Music Reviews



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Artist: Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld (@)
Title: Never Were the Way She Was
Format: CD
Label: Constellation Records (@)
Rated: *****
One of my favorite musical artists, Canadian multi reed and wind-strumentalist Colin Stetson, and his partner in crime and in life, Sarah Neufeld (great violinist and understated singer, also a member of Arcade Fire) finally joined forces and made a record together.

If you don't know Mr. Stetson, start by listening to his amazing trilogy of albums entitled "New History Warfare" (which came out between 2007 and 2013) and then, if you can, try to wrap your head around the fact that everything you are hearing is played live, without loops or overdubs!!! On every track you will hear what sounds like multiple voices and voicings, distant muffled echoes of whales and ogres (from the contact microphones on Mr. Stetson's throat and chest), multiple melody lines and usually a very defined melodic and rhythmic bass line made up of notes, clicks and clunks (from the saxophone's keys) that pedals throughout each piece. All of those, and more, are played live, on the spot, with extended micing and performance techniques of the instrument (usually tenor or bass saxophone) and a mind-boggling command of circular breathing, concentration and transcendence that is usually the stuff of legends, or very advanced yogi's!

On their first released musical effort as a couple, the two add even more to the table: Mr. Stetson plays the contrabass clarinet on some of the tunes (which is just an incredible sounding instrument, with a possibly even wider range than the bass saxophone, or at least extending further downward in the scale).
Mrs. Neufeld's laying is fluid and entrancing and perfectly complements the nature of what is going on. When she adds some nice long reverberated vocal notes into the mix, the whole thing gets even more eerie and chilling, relaxing and all encompassing, like a fog or a wave that takes over the space in which you are enjoying this music.

I recently went to see them play live at Bowery Ballroom in NYC (talented drummer Ryan Sawyer was opening for them) and it was just a reminder (not that I needed one) and a reinforcement of why I like Colin's playing so much. Seeing them play together, seeing the interaction and the obviously intense and intimate connection that they have, augments the listening experience even more and takes their performance to a level that traditional ensembles can rarely achieve.

