Sunday, January 27, 2008


I always rather liked Big Audio Dynamite, especially the first album: later ones had good tracks on and were enjoyable overall, but I don't think Mick Jones quite regained that height.

However, the final BAD album didn't deserve the fate of being (apparently) refused to be released by the record label. And the band didn't think so either and so set up a web site to release it - and was one of the first 'virtual' albums in 1999. Old news, but I only just found it so people may be interested in getting it. It maintains the mood and methods of the earlier albums without being groundbreaking. And it is still available as a download here

Continuing the relationship with consumers, Jones' new project (carbon/silicon, with an exmember of sigue sigue sputnik!) has been making available early tapes and albums (unfortunately some of the earlier ones aren't available on the main site, but there is a fan site that resurrects them every now and then). Worth keeping an eye on

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Giraffe - Hear Here

Another from eh? (29): Giraffe is Joseph Jaros and Luke Polipnick who created Hear Here in real time. There is no indication of what they were playing with during the time that passed, but essentially is seems to be electronic things that make noises - probably computers, effects machines, radios, feedback. The recording then seems to have come directly to us.

7/18/07 approximately 8:30 pm is a short track that opens the album, with soft noises, electronic static, guitar loop and voices. This pressages a later track but there is a bit to come in between. Lucid twilight curmudgeon and Forever (1 and 2) are tracks of electronic noises - tones, scratching, electro-humms, scriggles, rumble burrs, processed voices (forever, for example, in the eponymous), squalls and squeels. I first listened at a loud volume to hear the parts, and found that a lot of it was harsh, disorganised noise, but with some more stable subtler parts. Another listening at a lower volume, where it was somewhat anonymous, and furtehr in the background, was more satisfying but it is still largely a melange created by a couple o' guys having fun

We then move into Static blanket transmission which takes the gentler and more consistent elements (particularly heard in the second half of Lucid twighlight) and pays them more heed, based around the radio, with squrls and squiggles, thrums and buzzes over it, but within a more consistent palette and subdued variation. Pauline is a shorter one based on soft rumbles and almost music tones (that echo around your skull) with some edgy sounds behind, before the long final track (over 17 minutes). 7/18/07 approximately 8:33 pm moves on from Static blanket and takes the subtle weaving and playing within a radio recording to an extended length to create a strong piece of restrained ambience: there are sounds in here that you do want to hear. These two tracks are like a journey through the night accompanied by a shortwave radio with its own mind.

The coherent, more restrained sections of this album are excellent: and they make up the bulk of it. The noisier, seemingly less considered tracks have their own attraction, but they set up a barrier to the (this) listener through their hyperactivity. There is enough here, however, to offer most ears some satisfying, interesting and confronting listening. Play loud to disorient and confuse yourself, or more quietly for a perhaps more rewarding experience.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ellen Burr - Duos

This is one of those disks that have sat waiting for my focus - sorry to Ellen and pfMentum for the delay. Anyway, Duos is Ellen Burr's first solo album (pfMentum 034) though she has played on a number of other albums - her instrument is the flute. And while the album title gives you a fair indication of its structure, the opening and closing pieces (comprising a quarter of the album) are solo tracks: Ball of yarn and Warp & weave. These are opportunities for her to demonstrate the range of her flutism, with blowy sections, some vocalisation, cycling, a soft almost processed sound to the middle of Ball of yarn and some percussion (hand tapping the table?). It is more relaxed while Warp & weave moves from held notes and mumbled chanting into disturbed and exciting playing - sliding between the two moods (as per the title), and includes some oral clicking and what sounds like plucking the keys of the flute. These could also be duos - I can't be sure but there may be some multitracking which would be Burr dueting with herself (but I have just received advice that there is no overdubbing - it is recorded live: emphasising the complexity that can be extracted from the instrument by a skilled flautist).

However, the other three quarters of the album is true duets. Burr wrote the pieces, or provided the graphic scores (some of which are included in the booklet). There are two works with Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon: Canon-cards-canon I and II where an almost classical weaving of the instruments in the first canon is broken by twisting, pulsing of the card section (the graphic score) before the final part which has long tones and a mournful sound. In the second one a big start, fluttering and smooth components alternate (the canon) then opens out into fast and slow passages. A forceful central section leads to a sweeter melodic final part that ends with breathing. The tones of the basson and flute complement each other nicely.

In Permutations '62 Burr's flute and Andrew Pesk's clarinet play lovely uncomplicated interlocking melodies, each instrument going on little frolics of their own, but with a wonderful classic simplicity. Similarly, Steuart Liebig on prepared bass offers strong collaboration on Senbazuru by initially supporting the flute with resonant deep tones and picked notes before the the piece picks up to a slightly Eastern sounding melody (which is hauntingly familiar) that is taken through variations, the track ending with it building in pace to a rapid climax.

