27 May 2002
Pianist, composer and improviser Reinhold Friedl teamed up with the always surprising and mercurial Elliot Sharp for the recordings found on this new CD released by Grob. Recorded back in 1999, Anostalgia is their first duo project together. They met via Friedl's involvement with the innovative Zeitkratzer Ensemble in Berlin. For these recordings, Friedl performed on the inside of his piano, employing various preparations in the process. Sharp, it appears, primarily performed his part on guitar, but also takes on a bass clarinet, soprano sax and electronics. The ten tracks featured here are of various length, anywhere from one to eleven minutes, but they have been able to present a unified collection, where one piece doesn't take you too far from a series of central ideas. The performances don't seem to have been recorded with close, intimate microphones; rather, there's an undeniable atmosphere present in each of these pieces, a dark, opaque soundspace of sometimes sparse, sometimes densely layered sounds. Long, open atmospheres and harsh yet subdued textures join with more delicate sounds of the inside piano; heavy drones that constantly shift into new directions move in and out of these challenging pieces. It's a difficult work, and one of immediacy that demands your attention and cannot be pushed into the background. And nor would you want to. Sharp and Friedl are intent on creating challenging pieces in order to explore new combinations of sounds, personalities and techniques, an effort which is well documented on this release. [Richard di Santo]
Quiconque follows a small handful of releases by Marcus Maeder for the Zurich based Domizil label, which he co-runs with Bernd Schurer. He presents eight tracks of stunning electronics, employing the staples of glitch (snap-crackle-pop) in a series of compelling arrangements. The music resides mostly on an abstract level, presenting a range of textures and tones in open, non-rhythmic arrangements. The mood is often sparse, cool and distanced; the sounds appear with immaculate clarity and immediacy. Occasionally, as in the track "prigorod," a slippery rhythm kicks in, but all the while remaining very subtle, clean and mellow. The most striking thing about Maeder's music is the dynamics, the way these sounds flirt with one another and move in the sonic space, from left to right, back and forth, above and below. The textures, static, ambience, crackles and tones are arranged in such a way that draws the listener in deeper and deeper with repeated listening. It's an excellent new work, and recommended. [Richard di Santo]
MANUEL MOTA: For Your Protection Why Don't You Just Paint Yourself
Real Good Like An Indian
Two recent releases from the comparatively young label Headlights, based in Lisbon.
Sei Miguel is a composer, trumpeter and all round experimental jazzman, born in Paris but now living in Portugal. Still Alive in Bairro Alto presents one long piece, performed live and just over forty minutes in length, featuring contributions by a host of performers, with Sei Miguel overseeing the project as trumpeter and director. The players: Fala Mariam, alto trombone, Manuel Mota, first guitar, Tiago Brandão, guitar, Margarida Garcia, twin (?), and Monsieur Trinité and César Burago on percussion. The piece has the outward appearance of a freely improvised structure, but all the music has been scored (although it seems there may have been some room for improvisation). The spirit is playful, the performances spirited yet restrained, challenging yet never too heavy or overbearing; there's never a moment when things seem out of control or off course, but the piece presents a single vision with many colours and phrases... I might call it experimental jazz, light edition.
The second disc, the one with the impossibly long title, is a solo effort by Manuel Mota. He performs here on electric guitar, and is accompanied by Margarida Garcia on electric upright bass. These five long, abstract jazz pieces are relatively light, casual improvisations, full of interesting textures and phrases on guitar and bass, from the soft and subtle to a more erratic and playful style. It offers a cool, intimate mood, and as I listened with my window open, a pair of birds perched outside whistled in answer to the timbres of Mota's strings. A nicely executed, understated work.
