Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ricardo Arias, Miguel Frasconi, Keiko Uenishi: Object

Another from Eh?(41) - this time a live recording by the trio of Ricardo Arias, Miguel Frasconi, Keiko Uenishi from the NY Sculpture Centre in 2004. Object presents the concert/work by the unusual trio: Ricardo on balloons, Frasconi glass objects and Uenishi computer. The photo (a similar one is on the cover) is from Frasconi's blog/site well weathered music and I have made it larger than usual so that you get an idea of the set-up.

The balloon kit allows for soft and hard rubbing on the balloons, which would appear to be close miked, squeaking and groaning, stretching, more gentle sensitive sounds and percussive soft thuds. In his glass kit Frasconi rubs glasses, jangles them, strikes like a bell, blow over openings to resonate, chiming; and the laptop slowly reveals itself, sometimes subtle hums and buzzes, undertones and through tones and possibly some processing but not sure.

The structure of the album is terrific and allows you to understand the different components. The concert was divided into trio/solo/duo/solo/trio/duo/solo/duo/trio - which means each player gets a solo which explains the individual sounds, the three possible duos get an outing and the three trios explore the full extent - the final one is an extended conclusion to the album. You can imagine what it might sound like, the reality is even more impressive.

And so throughout the 50 minutes we hear a range of sound combinations and moods - there are loud passages, more restrained sections, subtlety and roars. The prime mood is of delicacy, introspection and exploration, but with periods of excitement and denser movement. Overall beautifully balanced and fascinating.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

bullock, coleman, gross, roden: Untitled, or not yet

Untitled, or not yet is an album of improvisation recorded in 2003 and now made available on (1.8)sec.records. Michael Bullock plays contrabass, James Coleman Theremin, David Gross alto sax and Steve Roden voice, objects and eletronics. Some well known names, though Steve Roden is less familiar in this context - his forte has been solo works (often site related), a few done as duos, but not a quartet of improvisers before. Track titles have what for me are very Roden names, and have echoes of some of his other releases, starting with low drifting. beneath beams of wind. Here the sax opens with long blowing tones, the bass adds gentle thumps, a strange hiccupy voice and then Theremin hum woobling. The sax is the focus but the other elements join it in a parallel movement towards the slow fade in an equal exchange.

The words which occur to me most frequently while listening to this album were delicate fragile and edge. The music seems likely to fall apart at any time: Gross' sax is mostly hovering on the edge between a breath and a note, the Theremin adds its poignant tones and Roden clatters things but also sings with his strangely naive wordlessness. You can sense the fine line that the individuals and the group were walking, the edge, between chaos and striking music, between noise and sound, between delicacy and hollowness. They come close at times to losing it, but recover and keep the mesmeric tension aloft.

The pieces are indescribable as they shift between sections: but some observations, comments. The four players are equal - the bass is important for tones, scratching, notes and percussive effects - while the sax, voice and Theremin exchange leads but also have wonderful periods where they are in parallel. The things that Roden plays seem varied, clattering noises, blowing bottles, some electronica, possibly radio. At first the Theremin seems underused, but as you listen more closely its part is there as part of the balance. Gross uses all of the quieter sounds that can be garnered from the sax across the album tones, blowing and more stable, popping, simple notes.

Resonant planes. hums and blisters is the longest track and the most varied as the group moves through various moods, while the later tracks such as Steam engines. lilting dances are more concentrated on a mood or movement.

This is another album that I have lived with for a time - and each listen reveals depths and subtleties of this album. It took a long time to get released, and a while for me to review it, but it is a delicate master work and a pleasure to listen to. And it is always exciting to hear one of your favourite musicians in a different context.

And speaking of that favourite musician - Steve Roden is also a fabulous painter, sculptor and possibly filmmaker (I say possibly because I have only seen the stills of his films on his website)so a PS - have a look at his art works at the Vielmetter Gallery - some lovely examples of his latest works (I am jealous of those in
LA who can go and visit it!) There are even more on his web-site.