Music Reviews



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Artist: Dan Peck
Title: Solo LP
Format: 12"
Label: Tubapede Records (@)
Of all the instruments that come to mind when thinking about experimental music, tuba is pretty far down the list. Still, I have been reviewing for Chain DLK long enough that nothing really surprises me anymore, and here it is ' solo tube experimentation. But Dan Peck is no ordinary tubist. He also performs in Tony Malaby's Tuba Trio, a 'doom jazz' trio called 'The Gate,' and has collaborated with such improv notables such as Nate Wooley and Pete Evans. He also plays tuba and upright bass for the Broadway musical 'Chicago.' This album is the opening salvo from Tubapede Records, so let's see what it has to offer.

The text on the back of the record jacket provides a quote from Nikola Tesla, which reads 'The vibrations of the earth have a periodicity of approximately one hour and forty-nine minutes. That is to say, if I strike the earth this instant, a wave of contraction goes through it that will come back in one hour and forty-nine minutes in the form of expansion. As a matter of fact, the earth, like everything else, is in a constant state of vibration. It is constantly contracting and expanding. Now suppose that at that precise moment when it begins to contract, I explode a ton of dynamite. That accelerates the contraction. And in one hour and forty-nine minutes there comes an equally accerated wave of expansion. When the wave of expansion ebbs, suppose I explode another ton. . . and suppose this performance be repeated time after time. Is there any doubt as to what would happen? There is no doubt in my mind. The earth would split in two. For the first time in man's history, he has the knowledge with which he can interfere with cosmic processes.'

