Three’s company, New York Avant style? Swiss miss Sylvie
Courvoisier moves to NYC to join her violinist husband
Mark Feldman, and cellist Erik Friedlander makes three.
The trio may also be known as Abaton as this release is.
I really enjoyed the second disc of improvisations,
where the playing seems hyperdramatic. The first disc of
compositions by pianist Courvoisier seems restrained,
albeit with moments of madness. Maybe she is striving to
not spotlight herself, indeed she sits out “Poco a poco.”
“Abaton” has a tense Hitchcock running-up-and-down-stairs
vibe that leads to the furious flights Feldman excels at.
It is by far the most fervid of the four, by its end tho’
silence overshadows the return of the running strings.
The 19 improvisations, none longer than 5 minutes, are
like watching batting practicer: quicker crowd-pleasing
action. From pizzicato caves(#5) to weird whistly string
playing(#17), to wind-swept melodies(#11), firecracker
snap(#9). Lots of prepared piano too. Both rewarding in
Three’s company, New York Avant style? Swiss miss Sylvie
In space, no one can hear you scream. In the vacuum of bass,
one is less likely to hear a sax scream. This album rides
on watery crests of tom rolls and cymbal crashes from JAY
ROSEN, while saxmen SONNY SIMMONS and MICHAEL MARCUS trade
a lot of spry cycles and merge for half-chords, keeping a
pretty taught tether to the melody of these compositions.
No doubt there are solar flashes (certainly on “Avant Garde
Destruct”), but the moonwalk cord keeps the hornmen closer
to the mothership, which works fine by this passenger (and
the Amsterdam-ned in attendance for tracks #5-#8). Two of
those live numbers, “12 Seasons of Love” and Simmons’ solo
rendition of “‘Round Midnight” balance a more stately flow
against burnished extended solos. Rosen returns invigorated
for a 2.5 min drum rollick to launch the closing “Requiem”
with rooted baritone from Marcus and cool oblique echos
from Simmons eventually join them. “Futura” and “Bring on
the Funk” give the listener the smoothest flight path,
I dug those, but along with “Avant…” my favorite was
a very nebulous “Tonal Magnitudes” with slippery scales
and solos. Next stop, Venus.
his album grew on me like fingernails on a corpse. To
say they are taken with the macabre is an understatement,
hell they are undertaken. Dying is their raison d’etre.
Their spectral folk sound is built upon acoustic guitar,
accordian, wounded theremin, singing saw, glass goblets
and an item they refer to as the “Poor Lady’s Gamelan.”
Apparently they are a 3 or 4 piece (depending on human
boomerang, Wei who comes and goes). Perhaps scariest of
all, they’re disinterred from the cultural graveyard
known as Santa Clara. Vocals will improve as liquour &
confidence are titrated into the mix. Either for the
singer Avery Burke or perhaps the listener. Hic?’ The
“16-line Love Song” is well haunted by Wei’s harmonies.
Dax’s vocals are frothier on “Alice” but the “singing”
of Avery’s hands steals the show on that via theremin.
Lyrics are well-laced. This Corpus Callosum is bigger
on the left hemisphere, and thick with promise. A very
bright darkness emanates.
Bostan-based set of musicians performing guided
improv, not by baton…nor by game piece…but by
the feet (and body) of dancer Masashi Harada.
Results traverse a very spacious nebula of sound.
Starlight flicker of Phil Tomasic’s sliding guitar,
windy wordless vocals from the whole cast, breathy
work from Nmperign duo, rings of string from Aleta
Cole and Dan Levin. The sound always appears to be
way up high, although there’s mysterious dark matter
(not just molten trombone) in much of the silence
that this ensemble manages to preserve. This is
Halloween jazz with an otherworldy beauty. I wish
I had witnessed the Big band big Bang at the point
of creation. Proof of an expanding universe
The sum of the parts is greater than the whole : violin +
guitar + bassoon + percussion. Rachael Elliott’s bassoon
sounds like an old man lost and wandering a strange city
at night. Bryce Dressner, who rocks fairly straightforwardly
with The National, gets a chance to be far more interesting
here. Look what happens 3 1/2 minutes into the title track?
Percussionist Thomas Kozumplik is precise in his quests for
tinkering trinkets, he builds some of his own instruments.
Lastly Padma Newsome is the chief composer and the one
who united these four Yalies. His whistling violin on
“Turtle Soup” is as key an ingredient as its crushed ABC
radiocast excerpts. Tasty! Actually the album peaked a
little earlier for me, right there after tracks #2 and
#3. Keeping Dressner amped up I think is a good idea, his
playing gives this album more of a clamour than a chamber
state, recalls the promise of Tom Cora locking bridges
with the Ex! Many of the pieces take lengthy rests in
them, be forewarned. More singing from the winsome
Newsome should be encouraged. His soft soprano voice on
“Gentler We” plays nicely off the ominous music beneath.