Now that the two of them play together the result is exponentially more interesting, as in the result is greater than the sum of all parts!
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Artist: Sun Color (@)
Title: Parallel Tracks
Format: 12"
Label: S.C.A.P. Records
Rated: *****
I'm not sure the idea behind SCAP Records(according to label's introduction, "to publish in vinyl a series of volumes, each as an autonomous art project and indipendent document in which various concepts and sound explortions are investigated"), the home of Sun Color, the prismatic flip-type mirror by which Barcelona-based Venezuelan Julio Cesar Palacio displays his wide spectrum of electronic and electroacoustic sonic research (manipulation of magnetic tape cassettes, field recordings, feedback morphing, reel to reel and modular synthhesizer covering a wide stylistical range in between acousmatic and GRM-like musique concrete), followed up on its very first issue, whose extremely limited edition (just 30 numbered units) was announced in the end of last year, but this amalgamation of by-products of Sun Color's sound processing that he recorded during many studio sessions are so interesting that it deserves some attention and possibly a follow-up. Named after the parallel bars of multitrack mixer, "Parallel Tracks" consists of two 15-minutes lasting clusters of sounds that Sun Color purposely made or made by chance in amazing moments of serendipity within his recording studio that he tried to organize, even if a certain lack of cohesion could make it just a divertssment for audiophiles.
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Artist: Gabriel Ledoux
Title: Le Vide Parfait
Format: CD
Label: Acte (@)
Rated: *****
Ideated during the Quebec student strike of 2012, the meaning of this interesting release where Gabriel Ledoux tries "prettifying evil", according to the words of an established composer asked to comment his work and quoted by Symon Henry's attached words (one of the six interesting comments, that include Ledoux's reflections about his "immoral art"), got explained by a set of comments, but above all by his own music, a psychedelic amalgamation of contemporary classical, electronic and free jazz music, where he manages to render a sense of upcoming or vivid tragedy where the main statement of free art can sometimes go beyond the limitations of worst sides of reality. "I want to pay tribute to the victims of Charles Manson and Jim Jones, of the Columbine shooting and of the Waco siege. I have tried my best to be respectful to the victims of these tragic events in creating Le vide parfait, but the economic liberalism plaguing us forces me to sell these pieces to eventually benefit from these tragedies.". This is his own introduction when he tried to explain it during his own master's final dissertation at the Conservatoire de musique de Montreal, whose examining commission considered the use of recorded vocals by members of the sadly notorious People's Temple cult who declared "I'm a violent revolutionary", 911 calls during the Waco siege and the Columbine shooting, as "immoral" and while praising his examination specified that his source of inspiration was "a questionable choice"... One of the judge of "Rouge des crepuscoles" labelled it as "pornophonic"! I agree with what the above-mentioned Symon Henry says at the end of his comment by far, where he wisely quoted Nina Simone's shouted words "The whole damn world's made me lose my rest" on "Mississippi Goddam" as well: "Le vide parfait is about to get its foot in the viscous mannerism door of a music of its time (experimental as well as popular), comfortably looking for a living room idea debate, forgetting the concreteness of daily tragedies. Revolution, then and now, is defined by head-on actions as well as the subversion of cultural and social codes. By releasing this album, in full consciousness of the impact of his art, I have the impression Gabriel is paving part of the way for this revolution I strongly and urgently wish for us.". Check it out and "Don't return fire".
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Artist: David Toop
Title: Lost Shadows: In Defence of The Soul - Yanomami Shamanism, Songs, Ritual, 1978
Format: 2CD (double CD)
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
This huge audio-documentary collects a series of recordings that Wire journalist and sound artist David Toop made on the occasion of a fascinating journey in Amazonian jungle in order to meet the last Yanomani shamen in late 70s. Compared to previously released edition on David's personal defunct label Quartz Productions, this edition is much more extensive and exhaustive. The main mistake a listener could make is considering it as an exotic caprice for radical chics or an exploration of primitive cultures, as according to Toop's words, who begins his reflection on the 40-pages booklet (including Toop's diary, other interesting cultural matching and some snapshots that Toop took) by the interesting report of a novel by Swiss-born Cuban writer and ethomusicologist Alejo Carpentier and states that he was initially fascinated by the "almost total lack of musical instruments in Yanomami culture", where body, voice as well ideas, rituals and cosmology are the real instruments of their "music", "the Yanonami seemed to me not an ancestral throwback (as scholars such as Stephen pinker and Jared Diamond like to believe) but a contemporary society that had made choices about how to live, that moreover lived in a world defined more by events than objects". Each part of this 'katabasis' in Yanomani culture, which include ancestral shamanistic ceremonies and ritual songs, which mirror and imitate voices of the natural phenomena, secret spirit language, animal familiaries and a deeply symbolic language linked to shmanaic trance, which got compared to the sleep langage of Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" by Toop, closes with nocturnal field recordings that render Yanomani's "unique audiosphere". Highly recommended listening experience.
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Artist: Hanno Leichtmann (@)
Title: Unfinished Portrait Of Youth Today
Format: 12"
Label: Karlrecords (@)
Rated: *****
One Lexicon LXP-5, one Sony WM-D6C Modular System and Telefunken EQs as well as a huge source of old tapes are the equipment that German music producer and drummer Hanno Leichtmann (many listeners could maybe know his wonderful releases in the guise of Static for Berlin-based well-known label City Centre Offices, one of most suffered discographic loss of recent years) used for this interesting release, whose title "Unfinished Portrait of Youth Today" give some clues about what you're going to listen. It collects a number of snippets (lasting around 1 minute and 30 seconds each) that he took from more than 30 cassettes that he recorded by above-mentioned modular system, which were influenced and tributed, according to his own words, to "John Oswald's "Plunderphonics, Stock, Hausen & Walkman's "Me" 7inch and above all Yasuaki Shimizu's "Music For Commercials"" (...and I would have included some stuff from Mouse On Mars as well as the most psychotic microtunes by Boards Of Canada to this exhaustive list of sources for inspiration...). Delightfully hypnotic microgrooves that often conk out like stalled cars, smudged tape hissing, playfully hiccuping clocking sounds that act like flashing neon bulbs, adorably repetitious simple melodies feature the 29 tracks of this biopsies from his young epithelial tissue. Previously release on strictly limited tape edition, this album version got masterfully impressed on vinyl by Kassian Troyer.
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