Percussionist Nakatani, whose solo releases are invariably live recordings with no overdubs or sound processing, takes a different approach here: He made hundreds of recordings of bowed gongs (17 of them to be exact) and “arranged them on the computer to build the compositions.” Resonant, singing metallic drones layered in different ways makes for an interesting listening experience. If you’re a fan of Nakatani’s Gong Orchestra project, you will love this. Mastered by James Plotkin, whose name attached to any project immediately gets my attention.
Radical with a capital R. This three-member London ‘percussion’ ensemble were in existence from 1983 – 90. The material on this CD was recorded in 1988. Their live performances were: 1. An unholy marriage of Savage Aural Hotbed and Survival Research Laboratories (remember them?), and 2. Dangerous as fuck. They banged on 55-gallon metal drums—no surprise there, I mean who doesn’t?—but beyond that there was also fire, large amounts of water, steam, lights, huge loud machines crashing, giant pieces of broken glass hanging like wind chimes, iron bathtubs banging together, metal cabinets and lockers suspended and sprayed with a fire hose, whistles, fireworks, all manner of discarded noisy junk… This CD brings us a taste of what they were up to and is quite satisfying. Guest performers include legendary percussionist Z’ev. I can’t even begin to describe how deep and remarkable their concept was. Watch this worthy 16-minute video to see what it was all about: https://fourthree.boilerroom.tv/film/bow-gamelan-offshore-rig. I had no idea. Brilliant stuff.
Two well-known French electro-acoustic sound artists (Anthony Laguerre and Jerome Noetinger) bring us many forms of noise by way of tape loops, manipulation, distortion, live processing and… drums! This release seems to be centered around the sounds of a drum kit. It shows up everywhere, often being processed in some way or other, and is combined with some odd noises–notes and blips and hums and is that a dog barking in the distance on Track 4? The dynamics vary from track to track, but it never takes long for this thing to get back to spotlighting the drums. Track 2 is probably my favorite–it starts in a quietly tense place and ramps up to a crashing drumscape on some weird planet, accompanied by an overload of intense alien shrieking.
Bay Area composer/bassist/bandleader Mezzacappa writes the material and leads a first-rate ensemble of local musicians. These engaging compositions are jazz-based but draw from many other traditions as well. They take their inspiration from the “Cosmicomics” series of short stories by author Italo Calvino—the liner notes provide elaboration on the story behind each piece. Many of the tracks do lean in a cosmic direction, with titles such as ‘The Soft Moon’, ‘Solar Storms’, ‘The Distance of the Moon’, and ‘The Form of Space.’ The three tracks with ‘Signs’ in the title are mood pieces by way of conducted improvisation. I like the way electronics wizard Tim Perkis lays out for long periods, entering every now and then to enhance the mood with unexpected sounds. Also, for some reason Mark Clifford’s vibraphone sounds like moonlight to me, which seems totally appropriate for this material. Mezzacappa’s instincts always serve her music well and while it is not always obvious, one can often detect a sly sense of humor informing her composing and arranging.
Drums and keyboards–everything played by Icasiano, a mainstay of the Seattle free music scene. There are two “suites” here and within each suite the pieces tend to track together. Several of the tracks have repeating–in some cases one could say relentless–drum patterns, augmented with simple keyboard/synth melodies, drones, and sounds. Field recordings pop up occasionally, some of them including voices. I really enjoyed Track 3, a jagged piece with free drumming alongside bursts of what seem to be backward sounds. The thing that I probably like most about this CD is that I don’t quite understand what’s going on and can only listen and wonder what will come next. Icasiano’s work occupies a section of the musical universe that you probably didn’t even know was there. I didn’t.
Two French guys playing the soundtrack to what seems to be a dream story. Boni on guitar and harmonica, Dalbis on drums. All instrumental, very abstract, quiet and loud places, hard to tell what they are getting at sometimes. The 15-minute Track 1 starts with 3 minutes of solo drumming. Dalbis has a nice touch with the brushes. Boni’s guitar comes in gently and… eventually all hell breaks loose like you suspected it would. There are shades of Derek Bailey in Boni’s playing and he adds to that a lot of processed guitar sounds and some overdubs. He plays harmonica on Tracks 2 and 5; he has an unusual approach, that’s for sure. It sounds to me more like an accordion in a style reminiscent of Pauline Oliveros maybe? Track 3 features some flying-fingers abstract blues guitar and it’s pretty nice. Dalbis adds surprising percussive touches throughout the record. I don’t really understand the dream story–something about HG Wells and an alien civilization living inside Earth’s moon, and at some point a modern manga character shows up and does something or other. Perfect music for an oddball dream like that.