With these two releases, Headlights certainly makes a quiet yet unique mark in the world of experimental jazz. Be on the look out for future projects. [Richard di Santo]
Once you get past the torrid package design of this release, you will find a pleasing array of upbeat, knotty little tracks from Québec's Frédérick Blouin. The mood is light and quirky, with softly crunching beats backing effortless melodies and layered syncopations. The disc is a collection of tracks recorded between 1995 and 2001, and as such, could be construed as some sort of "historical" release. But on listening to the disc, you will find that there is a sense of timelessness about the pieces here. They may very well have been recorded some years ago, but they still sound freshly constructed, and rival a good number of electro artists' releases from today. Perhaps it is the premise of keeping things simple that engages, or perhaps the fact there are no real musical "trends" prevalent in the music here, just well-formed and entertaining compositions to reach your ears. A very worthwhile release, from beginning to end. [Vils M DiSanto]
Sigmarsson is a member of the Icelandic team of Stilluppsteypa, and this is his second full-length solo CD (though these recordings pre-date the first one). The disc features a range of still, contemplative moments, contrasted with more discordant (though not necessarily noisy) ones. A good sense of dry wit abounds here as well, which is always a welcome thing in my eyes. From the droll of the disc's title to the titles of tracks like "everything will be ready in good time" and the closing number, "not sure about this one anymore," Sigmarsson proves he can lark about with the best of them.
The basis of many of the tracks here comes in the form of quiet drone manipulations, which reminded me in some spots of The Hafler Trio's Hljómynd, and in other spots of Mika Vainio's solo recordings. The drones are occasionally left to their own devices, and provide the more grounded aspect of this release. Sigmarsson also has some punches to pull though, which he does with good effect periodically through the disc. Things get very quiet in a number of sections here, and while this may provide many chances of surprising the listener with sporadic "jolts," he refrains from this at any cost. Decibel levels do increase from time to time, but it's all handled with a good sense of restraint. When listening at a comfortable level, you may well wonder if the disc has reached its end many times before it has ever actually come close to it. When the finale does arrive, it comes and goes in a calm, diminutive manner. It leaves one hoping for more, but more never does appear. A very-close-to fulfilling release. [Vils M DiSanto]
Twine is the collaborative project of Greg Malcolm from Boulder, Colorado and Chad Mossholder from Cleveland, Ohio. After a handful of releases on such labels as AdAstra Records and Komplott, their latest release comes courtesy of Bip-Hop, best known for their Generation series of new electronic music. Twine creates a music that lies somewhere between post-rock and glitch sensibilities. It's interesting to see how this music flirts with rhythms without becoming predominantly rhythmic, the pieces retain a strong sense of abstraction, free of conventional rhythmic constraints. In the opening track, a melancholic guitar strums in a mellow fashion, but it is quickly flanked by teeming glitches (static, crackles, noise), which overtake and dominate the sounds within minutes. The pieces that follow all carry a decidedly dark, atmospheric quality, teeming with crackles, sharp tones and textures, with thin drones sometimes floating in the distance. The piece "Curved" is a perfect example of these qualities, carrying a strong atmosphere and a compelling soundscape of unusual textures. The CD also contains an enhanced portion with a Quicktime video. The visual element is nothing very exciting (stock footage style montage, run through filters, etc.), but the soundtrack is an exclusive track with a beautiful guitar arrangement, voices and bittersweet electronics. Considering the album as a whole, the sound might be a little dark, a little heavy at times, but there are some excellent pieces here well worth exploring. [Richard di Santo]
This is the second release for the recently formed CDR label Mystery Sea. Ultrasound is at its core the duo of rfovetz and Kirk Laktas, and here they are joined by Denise Laktas, Nathalie Hill and Tiana Hux. I must confess that the first time I listened to this disc I fell asleep, and the second time I listened to it I almost fell asleep, and the third, well, I was wide awake the whole time. At first I was a little embarrassed to admit such a thing, but I think in the end it offers a nice comment on this music. Encomium presents one long piece, over 45 minutes in length. It breaks up into sections, or movements, but I think we can safely say that there's a unity in all parts. Ultrasound create long, drifting ambience: slow, open drones and drifting soundscapes that are incredibly effective at calming the listener into a state of dreamy tranquility. You could forget about this music and simply drift away, or, as I discovered, you could turn a close ear to it and discover an intriguing set of sounds, from long drones, the strumming of guitar, crackles, or voices buried deep in the mix. It might not be the most adventurous ambient music you've heard, and I might situate this piece somewhere in between, say the peaceful ambience of M Griffin of the Hypnos label and the intoxicating dronescapes of Mirror, but it's certainly deserving of a few late night rotations. [Richard di Santo]
The fourth instalment of the Intersect series of concerts took place in August of 2001 in Austin, Texas. This CD documents four performances by Philip Gayle, Charalambides, Ctrl Alt Dlt and Frequency Curtain respectively.