Gear-head driven pagan prog rock to play Dungeons and
Dragons to, except it goes by too quickly. Scot Solida
is the lead sorcerer here, transmuting some personal
tragedy into music, by way of Midi cables and some at
times “overly clever” punning in lyrics. Their heart is
in the right place, but their head is at the forefront
enmeshed in a lot of synthesizers and some guitar
chain mail. They lose some hit points for drum machines
and faux British accents, but given some more time and
more faith in acoustic instruments, C & the C’s could
lead a revival of the nearly extinct brand of prog
rock Americana! A flesh drummer really would help
overcome the bred-in-captivity traps of trap-less
percussion. Does anyone remember Pestilence?
While prison workers are making Britney Spears dolls,
look what the sneakier thought-criminals have been up
to in China. Making beautiful noise! The first CD here
is almost flawless. The ISMU aka Intelligent Shanghai
Mono University tracks in particular are just bursting
with creativity that would be promising whether they
came from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico or the most
populous country on the planet. Check out the sounds
bounced off a bamboo squeak on 1-4, or how time is
running out for techno on 1-6. While track 1-1 fires
a static charge through your ears, not all tracks are
as wonderfully annoying. Yuhui Jiang’s pieces wrap
their broken glass in smooth silk. “Minibus Pimps”
are Chinese cabbies who’ve been hanging out with the
Fall’s Mark E. Smith, or so it sounds. Other “found”
sounds are also remarkable, please enjoy snake-meat
and accordion on 1-16. Pei Zhou gets wires through
thick and skin. Really a lot going on here.
WARNING 1-7 too gorgeous for FCC as a sexbot rebels
Rare is the guitar hero who first chooses an acoustic
over an electric with a phalanx of effects, that is
but one unique aspect of Cheval de Frise and nylon
stringleader Thomas Bonvalet. His counterpart is
drummer Vincent Beysselance who blends so well with
the complex melodies and runs of Bonvalet that he
can almost become lost in the shuffle of snare, the
flurry of toms and subtle heartbeats of hi-hat. He’s
a very good drummer, just paired w/ a flash guitarist.
On two tracks, (#6’s second half and all of #8) they
are joined by Simon Queheillard on a self-made
instrument that sounds like a tambura made of ice.
It shears across the top of the duo’s dense interplay.
The horse you cannot see, cannot be corralled; and
this band cannot be easily put in one pasture. Enjoy
the wild freedom of this exceptional duo.
A donation from KFJC’s Austin Space after he played the
rousing rendition of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” from
this on his 2nd annual special for that song. For some,
this may have a cruise ship capability to repel (the
fine liner notes describe how my favorite band, SILVER
STARS, on this actually re-formed “when most of the
members returned home from Disney World.” All of the
recordings here were done in Trinidad and Tobago, tho’
at times the massiveness of the ranks of steel drums
overwhelms so much it seems these were recorded in
roller rinks. In addition to the densely charted
steel drums, each track has relentless shimmying of
other percussion hustling underneath it all. The
necessary imperfections in the tuning of the drums,
is a nice twist to the mechanical precision of the
strange arrangements to these party marches.
2 CDs’ worth of computer-controlled experimental noises with minimal organic sampling from NYC sound manipulator Michael Schumacher. Clear influences of La Monte Young, Robert Ashley, and Babbitt, not so clear philosophical influences of Cage (check out the line-up of pretentious liner notes, including some by “Blue” Gene Tyranny).
Room Piece XI (75:43): The 11th happening of his sound installation originally intended for a sound-proof room in his NYC gallery with 16-track full-surround sound. A quiet drone pervades. Random types of sounds/instruments interrupt at random sets of intervals based on a random assignment of the prime numbers 13, 17, 23, 29, 37, and 43. The interruptions can be extremely harsh and disturbing and sometimes they come into phase with each other for added pleasure.
Piece in 3 Parts (20:03): Sounds of regurgitated violin sampling, then sounds of regurgitated gong sampling, then back to sounds of violin.
Still (17:07): Quiet drone featuring some cello scrapings.
Untitled (18:13): Sine wave madness!! Loud and almost momentous, sounds unlike the rest of the offerings. For the easiest introduction to the music, start with this track.
Still (17:29): No sampling here, just straight computer clicks and clangs. Very sparse.
-Cujo in Jul 2004
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Public Inspection File