Music Reviews



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Artist: Giovanni Lami (@)
Title: Bias
Format: CD
Label: consumer waste (@)
Rated: *****
Bias is something that could be called as "documentary release" as, instead of being a traditionally composed music, it's a sonic document of a physical artifact. The basic material of this release are tapes buried to alter their chemical composition so, in a certain perspective, were ruined or degraded. When the role of the tape is the recording a sonic source that has to be faithfully reproduced, how has to sound if tape is the source in itself? GIovanni Lami answers this question using tape players as projectors without a visible film.
The original recording of "KRR5" could be a gentle soundscape but it now a representation of bits of music buried upon hisses and noises and a vague background noise. "BHHH" became a deconstructed piece of music, "INZZ" a dark interlude based on a drone able to let the noises act the sudden noise of an horror film which alarm the listener. "PPK1" is a piece based on a sort of foreground noise above which there's the phantom of the recording. "PPK4" starts with a quiet background noise and ends with an high pitch noise. "PPK2" sounds almost as an avant dark ambient track as it's the clearer recording of this release. "LRR3" closes this release with a dialectic between quieter moments and noisier ones where the degradation of the tape is more evident.
An evidently courageous release where there's the search of a personal sound dealing with the concept of legacy and degradation as an inevitable aspect of time, and life. The audible result of this process questions how a culture based on progress could deal with his past and shows the paradox that the medium with the higher fidelity is perfect to reproduce noise as it was music. An excellent release and a work of art.
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Artist: Rafał Kołacki (@)
Title: Hijra. Noise from the Jungle
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
This release is based upon recording of music events and everyday life made in a temporary refugee camp called The Jungle in Calais, France. This field recordings document the result of the interactions of various nations in a relatively small area. Apart for the political relevance of a work around a theme, immigration, so present in public debate, is shows how music is present in everyday life; while music is almost a background in modern times, traditionally it was a part of specific moments of human interaction e.g., religious rites, and this recordings shows how this element remains present in african based ethnic groups.
But the sense of this release is not on the role of music but, as the liner notes printed on the cd clearly states, it's on the role of the document as a political act. As the refugees closed in the jungle, and called inhabitants by the author, are not citizen but are in a sort of limbo without a precise role, these recordings show them in a first place as humans and this is a political statement in a period when they are seen are a political problem. So, the role of the field recording is to capture the sound of their life without the indulgence of the sad representation of the trapped refugee but, in some recordings, as people which could even celebrate the fact that they are alive.
As the inner cover shows a plate where three hands are taking their food depicting how they can share the few they have, the recordings show how "they lost their homes and families but still retain what is the most precious: human dignity" as the author writes. Talking about music on this release would mean miss the point of this release: documents show what thought cannot. A remarkable release.
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Artist: James Freeman
Title: Echoes of Nature III
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Distributor: The Orchard
Rated: *****
The third installment of James Freeman's "Echoes of Nature" is generally interchangeable with the first two albums, though it is easily the most disjointed, and thus perhaps the most adventurous. Composer, conceptualist, and performer Freeman (synthesizer, bass, and guitar), once again marries his 'field recordings' (equally natural and unpredictable sounds of turkeys, birds, thunder, wolves, etc.) with authoritative soloing by live musicians. In addition to "Echoes" regulars Yehudit and Mad Tolling on violin/viola and Nika Rejto on flute/winds, Sheldon Brown returns on saxophone along with newcomer Lisa Wellhausen on flute.

The album begins rather ominously with fragmented low-end flourishes, which sets the tone for the first two tracks 'August Birds' and 'Wolves'. Both tracks, especially 'August Birds', can be surprisingly ominous-sounding. The pair had interesting moments, but more than once I felt like I needed a sonic breath to empty the mind space saturated by Freeman's conceptions.