At the centre of the album is a 16 minute track Four square with percussioinst Jeanette Kangas that uses a score based around sections, so that there is a variety through it in playing and styles that maintains a fluidity to the piece - the last quarter sees the flute keeing, soft percussion that flows to a gentle end.

The structure of the album provides its strength - rather than a full solo work, which could be daunting to all but the dedicated flutophile, the range has been extended through the pairings to give balance within the tracks and variety across the album (structural the album is well made too with a very pleasing symmetry). Full of quality performances this is not an album that seduces you immediately (hence the late review) but which offers complexity that unfolds and appeals as familiarity grows. A stimulating release.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Classical update

And now for something completely different - well not so different, as classical music has been mentioned here in relation to e-music pricing. Recent purchases include Beethoven and Shostakovitch symphonies and string quartets; Mozart, Schoenberg and Bartok string quartets, Wagner's ring cycle: all at nice prices from various sources. But anyway.

Just in passing I want to congratulate Naxos on commissioning ten new string quartets from Peter Maxwell Davies - it demonstrates a commitment to new music which is very refreshing. I have heard a couple (8 are out to date) and they are interesting. For those wanting to purchase good priced, DRM free classical from Naxos (who run it) and smaller labels a good site is Classicsonline.

But as you know I like free music and there has been a buzz about The naked violin - a fascinating new classical album from UK violinist Tasmin Little. It is a free download and comprises three very different solo violin pieces, with an introductory talk if you are interested. I am impressed that 'easy' works weren't selected - there is a nice Bach partita, but the other two tracks are modern. It was recorded on January 5 this year - fairly rapid turnaround (but only 35 minutes long). Follow the link from her home page or go straight to the download page

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jason Robinson: Fingerprint & David Borgo (+): Initial Conditions

From the San Diego Trumerflora gangmember Circumvention come two new recordings. Jason Robinson's Fingerprint (Circumvention no 50) is a smooth free flowing affair. He plays tenor sax and 4 of the tracks here are a quartet with Kamou Kenyatta piano, Rob Thorsen bass and Nathan Hubbard drums. In his liner notes Robinson describes the music almost perfectly - 'sinewy lines, twisting and turning' like fingerprints. This quartet is relaxed and enjoyable: the music flows easily from them, everyone getting solos, including some sublime piano (the opening to Serendipity, for example, which is lightly reprised at the end). Throughout Hubbard's drums provide finely measure support, and the four instruments are well mixed so that each is identifiable.

The group is slightly expanded for Forest cover - with anothre sax and a trombone - which adds an extra dimension, particularly in relation to the brass sharing lines and harmonies. The centrepiece of the album, in terms of difference however, is Silence becomes a roar which is for a ten-piece orchestra with conductor. This is a strong piece, developing from a pastoral opening section and moving through variations until not quite a roar that ends it.
Cirumvention 53 sees David Borgo (sax, flutes - his name is in larger font, and has had a few releases, mainly on Circumvention and reviewed in &etc) in a trio with Biggs (bass) and Moore (drums): Initial Conditions.

As with most Circumvention releases, this is a very enjoyable one that rides the trio format to create a smooth sound. On a couple of tracks (We do? , Carla's pause or Speaking of a different tradition) the sax gets a bit edgy or scratchy, but not in an excessively confronting way but mainly to add depth and colour. While the trio is democratic, they all get solos, the sax is the driving instrument, and Borgo creates very nice lines through the tracks. Biggs' bass is strong throughout, but a minor issue with the instrument is that the solos are quite quiet (which is unavoidable) but they change the dynamic - but do make you listen! The rhythms set by Moore are excellent and come to the fore in Hiphopcrisy which has a complex percussive pattern held throughout as well as the drumming. A couple of tracks break the mould: Illusions opens with 2 minutes of wistful flute with restrained rhythms section and Meditation #1: girl born on saturday is a beautiful flute solo over bowed bass and shimmering percussion (I could have handled more of this). And Are you? was recorded live, showing that the band can hold it together.

Without confronting or excesses both of these albums offer complex and engaging music that is ultimately satisfying and exciting.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Marina Hardy - Pink Violin

Pink Violin - another album from public eyesore's Eh? sublabel (number 32). Marina Hardy is a multi-instrumentalist from Omaha and while no album image is available, there are other examples of her artwork on her myspace-space (from whence the poster came). This album is extraordinary - it is hard to believe that the range and depth came from her playing solo and multitracking (except for voice on one track and piano on another). To give you some idea I am going to run through each track.

Mkay - swirling voice and synth, humming dream a little dream of me plus general voice sounds and tchings
Cowgypsy - combining accordion, banjo, strings and brass in a strange parallel universe of country and klezmer, hinting at Johnny comes marching home, in an inspired mash-up
- a heavy metal surf electric guitar solo

Apple sauce pudding
- a longer piece with ambient guitar, drums, washes, quite spacey, swirling violin and an echoed vocal loop, breathing and chanting

- short, soft distant percussive swishes

- layered and looped trumpet that builds gloriously, together with a futzy rhythm, before a long fade.

