Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Henceforth: Aguilar & Kihlstedt /Fujii

Two releases from Henceforth - a small label based in New York (ex of San Diego that joined the improvisation labels based there (I'm thinking Accretions and Circumvention)). Two new ones have arrived recently to add to the previous (Baggerboot and Sounds of Survival) reviewed recentlyish.
Gustavo Aguilar is a precussionist, composer, improvisor and demonstrates all these on Unsettled on an Old Sense of Place (103). Three tracks were performed by an ensemble that includes Aguilar (various instruments and live processing), a second live processor, voice and harp, viola and woodwinds. Xochicaloe uses a South American percussion as a solid base over which the harp and flute skitter, sometimes processed and looped, guitar descends and wordless voice create a dense complexity that eases out towards the end. In RoCaMaYoHa sliding dulcimer descedns into a wildness of percussion, shrill voice, honking that eases and rebuilds - Jeff Surak's Second Violin had a piece titled Hospital fugue of the mad nurse and that title would fit this. A martial percussion and electronics takes us out with swirling winds before more visceral high tones and extremeity and finally a period of agressive ambience (oxymoron anyone?) The final ensemble piece is Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (which is a group of cells, not nerve bundles as per the liner notes [don't get me started on them -
pretentious moi?]) - this emerges from rolls of thunder, fragments of vocal and woodwind peeps, building rhythm that then does battle with an electrical hiss which wins leading to another electro-ambient exploration - a nicely balanced piece. Between each of these are solos - the first a slow picked and percussive work on guitar that builds a flamenco rhythm and Dirac's theory on snare drum which uses a variety of techniques (including a coin dropped on it). The final track is Werndell's History - a poem by Wendell Berry put to simple but effective glockenspeil accompaniament, a touch that emphasises the scope of this album. An exciting album.

Minamo incorporates two performances by Carla Kihlstedt (violin) and Satoko Fujii (piano) in 2002 and 2005. The two artists, who apparently hadn't played together before the first or played again before the second, work seemlessly together riffing off each others ideas and providing space for development. There are touches of jazz, classical and almost rocking in the music, at times restrained before exploding outwards, swapping lead roles between the two instruments. The longest track from their first encounter - One hundred and sixty billion spray - starts with picking and plucking on both instruments as they then move into a dance in which the lead keeps swapping. In overview, the violin is sweeter and more playful while the piano more majestic, and while that perhaps simplifies it too much, the short Lychnis that concludes San Francisco demonstrates it. The second meeting was in Wels, and Larry Ochs feels it was less conducive, but still 'smoking' (in the liner notes - and better, simpler notes they are too) andI enjoyed it - as a single statement it has a structure that works very effectively and while the sound may not be as good, the music is exciting and delightful, with some sublime lyric passages. An excellent pairing of instruments and/or performers

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