Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eh? part 1 - DBH and Shelf Life

Eh? appeared in an earlier post with a release from Nagaoag in the Blog - 2 Days (oct 31). The label is another string in the Public Eyesore stable, and returns to the earlier days of PE with simple cd-rs (though with titles screenprinted on which is a blessing) of raw releases by a smaller close roster of associates, while PE moves to more permanent releases. 4 disks came my way, and I'll do two paired reviews.

(D)ynamic (B)rown (H)ips - "wave the old wave" (Eh?31) presents a few issues for the reviewer. Those annoying parentheses in the group name; all the quotation marks (around the album title and the track names); two pieces("all the money is gone"parts 1 and 2) are presented as 3 cd-tracks (see epiphany below); a lineup which is three people for one track and 7 for the other, and there are 5 people on the cover photo (which probably isn't them). Reviewers whinge over.

DBH is at core Rhody/Hubbard/Wright on trumpet, sax and percussion - and recorded the second part in the studio. Part 1 is a live recording which adds 4 more members on bass, percussion, violin/recorder and trombone.[Looking at the cover I suddenly realised the title track is the live piece and the 2 studio ones are the 2 parts of "all the money is gone"]. They present harsh aggressive improv. I sometimes draw diagrams of the music while I review it - crescendi, cycling etc - and the live title track was a square wave. Periods of almost silence, some gentle percussion or puttering suddenly changes to manic noise as the ensemble all make as much high pitched atonal noise as possible, pummeling away before dropping again. The trio is less based on extremes - the music (sound?) barrels along with few quiet spots or full-on assaults and more variety in terms of tempo and combinations (ie there are some slightly slower parts and a few solos etc), but it nevertheless has the impact that forcefully played trumpet/sax/percussion would have when the plan with the brass is not to look for sweet or mellow notes. The density of the music is accentuated by the recording to one-track tape. After playing this you are likely to answer 'eh?' to any questions as it demands loud volume and your ears may very well be bleeding. Played at the right time to the right people this works, but it is definitely not background music!

A couple of days earlier (29/10) I also reviewed Shelf life's PE release Ductwork - and now they have a new one on Eh? - Rheuma (27) - still a four piece on a range of instruments but AndrewP replaces j.schleidt. The album continues with the ambient improv of Ductwork (and quite a different experience to that of DBH). Playing electronics, keyboards, stringed instruments and probably some processing the 4 build dense ambient spacey soundworks. A dense electronic bed underpins each track over which other sound skitter and pass - it may be some plucked short guitar strings, scrapes, actual guitar solos, and unidentified buzzes and squeals. The mix is somewhat murky, but that adds to the democracy of the sounds, and as with the earlier album the tracks have different feels or moods - the second is more whooshy, the third has squeaky warbles (track titles are 13 or 14 letter codes). In most of the tracks a radio is tuned into the mix, crackling distorted voices adding another mysterious layer. It was probably the guitar in the 4th track, but I was reminded of Fripp&Eno, the density of the ambience also perhaps. In my view ambient music needn't be easy-listening but can, like this album, provide dark edgy soundscapes that can be listened to, absorbing the details, or be allowed to create a distracting backdrop, as they slowly develop and change or throw up nuances. I like what these guys are doing with their instruments and their direction - as Rheuma means flow, just go with it and let the music take you. A fine companion to Ductwork

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