- mashed slide and spanish guitar with accordion and brass - all with a bright bouncing melody

Red teeth -
a simple lovely picked guitar and harp melody

YipYip -
bass, guitar, drums and strings in a cool instrumental

Yowsa -
another cool piece with country slide, brushes, string bass and organ

Ceisel -
a modernist violin solo

Nnow -
high tone and violin, percussion and horns break in, and it all collapses into a light loop

It ain't necessarily so -
violin and piano on this staple, with variations
Dollering - jazzy deep bass, piano, a yearning violin melody and drums.

This album is incoherent, but in a wonderful and extravagant way. There is no line that you can draw through it: only Yipyip and Yowsa demonstrate a flow, and that is hinted in the titles; and Funk could be the entree to Trummpet. But the variation and diversity are this album's strength and attraction. Apparently it took about 2 and a half years to complete this project, and it is beautifully and seamlessly constructed to fabulous effect. A great and stunning album.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Correcting Sir Paul

Far be it from me to disagree with Sir Paul McC....but. The other night we watched the documentary on the making of Love: both the music and the Cirque du Soleil performance. The parts with the two Martins talking about how the mashed the tracks was interesting. The performance stuff was disappointing - very literal interpretations of the lyrics and the documentary emphasised the dancing, running around bit of their shows which I have always found filler between the exciting acrobatics.

Anyway, Sir Paul was commenting about how their works could be taken from the old recordings and brightened up. His comparison was with the manuscript of Tolstoy which just sits in a museum aging and gathering dust. An unfair comparison me thinks. If we want a literary one, a better comparison would be: remastering is like putting on a bright new cover, improving the layout and font and republishing; the sort of remixing done here would be like getting a new translation done.

But a better comparison would be with the sort of conservation/restoration done in the arts: freshening up The Nightwatch or cleaning the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Glad to have got that of my chest!

Mystified - Thomas Park - Treetrunk

It's like a game of checkers - one position leads you to another. A while back I blogged about the netlabel Webbed Hands, particularly the Rain series. Three in the group particularly captivated me - by Mystified. Which led to a wider search across the web.

First of all there are some other Mystified (real name Thomas Park) releases on Webbed Hands, some solo and some collaborations. But there is also a pointer to his own label Treetrunk which is based in the wonderful Internet Archive (and which I had also obliquely visited while completing my K M Krebs collection). Mystified's home page has some, though limited, information on both himself and the label. (and there's the now obligatory MySpace page - I must be getting to old, but I don't get the social networking side - but it does give you a chance to listen).

Mystified's music is an interesting mix of ambient and techno styles. Following the minimal structure of his entries in the Rain series, releases such as Constant or Free Passage focus on subtle changes in the layering of ambient noises
(some dense, others more minimal). Seen also in Texture (with Stephen Phillips) and Intrigue (with Flores). To my mind this is one of Mystified's greatest strengths - some of the earlier releases, such as Electronic Ragtime are closer to the world ambient genre and are less 'unique'. Though are then used to great effect when combined with radio sounds and samples in Screams in Space

However, in addition, Mystified is also a phonographer and many of the releases are based around found and recorded sounds - Nocturne, Cavern of Tile, Mutescape (which mellows the sounds of the city) or South City Spring for example use these as the primary component, while Audio Paintings uses other components as well. These (and a compilation I included in the Webbed Hands review) are great examples of the power of phonography/sonography.

There is also more standard keyboard/tonal ambience such as Music for Infants and Clockwork. These pieces have an aleatoric feel that relates to Mystifieds aims to create fractal music: seen in Fabrication and a series called Fractal Diner (1 - 3 on Treetrunk; whose releases are primarily by Mystified) that feature slowly modulating delicate ambiences (there is also Fractal Reflections on Webbed Hands). Many of these reminded me (positively) of Brian Eno.

As an introduction two mixtapes are available - Oddities (a collection of pieces released across various labels and formats) and Big Shoulders (an homage to Chicago and composed over tracks created over an extended time)- which make a good starting point.

While most Treetrunk releases are by Mystified (in the normal way of weblabels) some others have also been released, including K M Krebs, Akashic Crow's Nest, Edward J Poley, Tim Doyle and the very flexible Tribe of Astronauts - all of whose interests seem to intersect with Mystified's.

This is all free music - varied but with a underlying strength and focus. I've enjoyed all the pieces I have downloaded - and now have all of Treetrunk (except number 7: one complaint is that there is no 'master list' of releases and an Internet Archive search hasn't brought it to light) and all the Mystifieds from Webbed Hands (including collaborations) - and find them very satisfying particularly for the deep minimal ambience that pervades many of them. (Mystified has also had many real releases, but I haven't heard any of those). Anyway, my advice is to try some Mystified: it's free and I am sure you will enjoy most if not all of it.

