Music Reviews

Žibuoklė Martinaitytė: Horizons

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 26 2018
Artist: Žibuoklė Martinaitytė
Title: Horizons
Format: CD + Download
Label: Music Information Centre Lithuania
The prosaically named Music Information Centre Lithunia offer up another collection of surprising experimental twists on the classical music form, with five live pieces from ibuokl Martinaityt played by a variety of mostly large ensembles and orchestras, and recorded between 2006 and 2015.

The title track is an epic self-contained suite full of tension and drama with a decidedly cinematic bent. Suspense and horror in parts, action and chase adventure at times, hints of romance at the edges, it’s a remarkably well-rounded score with a bit of everything- discordant enough at times to feel provocative but still very accessible.

Second piece “The Blue Of Distance” is a much more sombre affair, driven by a vocal ensemble sustaining long tones reminiscent of Lygeti, with lovely use of rise and fall, before “Completely Embraced” shifted gears yet again into a world of tense piano hammering, militaristic drumming and tense brass and strings that gradually eases and unfurls into a more pastoral and relaxed environment.

“Thousand Doors” is another broad suite with multiple sections, again suggesting a filmic collection of tensions and dramas, this time with a more sparse general landscape, before we finish with violin near-solo “Serenity Diptychs” in which a violin traces sometimes Glass-like arpeggios interspersed with some more proactive pace changes, underpinned by an stunningly neat and refined use of drone atmosphere.

These are beautiful, accomplished and dynamic modern classic works and they collate well into a 68-minute listening experience that should appeal to both people approaching it from both a traditional orchestral mindset and people looking for something with a true edge.

Mock Grandeur: s/t

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 21 2018
Artist: Mock Grandeur
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Wide Ear (@)
Rated: *****
A green square on a brown cardboard without any ornament and titles which doesn't really describe anything (except of the ones with the initial letter of the names of the playing members of this fourtet) could let you think to a devotionally minimal project, but the 25 (it's not a typo, they really packed 25 tracks in this release) mockeries can be rarely matched to minimal jazz. They asymptotically tend to saturation in many of their debunking recordings, indeed. What they primarily seem to desecrate are the stylistic fences that often delimit the fields of many musicians and this is clear since the opening "TS" (involving T - Tobias Backhaus - on drums and S - Sascha Henkel - on guitar), an almost cacophonous loogie between noise and punk-jazz. The second mockery (titled "#4") desecrates the role of some instruments in typical jazz line-up: the absence of a bass gets partially replaced by the repetition of two tones on guitar, that doesn't really lead the melodic patterns, which lacks in the raging parade by the two alto saxophonists of the line-up (Benjamin Weidekamp and Christian Weidner). These are just two samples, but any of the other mockeries are somehow adventurous, unpredictable, intentionally flippant and often clumsy. Do not expect something soothing or banal music for likewise banal backgrounds, but an alternation of massive zits and small pimples, whose popping could eject quite odd combinations of tonal and instrumental outputs.

Aidan Baker & Gareth Davis: Invisible Cities

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 20 2018
Artist: Aidan Baker & Gareth Davis
Title: Invisible Cities
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karl
The four tracks on “Invisible Cities” mark the first collaboration between Baker and Davis, a hybrid of ambient soundscaping and very sparse jazz that’s constructed from ingredients that could be described as cliché- Davis’ sombre, super-slow bass clarinet work mixed with found sound exterior ambiences such as train rolling stock, rain, and city street sounds.

In relative terms there’s not a lot of variation in sonic identity between the four tracks. After the relatively straightforward “Memory”, things get a little more bass-heavy and the clarinet work adopts just a hint of extra pain and strain in “Sky”. “Signs” somehow how seems messier, while longest and strongest track “Desire” lets a long bit of solo clarinet begin a slow devolution into discord and soft distortion.

But, despite having just said there are some cliché sounds and a lack of sonic variation, nevertheless it all actually works. The pure bass clarinet tones are really quite captivating, and the mood, despite some harsh edges, is a definite relaxant. The simplicity at times is a definite virtue and it’s certainly an enjoyable listen, if not a wholly original one.

Innlaandds: s/t

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Dec 30 2017
Artist: Innlaandds
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Wide Ear Records (@)
The same-named debut album by this combo of Swiss musicians - the long-lasting mates Bernard Trontin on drums and Michel Wintsch ("strumming" on a piano and a synth and caring composition on this output), the vocalist and lyricist Antoine Lang and Raphael Ortis on electric bass - explores inner visions and the sometimes paradoxical mazed of dream states and oniric visions, but I guess the outer visions of Swiss landscapes and environment could have heavily influenced a style that sounds oblique like the steep cliffs and the rugged terrain of that land. I also guess these folks are aware of such an obliquity or they maybe yearn to sound oblique, as someone could argue by looking at the cover artwork, highlighted the above-mentioned cliffs. They generically labelled their style as "experimental pop", a tag that hides the clot of influences of their sound: Antoine's voice (and sometimes lyrics) could resemble some crooners of contemporary jazz, easygoing off-key teeny pop-rock singers or my little adorable 4-yrs old niece during pitchy interpretation of Frozen theme songs; Bernard's drumming ranging from hard-bop jazzy sessions to pressing rockish lines, from slow riding to dubby "upholstery" as well as from trivial and interesting techniques. Similarly, Wintsch synth and piano-driven entities and Ortis basslines feature such a constant ambiguity, but they want to run the risk that such an ambiguity couldn't satisfy listeners whose ears experienced different workout (to call it so). It could sound odd, but Innlaandds' sound is consistent with what these Swiss folks try to represent.

Para: Paraphon

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Dec 21 2017
Artist: Para
Title: Paraphon
Format: CD + Download
Label: Freifeld Tonträger
“Paraphon” is the third album from Para, a trio consisting of prepared piano, French horn and double bass. It was recorded live at the Kaleidophon festival in 2016, though the sonic quality is easily that of an expertly produced studio album. There’s a broadly improvised feel, that I might even label as “traditionally avantgarde” if that’s not a contradiction in terms. Each instrument gradually builds or wanes its performance either in parallel with, or counterpoint against, what the other two are doing- leaving some periods of near-silence (and some very lush low subbass tones) and some periods of cacophony and chaos.

Of the seven tracks, over half of them have titles that were totally indecipherable to my media player, so I’ll have to refer to some tracks by number rather than name. The opening track “Karpaten” has a short and almost scat-like spoken-word section towards the end (Greek I think but I’m a language novice so I’m not sure) which gives a nice twist in an almost-jazz direction as it develops. The scat style reappears to strong effect in the fifth track, in which the French horn commits to a very passable didgeridoo impression and, with the best will in the world, it starts sounding like the soundtrack to a brilliantly deranged spaghetti Western.

The sense of tension in third track “Aupa” derived from the relentless piano high note hammering gives it a more horror-like flavour that isn’t necessarily all that welcome or successful, as for me the arrangements work better when they’re more refined, such as in sixth track “Matrjoschka” which develops a very dark, breathy and alien second half, and the much more relaxed final track “Glut”.

It’s a sterling performance that must surely have been mesmerising to watch live. Over the course of 53 minutes it’s got a careful level of dynamism and progression that keeps you attached at all times. While a couple of tracks some to lose themselves somewhat in their own melée and the sinister tones just occasionally come across as insincere, overall it’s a bold musical work definitely worthy of attention.
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