'Canadian Geese' had more spaciousness and was a very interesting listen. Clean electric guitar comping coupled with the sounds of geese! I digress, but wonder if Canadian Geese sound different then geese of other nationalities? Proficient string improvisation by either Yehudit or Mad Tolling throughout leads to the subsequent 'Thunder Turkeys', which is similar in tonality and the longest track on the album (17:38). The comical, unpredictable sound of turkeys is highly amusing at times, and in this instance Freeman conjoins everything with an electric bass. Again, nearly ten minutes in, I found myself yearning for a long, deep breath as opposed to gasps.

I enjoyed the last three tracks the most, notably 'Amazon Dance', which was framed in the 'jazz idiom' and heavy on the winds and reeds. 'Tweety Birds' utilizes Rhodes piano-type sounds panned quickly back-and-forth to great effect. All in all, "Echoes of Nature III" was my least favorite of the bunch, but also the most audacious. It may fare better with a different track order. A remarkable sonic undertaking, regardless.

The math formula used to create the music, as defined in the press sheet:

1. Translate notes into numbers: C= 1, C#=2, etc.
2. Compose a theme, such as 1 3 4 6 2 9 11 3
3. Create derivative lines using the math formulas
4. Repeat this process to yield a matrix of numbers (notes) as a foundation for composing ideas
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Artist: James Freeman
Title: Echoes of Nature II
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Distributor: The Orchard
Rated: *****
Wait..there's a sequel to James Freeman's "Echoes of Nature"? And - spoiler alert - there's also an "Echoes of Nature III"??!! Still coming to all five senses from listening to the first, along comes a sequel with equally juxtaposed synthetics, natural 'field recordings' (owls, streams, etc.), and acoustic instruments/live musicians improvising atop it all. The result is surprisingly intriguing yet pastoral.

I was impressed with Freeman's first "Echoes of Nature", and this is more of the same, albeit more synthetic-sounding and nimble than the prior. Twenty-minute opener 'Frog Pond' features dexterous synth arpeggios, a frog-like ascending motif that functions almost like a bassline, and animated interplay amongst the soloists ranging in instrumentation from reed to wind to string. Mad Tolling and Yehudit return on violin/viola, as does Nika Rejto on flute and piccolo.

In an almost disconcerting way, the inorganic drum that opens the final track 'Jungle Flute' was so synthetic that, for a moment, it took me away from what had been nearly 50 minutes of balanced auditory potpourri. I thought, "that is a very unnatural-sounding drum to imagine either being or hearing in the jungle". Like everything on both of Freeman's "Echoes of Nature" albums, however, it somehow finds its relative place in the atmosphere, merrily plodding along.

Recommended for first-thing AM/last-thing PM listening for maximum enjoyment.
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Artist: James Freeman
Title: Echoes of Nature
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Distributor: The Orchard
Rated: *****
James Freeman's "Echoes of Nature" is a curious juxtaposition of synthesis and nature. Pre-listen, my thinking was that - though adventurous - the bulk of the material would be far too labored to have significant merit. The idea of 1s, 0s, and that which is inorganic blended with field recordings of nature (crickets, ocean waves, etc.) further coupled with organic/acoustic instrument improvisation seemed contrived. It still does. But somehow it works, literally filling either a room or your ears with echoes of natural musicality that still somehow derives itself from mathematically-shifting modality.

The extended violin and viola soloing of Mad Tolling and Yehudit are out-front but also well-integrated, as-is the flute and piccolo of Nika Rejto on the applicable 'Sunrise Birds'. All of the solos work contextually most of the time, and even when they sound like they might be getting in the way or otherwise too dominant, a temporary reprieve - but hardly a resolution - is almost breath-like as my brain gets ready for the next one.

Hard to pick a favorite, but I enjoyed the very long (39:48) 'Morning Waves' the most; it proved to be a dexterous workout for my headphones and my brain. Freeman's slow moving low-end synth swells married with high-end fast arpeggios and scale runs contrast the ocean waves in a spectacular way that is hypnotic. I had the pleasure of listening to "Echoes of Nature" first thing in the early AM, and it was quite rewarding. Musically fulfilling in-the-moment, and somehow continuing to be functional post-listen as I felt a sense of calmness afterward.
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