Ctrl Alt Dlt, aka Kurt Korthals, also records under the alias The Buddy System. His piece, self described as an experiment in "multi-channel anti-tonal minimalism," is an amorphous, austere and atmospheric piece using processed acoustic sounds, sine wave tones and distant, filtered voices. It's a strong, commanding piece of music; excellent work.
Charalambides is the duo of Tom and Christina Carter. They create a slow, subtle piece using guitar, voice and organ. Christina's voice sings smooth, sustained, wordless sounds while strings are bowed, scraped and plucked to create a quiet, close and subtle accompaniment. Together, the sounds make for a haunting and beautiful piece of music.
Philip Gayle is a multi-instrumentalist who has a background in playing rock, folk, blues and country, but in recent years he has been increasingly busy performing experimental acoustic improvisations using stringed instruments, percussions and miscellaneous objects. He also runs the Yabyum Productions label out of Houston, Texas. His piece offers an interesting foil to the previous piece by Charalambides, and answers their tranquillity with a piece that seems more restless and fidgety, full of plucked strings of acoustic guitar, ukulele, and other seemingly small, higher pitched stringed instruments. It's an intriguing piece that marks the space with great clarity, becoming more and more intense right up until its final moments.
Last on the program, Frequency Curtain is the trio of John Grzinich, Rick Reed and Josh Ronsen. Here they use both analogue and digital sine wave generators, creating an intense, droning piece of sine tones and textures, that quickly evolves into static, feedback, droning noise. An intoxicating and captivating kaleidoscope of sound.
Intersect 4 presents a strong set of adventurous improvised music, each piece offering its own self-contained microcosm of sound, and comes highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
EP2 is the second instalment of the Motion Re(e)leases Series on the Barcelona based spa.RK label, featuring new electronic music by a small but international group of artists. Jonathan Hughes from the US is a new name for me, and he opens the set with a nice piece of electro-ambience and digital textures, that picks up the pace with an uplifting beat, sweet melody and some interesting textures along the way. Tennis, the duo of Ben Edwards (aka Benge) and Douglas Benford (aka si-cut.db) picks up the pace in fine form with a jazzy, electro dub track full of tiny, crisp crackling sounds. Readers might remember Tennis for their rather nice album on Bip-Hop, Europe on Horseback, released last year. Artificial Duck Flavour keeps the beats flowing with a quirky, analogue IDM style track, followed by a similarly flavoured piece by Memorabilia. Montréal based microsound artist Mitchell Akiyama contributes a cool, rhythmic piece full of smart delay effects and a toe-tapping, head-nodding rhythm. Phluidbox completes the set with a deconstructed hip-hop theme, but managing to make it all sound unlike any hip-hop I've ever heard, which is probably a good thing. Nicely done. In all, it's a short collection, just about 35 minutes in length, but it's a varied set that packs a nice punch, full of interesting personalities and colourful tracks. [Richard di Santo]
The Incursion Music Review was published and edited by Richard di Santo from 2000 to 2004. All 75 issues can be accessed in the archive. Please note that we are no longer accepting submissions or promotional material for review.
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