while in Osaka Masafumi Ezaki (trumpet), Bunsho Nishikawa (electronics) and Tim Olive (bass) helped out. The two concerts are spacious explorations of the possibilities of the instruments: they only occasionally slip into recognisability. Fernandes had left behind his percussion and provides textures and depths to those emerging from the guitar. My notes read like an abstract poem which follow the music, words scattered over the page – mysterious, ambient, processed occur throughout. The guitar is percussive, tonal, sliding frippish, arpeggios. The density is in flux, at times dropping almost to single sounds at others a nightmarish display, and then again some ambience, but always absorbing. Haco’s most obvious addition is strangled vocals at times throughout Kobe. The phonography is sometimes obvious – the Middle Eastern horn and drums late in Kobe 1 or a tannoy – but it is not always apparent. In Osaka the sound is fuller (not surprisingly) but again swinging between density and more spacious sections. The part played by the members of the ensemble is harder to extract – some possibly blowy trumpet sounds, string scrapes could be either bass or guitar. And electronics is electronics! I am not sure the 2 minute Kobe coda adds anything to what is two strong pieces, but it doesn’t diminish them either. More in-ya-face than Shelf Life, but not too aggressively harsh though its intensity is satisfying.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A new Roden

Another release spot in my sights is 12ks online sublabel Term (

Till my visit today there had been 15 releases, but two new ones have appeared. Off The Sky with four tracks of guitar ambience. And Term 17 - a 'lost' 30 minute live recording by Steve Roden from Berlin in 2004 (entitled Amnesia, because he seems to have forgotten it). Some loops come from the same source as the 5hour Soundwalk recording, but it is a different and additional piece in the Roden ouevre - very welcome.

a few web labels

I have admitted to liking free music, am an awful addict completist and now have a massive download (compared to the past). One of my favourite web-labels is still going strong - No Type ( and is now well over 100 releases, plus more in the Sine Fiction and Annexe sub-labels. One thing I like about it is the variety - you can go to the No Type playlist, wack it on random and lust about relax. I say just about, as there is a little bit of Noise though there!

My recent wanderings have identified a number of labels (in a label watch folder and I open them all every now and then). Here are a few which may interest

Test Tube: most active label I have come across - now up to 96 with
upcomings already. I downloaded the lot, but you can buy a DVD or CDs of past releases. The sounds are varied - ambient, techno, some jazz, all with very nice covers (for those with cover flow). There is a mix-tape which could give you some idea as to what it's like. I will admit I haven't listened to all 2.2 days, but have enjoyed whats gone through.

And speaking of mix tapes, the Collective Commons has led to a fair few going on. My favourite is
thirteen songs ( which ranges across the web to create
themed and wide ranging compositions. Again, a good way to test some labels and artists.
Another label which is growing at a fair pace is
Alg-a ( - also broad ranged with 36 very different productions, and 4 mixes which extend beyond the label itself.
A final one to mention tonight.
Vitalis Popoff has put together a small but intriguing selection in Telescope ( which is a Polish electronica, IDM, ambient label. Two large compilations give an interesting perspective on the label.

Just some thoughts - I might expand on my 'label watch' list later - the Russians and more.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

iTunes pricing and international bargains

An odd first post - but one thing I have been doing in notes is pointing people at labels and music sources that have caught my eye. Having recently got fast broadband and a big download limit I have been collecting. The itunes store had been something I didn't really look at as the difference in price between the electronic and real albums didn't interest me.

But poking around I found some bargains - prices in australian dollars - such as

Penguin Cafe Orchestra - History - 4cds for $17
Clash - On Broadway - 3 cds $17
Philip Glass - 2 Pages - $5
and the real corker
Steve Reich - 1965 to 1995 - 10 cds $17

I was going to let people know - but decided to have a look at some international stores -and found that the Reich is still US$99 for example. I'm not going to complain, as I like a bargain, but it's a funny old world!

Ampersand on-line

Hello. Some years ago I started reviewing music for Vivisect, a Melbourne electronic/dark ambient zine. The pleasure of getting free music made me offer myself to Jasper when he started Ambience (a proper magazine) and the music kept rolling in.

When Ambience turned into a newsletter and then unfortunately passed on, I had reviews left and decided to keep going by posting on news groups and building an address base.

Ampersand Etc has lived for some years as an email newsletter, riding the waves of changing computer systems, reviewer burnout, work commitments. The last couple of years it has been random notes sent out - and I am not sure if people are getting them (I do get a few responses).

The whole exciting history - ie the back issues of the e-zine - are available at

Until recently I had been avoiding Blogs like the plague - but then came across Steve Roden's ripper one (airform archives) and some he points to, Tom Phillips' view into an artists world and more, I decided that the fragmented history of &etc may fit here. I still get occasional stuff to review, find things that I like on the net, etc - so this was born.

Thanks to all who may have read me in the past, welcome to anyone who may read this. And let me know if you want music reviewed.