Three masterful improvisers—Thollem McDonas – keyboards, Nels Cline – guitar, and Michael Wimberly – drums–present two 18-minute pieces of inspired improvisation, recorded 2017 in Brooklyn. We feel very early on that we are in good hands. I especially enjoy hearing Thollem’s acoustic piano give way to his electronic keyboards, usually leading to some noisy interactions with Cline’s guitar, and then back again. As usual, Cline’s guitar exists on a completely different plane from the rest of us–he’s that advanced. Wimberly’s tasteful percussion accents are pretty much perfect throughout. Dive in.
Solo percussion performed live with no effects and no overdubs. Cymbals, gong, wood blocks, glass bowls, aluminum pipes, brake drums, wrenches, baskets, scrap metal, etc. A kitchen sink is not mentioned, but it may as well have been. Ringing metallic sounds, tinkly things, tappity-tap on wooden temple blocks, the pinging of glass bowls. It never really gets intense and dramatic as someone like Tatsuya Nakatani does on occasion—this mostly comes across as light-hearted and playful. Fun. Well-recorded.
Total immersion into a world of acoustic sound/noise. The quartet coaxes sounds from stringed instruments such as guitar and violin, percussion, toys, ping-pong ball, waterphone, hurdy-gurdy, and voice. The pieces are generally on the active side, with a multitude of instruments and other sounds (taps, thuds, tickles, scrapes, whacks, nonsense vocals, etc) all clamoring for attention. These players excel at bursts of frenetic creativity. That’s not to say there aren’t some quieter sections, but even those are full of taps and boings and rattles and they aren’t what I would call relaxing. This material is not for everybody, but it’s quite interesting in a ‘what-will-they-come-up-with-next?’ kind of way. Track 5 is a 46-minute marathon that is easy to get lost in.
Local avant garde noise project. Two side-long tracks (A = 23 mins, B = 17 mins.) Voices and crashes and booming noises and guitar feedback and a flute and a sax. Highly questionable recording quality–To say “To say this is fidelity-challenged would be an understatement” would be an understatement. Imagine them playing at the far end of the NoiseHaus garage and someone recording them from 100 feet away on an old $20 Radio Shack microphone they found in a box in the basement. It sounds like that. But yeah, I love it. The band won’t tell us which side is which, so I had to guess. One side has a higher muck quotient than the other so I’m proclaiming that to be Side B (“Swallowed in Muck”.)
Mostly solo percussion works by Stackpole, a fixture on the bay area experimental/improv music scene. I don’t recognize anything that sounds like drums here–I’m hearing gongs, cymbals, and maybe some other resonant metal things(?) I suspect bows and perhaps soft mallets are being used to produce these deep layers of floating metallic sounds. A1 and B1 are collaborations with Ann Dentel, another local performer/improviser. Very nice but at 12 or 13 minutes per side it’s over too quickly. A 2003 release that has somehow eluded our library until now.
Prepare to enter a fantasy world when you play this CD. Pat Moonchy does all the vocals and she is way out there–sometimes delicately childlike, sometimes firmly operatic, sometimes groaning in a creepy pitched-down voice, sometimes… well, you’ll have to play it and find out. Her musical partner Todd Tobias (connections to Guided By Voices) provides the instrumentation and it is spot on. Pretty acoustic passages here, some rocking stuff there, some weird industrial textures over there… and many surprises over the course of these 13 tracks. Drama + weirdness is the order of the day. Many of the tracks are short, I mean like a minute or two, but they are all evocative and kind of mind-blowing. Perfect for injecting little bits of drama and weirdness into your radio show.
Strange constructions built with Welch’s overdubbed vocals. The Glasgow-based artist talks and rambles and exclaims and makes just about every kind of vocal noise possible. Voices on top of voices on top of other voices side by side with other voices. Track A2 is a short piece name-checking some of the USA’s most famous prisons. Side B is one 17 minute track. If you are a fan of vocal magicians like Makigami Koichi and Jaap Blonk, you’ll want to check this out. Edition of 300 on super cool green vinyl.