PS doing an internet archive search on Mystified I realise I have a lot more to collect - at least another 20! Expect an update eventually

Monday, January 7, 2008

When two become one - Iod

Among the net-labels in my 'watch' bookmark folder were two providing a very pleasant mix of ambient and gentle techno: StandardKlick and Eko: run out of the SRM label. These two have been closed (though all releases are still available on the new site) and replaced by a new one - Iod.

The first release is a minimal ambient/techno ep by
d'incise Eloge de l'usage et de la lenteur which fits with the general feel of the labels: softly erupting tones, some electro-futzes and an overall feeling of relaxed restraint.

I assume the label will continue with a similar roster, which has seen albums by Alexandre Navarro, Daniel Maze, Kenneth Kirschner, Letna, Marcos Romero among others whose names are perhaps even less familiar. ANyway, the new label and its precursors are worth looking into: and it is always nice to be around for the birth of a new one.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

origami - the art of folding musical chairs: T H Boe and others

The intricate world of the Origami Republika 'collective' is too complex to revisit here. A short version - a very fluid collection of musicians who release music under groupings/subunits with Origami in the name (for over 17 years), perhaps T H Boe is the most active 'agent' (each member has an A number - Boe is A22, Genesis P-Orridge is A188 etc). All product not only gets the label number but also a KomKol catalogue number - now well over 200. A fair bit of material is available freely - and there are also the Allied Forces of Light. Anyway - go to the home page for more and more details! Ampersand has touched on the Republika in the past, and now T H has sent three disks to taste.

They feature Boe and his acoustic laptop - which is pictured here. A briefcase with bells, wires, mikes and other pieces of arsenal for creating small close sounds. Reviewed in ascending order of both length and numbers. Baunoten by Origami Boe is released on Con-v as an MP3 (CONV,
cnv42). It is one of 6 support gigs that Boe did for Einstuzende Neubauten in 2004. The Con-v site has a link to his description of the creation - the base is a recording based on EN's webcasts, which gives a variable drone base, over which Boe improvises on his laptop. This provides tinkles, twangs, shimmers and assorted simple noises. The piece starts quietly and there is a sudden eruption of shouting, an exchange, then clapping and the audience quietens down - perhaps the EN crowd were expecting something different! The dronework was recorded in a room with open mikes so feedback hiss and rumbles build at various times. Boe has some running twang-play, shimmers, an earthslide of contact mike rubbing, banging and a simple toy-piano like melody that provides a highlight before ending to clapping. This is an interesting short work which may have benefited from more emphasis on the drones - which would have given a better balance.

As Origami Tacet Boe is joined by Michael F Duch on double bass, which adds live drone. E.xtrem t.on (ambolthue records MP3ambolt-9 there are a few Origami releases on this label) was recorded live in August 2007 and is a single track (but with 4 parts). It opens with a short plinking competition before sliding into more complex work, the bass offering slides, pulses (that seem looped), plucking and soft scraping while Boe pops, clicks, and percusses. The tracks can be identified as the structure changes - the pulsing loop is played with rapid percussions, a drone accompanies an earthquake of contact miking, a more abstract bass solo or the toy piano (or plucked tight strings in the box) with similar sounds from the bass. This is a very nicely paced album - well considered changes and combinations, with the two artists working off each other. The acoustic warmth of the bass is a great boon, balancing the shorter harsher acoustic laptop material.

Finally, the Origami All-stars Earwitness (tecnonucleo TN002) sees Boe joined by violin, synth and samples. There are 7 tracks recorded in the studio. Unlike many improv albums it starts with a very quiet, restrained piece which emphasises silence. This changes as the album develops - there are some noisy passages. On the whole the violin seems to add sounds other than bowed strings: there are a couple of places where there is some, through the drones could be synths; the synth is largely identified through feedback and assorted noise and to be honest I can't say what the samples were. Overall the album is surprisingly restrained - while it gets noisy and full at times, it is largely a lighter brew of drones, hisses, acoustic laptop work, feedback and so on. Some tracks are particularly attractive - buzzing, feedback, harmonium like tones in 3; the active battling tumble of 6; hollow taps and some sawing on 7; the warmth that occurs in 3 after the loudness has decreased. However, I was left feeling that the wholes was less than the sum of the parts - the balance of the instruments is too weighted to the high end, harsher noises, and the tonal varietywhich underpins the other two pieces is missed. And as the Beethoven quartets surround me as I write this, perhaps the emotional depth offered by the double bass is what makes that album more appealing - and the violin could have supplied it here.

(all these releases are available for free download - follow the linked text - so you can hear for yourselves)