Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 - a review

Hi - something of a traditional last post of the year - not a best of but a few things I have come across and been up to.

First, much of my recent listening has been to podcasts, and I have found a few, available via iTunes, which have filled my time or look like they will in the future
Guardian music weekly - a half hour or so of banter, a couple of interviews, a lost pleasures section (to be named) and a singles review. The music comes in snatches (a minute or so of the 3 reviewed singles, a minimontage of other releases, bits in the interviews) but it is a very enjoyable show.
WNYC soundcheck - about an hour a day of comment, live performances and interviews. A very wide remit from classical through hiphop to latin. Not always right up my alley, but nicely varied to give some good listening.
NPR All songs considered - like an expanded Soundcheck: mainly because it has an hour a week to go into depth. Have only recently found it, but their The Beatles 40th anniversary special was stronger than Soundchecks, for example, and they devoted 2 hours to 1000 recordings to hear... They also feature extensive music samples.
NPR Live concerts: now this is a find, concerts by Bjork, Nick Lowe, Radiohead, Bon Iver, Tom Waits, Fleet Foxes and many many more. Excellent.

I've been listening to a lot of classical music lately, partly due to the generosity of Bigpond here in Australia. It now has DRM-free MP3s and a generous pricing of classical multidisk sets: they charge standard album prices irrespective of the number of disks. Which can be a minor problem as, mentioned before, they don't include the disk number in their ID3 tags. Some recent pleasures are Bernstein's The Americans set (all 20th century), some Hindemith and a full set of Shostakovich symphonies. At the moment they have a 50% discount on gift vouchers, which means a set costs $8aus. I am looking forward to a voucher for Xmas and have planned to download the full symphonies of Nielsen and Miaskovsky, more Hindemith, some Lutoslawski, complete Dvorak quartets and maybe even some single albums!

Helping me decide is another present - Alex Ross's The rest is noise - an award winning survey of 2oth century classical music.

Anyway, have a great break and the blog will be back reviewing in the new year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Croatan ensemble - Without

The final disk in this trilogy of Eh? releases is number 44 - Croatan Ensemble's Without. They are bill k and jason p on strings, laptop, electronics, mics, pedals, synths, pipe instruments and generators.This is another longer album (60+) compiled from various improvised sessions. The album is tripartite, and the structure reflects the music.

The world ending in a festival of light and Concentration camps open the disk. These are dense combinations of tones, loops, hissing, buzzing with hidden components that reminded me to some extent of Fripp&Eno in structure and the guitar in Concentration. The World is full bodied, assaultive and slowly changing, while Concentration moves through more changes, pulsing and shimmering guitar dropping to long tones before rebuilding. At this stage I was also reminded of Eno's comments about improvisation also being about knowing when not to play.
But then came the three parts of The ideology of control. Here there is a sparser production with more control of elements moving in and out. Domestication has a bit of a beat, pulsing, encroaching deep tones with some accentuations but more minimal, distant metal tones somewhat edgy. It flows straight into Normalisation with rhythmic tapping, scrapes, gentle guitar and an overall brooding mood. Slides into Surveillance, a slow burning buzzy building dark ambient finale.
Defacement ends the album, another shift, again more minimal - opening with insistent pulses, voices enter, building to a density similar to the opening tracks, and ending with a siren.
Over the length of the whole album there is a good balance between the dense static ambience and the more subtler varied material - which makes the full listening experience an exciting journey. I think that this has been a good year for Eh? as they develop a diverse and diverting roster: satisfyingly unpredictable.