Bailey, Derek/ Goodman, Greg – “Extracting Fish-Bones From The Back of The Despoiler” – [Beak Doctor, The]
Two side-long tracks (20 and 21 minutes) of entertaining guitar/piano adventures recorded live in 1992. Bailey practically invented the language of modern improvised guitar and is in good form on this recording– scratching and jabbing, and occasionally projecting electric flurries of sound. Pianist Goodman spends little if any time playing the piano keys during these performances, concentrating instead on producing unusual sounds from the interior of the instrument. I could describe this record as a lot of plinking and plunking, but that would be selling it short– dedicated listeners will find some inspired music-making going on here. Well-recorded and a high quality pressing on heavyweight vinyl, too.
Two five minute chunks of sound performance recorded live in 1990, I think, in Zurich Switzerland. We’ve all been to this type of event–a ratty warehouse with people sitting on the dirty concrete floor and a couple of guys making random sounds using toys and junk. No way to know what we’re hearing exactly, although there are voices here and there, and a violin shows up near the end of side A. Other than that, it’s all rumbles and scrapes and squeaks. Noise-wise, this is not particularly noisy; it’s more like lo-fidelity sound recordings of who knows what. Kind of rad for nearly 30 years ago.
Ten years worth of offbeat pop stylings from the versatile Ms. Nowottny, sharing the billing here with her All American Band. She sings and plays keyboards and a few other things, and the band adds guitar, bass, banjo, piano, melodica, and more. A wide range of music on this CD, including stately torch songs with piano, some trip-hoppy moments, country-flavored tunes, and some twisted concoctions that could be Kate Bush with a Casio out in the garage. My two least favorite tracks are the cover tunes: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ is a downer–it sounds like a version the house band on Twin Peaks might have done, and “Danny’s Song” (by Kenny Loggins) is done pretty much straight ahead and is no more interesting than the original version. Track 5 is a snazzy instrumental.
MPT have their way with the expanded 10″ format this time. The five-member trio is back with recordings they laid down in 2014 and 2015 –OK, so things don’t move terribly swiftly in The Land of MPT– and it is one of their best releases in a while. If “Left Behind” was MPT’s “Exile on Main Street”, and I think we can all agree that it was, then this new one is their “Let it Bleed.” One surprising song style after another, yet it all hangs together somehow. Highlights for me: “Gordon Muir, Time Traveler” must be heard to be believed. Remember “Kraken” from a few years ago, with its grinding guitars and weird falsetto vox? Well, this is its geeky cousin. “Deadhand Button” is an uptempo, knee-slappin’ little ditty about nuclear holocaust. The drugged-out funk of “Black Wig” moves nicely into “Under the River”, a country-ish strum-along reminiscent of the Glimmer Twins after several too many bottles of wine. “Hello Cleveland” ends the record and this song is so pretty it would have been at home on “eMPTy”, the band’s prettiest record to date. Even the weird (w)rapping toward the end can’t derail this one. We never do find out who Christian Wolfcock is, by the way. I give this record four and a half fingers, maybe five.
Scum rock. Hallelujah! is an Italian trio and I think Inutili may also be an Italian trio. Blasting guitars and pounding drums giving us energetically repetitive sludge. The vocals tend to be buried in the mix and the lyrics are generally hard to decipher, although there are several clear FUCKS on Track 4. And on Track 1, the lyrics mostly go like this: “MICE MICE MICE MICE MICE MICE.” Track 2 is around 7 minutes long and goes through a few sections with different dynamics, heavy on guitar. The tracks are all pretty rockin’. I can’t say that most of them offer much in the way of redeeming social value, and I suspect that’s pretty much what the bands had in mind.
No matter which of his many musical endeavors Rent Romus is presenting, it’s always solid. His music invokes solid musical traditions—raging bebop, free jazz, tight ensemble compositions with tasteful solos, and various ethnocultural musics to name but a few, yet he’s always looking to blaze new trails into the future of jazz. His Life’s Blood Ensemble is a perfect vehicle for his vision. Sprawling, multi-faceted jazz sounds here, brought to life by saxophones, flute, e-trumpet, vibraphone, drums, and two double basses. The sounds are from distant galaxies and at the same time are clearly of this earth. Listen and stretch your jazz mind. Track 8 is traditional Finnish music.
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