With this Tesla quote fresh in mind, we open up with "Longus Tonus," which, the label explains, is 'partially inspired by Karlheinz Stockhausen's collection of text pieces, From the Seven Days (1968)' and the press sheet that came with the album states that the composition 'references drone, spectralism, and sacred music, yet is none of those things.' From my standpoint, it seems that Peck is attempting to act on Tesla's promise by finding the low frequency of earth vibration. This track consists of silence punctuated by low tuba drones. And that's it. For the entire A side. Although I appreciate the concept of the track, the execution is rather boring (although some may call it minimal). I flip the record over and wonder if the experiment will continue, but am pleasantly surprised by 'Satanitorium,' which shows that yes, tuba can be used effectively in experimental music. Peck beats on the metal of the tuba and manages to get sounds out of it that seem downright unnatural. This frantic improvisation stands in stark contrast to the other track with squeals and squawks and continual banging and tapping on the horn. This was great fun to listen to and made me wonder how he managed to get all of those sounds out of one tuba by himself. Turns out that this track features overdubs of an amplified tuba fitted with a tenor saxophone mouthpiece. This is fantastic. I would love to see this happen in a live setting. As a whole, this is a mixed bag. Side A was musically not very interesting, if interesting conceptually, while side B was an excellent testament to what a tuba can do musically.
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Artist: Dus-Ti (@)
Title: Ti EP
Format: 12"
Label: Ti-Records (@)
Distributor: Broken Silence
Rated: *****
I know nothing about this duo and the website was little help. From what I could gather on the liner notes, the duo cosists of Pablo and Mirek, with one on trumpet and the other on drums. So let's get right to the music. Side A starts off with 'The Wind,' a slow, contemplative jazzy composition dominated by trumpet, which then moves to 'Jak To?' which is a more stripped down number. This is music for the late evening after all of the clubs have closed down and everyone is finally tired and ready to sleep. We flip the record and are greeted with 'Answer Me,' which is much more minimal than the A side and more free-form. This is what I like about jazz ' two people playing what seems to be different tempos and different compositions while still managing to have it all hang together well. 'Saturn' is much more experimental, with electronic manipulations and trumpet washing over percussion that finally takes a central role, rather than that of support. This is grittier, with a more urgent feel to it. The whole thing ends in what seems to be a locked groove. Both sides are good, but for different reasons. Side A demonstrates that Dus-Ti are serious musicians who are able to play more traditional jazz numbers, while side B shows their willingness to break the rules (such as there are any rules in jazz) while still keeping it engaging and fluid. You definitely won't hear this on your local jazz station any time soon, but this would be a good album for someone who wanted to hear some more accessible experimental jazz.
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Artist: Doug Wieselman (@)
Title: From Water
Format: 12"
Label: 88 Records
Rated: *****
Doug Wieselman is a clarinetist best known for his work in Antony and the Johnsons, and he has worked with such figures as Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and Bill Frisell. As expected, he has an experimental slant and excellent musical skills, which shows through on this album. The album jacket states that 'This is music primarily made from melodies that I have heard from bodies of water ' ocean beaches, streams, hot springs as well as wind. These melodies sound to me like a chorus of exuberant voices. Each melody is specific to the place. If I return to a beach, even after many years, I hear the same song. I think this has something to do with what the earth can tell us, if only we can take the time and patience to listen. This is an attempt to share what I have been hearing, through the filter of my perception, from water.' For each of these tracks, Wieselman has a story about what spaces and bodies of water evoked these compositions, such as the California coast or a stream in the Catskills. If this sounds like something off a new age label like Narada circa 1990, you'd be wrong. If you think that this sounds pretty mellow, it is. We kick off side A with 'Train,' a peaceful composition, almost like an instrumental lullaby in its repetitiveness. 'Pacific 2' keeps the mellow vibe going with a track featuring mostly woodwinds. The A side concludes with 'Kepler 22b,' an interesting track that sounds almost like a folk dance done only with woodwinds and no percussion. Flipping the record over, we have some solo improvisation on 'Gloria Fleur Madre,' which Wieselman states is 'based on the song I heard in the wind, from the plains near the Catalonian mountain, Montserrat.' As the record continues, Wieselman continues with slow, peaceful compositions until 'Tennessee Valley (Choir)' mixes things up a bit by including vocals for the first time in the form of a choir. They are not singing a specific song, but rather singing tones and sounds. Wieselman explains, 'I wanted to include something in this collection that came close to the actual sound that I hear in water ' which sounds like a choir to me.' The album concludes much as it begun ' with peaceful clarinet. Overall, I didn't think this really pushed the envelope of experimental music, but I'm not sure that was ever his intent. I say this mainly because of likely expectations of our readership. Still, this was pleasant listening and the concept was interesting. It was peaceful without being cheesy; I suspect that this will stand up far better than old new age albums conceptualizing water have. If you want something to quietly relax to, this is one to pick up.
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Artist: Chris Campbell and Grant Cutler (@)
Title: Schooldays Over
Format: 12"
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
'School Day's Over' is an Irish folk song about working in the mines, and Chris Campbell and Grant Cutler seem to take this as the jumping off point for this album. On the website for the project, they state that 'As we worked, it became clear that the heart of the tune was more about psychological exploration, almost a diorama or snowglobe to look inside. . . . Ultimately we wanted to craft a landscape that the listener could enter into to. We extended certain parts, elongated certain feelings and then always brought it back to the anchor of the words. Out there in this big landscape are these islands, these places that move the narrative forward, where the verses rise up, what we call 'Song 1' and 'Song 2.'' The label describes the album in one sentence: 'Grant Cutler and Chris take their folksong to outer space.' I suppose that's as good a description as any. If I had to describe this in a few words, I would describe this as melancholy and contemplative. The title, 'Schooldays Over' evokes a kind of uncertain transition where one must move forward, but with no clear vision of where. The music likewise evokes these kinds of feelings, opening with 'Piano, Cellos, Glockenspiel,' a peaceful composition featuring droning strings and sparse piano that almost sounds like a warmup for the next song. 'Song 1' lays down some sparse ambience and reverbed vocals reminiscent of This Mortal Coil before giving way to an interesting duet of piano and marimba that continues into the next track, 'Marimba, Synths, Piano'. As the piano and marimba continue, the synth comes in and gains increasing prominence. Up until now, it the music has been rather sedate and calming, but 'Pump Organ, Gongs, Balloon Bassoons' changes all of that by kicking in with a pipe organ at full force. However, even this becomes more subdued and shifts into 'Song 2,' which has the same formula as 'Song 1,' with its reverbed vocals and mellow ambience that bleeds into 'Cello Bath, Koto,' which keeps the ambience going with just a hint of dissonance. 'Song 3' brings it all together with similar vocals with the refrain 'it's time you were on your way' and fuller instrumentation than the other two 'songs.' Overall this is the kind of music that makes even a sunny day feel like a cold, fall day with the rain drizzling softly outside. Well done dreamlike music. This album weighs in at around 21 minutes.
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Artist: 2Kilos &More (@)
Title: 10
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Audiophob (@)
Rated: *****
I previously reviewed 2Kilos &More's 'Kurz Vor5' and enjoyed it, so I was interested to see how these songs would hold up in a live setting. This set was released in celebration of their 10th anniversary, so you would expect that the tracks chosen would showcase the best of what they have. Thankfully, this seems to be the case. I was unfamiliar with their other discs, so some of this was new to me. Let's start with the live disc. This is what I really like about live music. The songs that have become familiar are suddenly seen in a new light as they are reinterpreted by the band. Sometimes this is due to the limitations of the medium (it is hard to bring an orchestra into a small club) and other times it's simply because the artists take license to play with their music. 'Wolf' opens it all up with a moaning, whining vocal number that is vaguely unsettling. The weirdness doesn't get any less as 'On the Juiciest Walk' lays down a throbbing number with high pitched singing and synth pads over a relentless beat. 'Ark' is weird spoken word with music that seems even more ominous when you begin to listen to the lyrics ' stuff like 'kids disappearing everywhere....' 'A Pool' opens with shrill electronics that make way for spoken word that begins: 'I am in the 13th Century and I am sleeping with my young and beautiful love in this Roman cathedral' and tells the story of diving into a pool of water created by a rainstorm that came through the hole in this cathedral. The story ends and leaves you wondering what happened in the end. But where it really got interesting for me was on 'I Decided to Lie,' which is an extended narrative of a hotel-room encounter that has a much more raw feel to it with grinding guitars and distortion and all of the intensity or the original while expanding the original significantly. If you need a primer on how to create intensity in live performance, this is the track to turn to. Finally, we get to 'Remix for Rapoon'; I am a pretty big fan of Rapoon, so I was interested to hear 2 Kilos &More's take on his work. This is a good example of what a remix should be ' maintaining the spirit of the original material but seeing it through a new pair of eyes. Slow moving drones and plodding percussion give it a peaceful feel (until at about 5 minutes in, it is briefly interrupted by short electronic blasts of glitchy noise before returning to the drones (make sure these are in the original)). Nicely done.

Next up, we have the remix disc. Remixes are often more a matter of the skill of the remixer than the original source material, so seeig such luminaries as Rapoon, Imminent, Roger Rotor, and Needle Sharing bodes well. Let's hit the high notes. Muckrackers kicks us off with remix of 'Tiens, Regarde!' that is dark, ominous, and slow moving ' nicely done. Next up, Bérangère Maximin takes on 'And That's About All So Far' with 12 minutes of clanging, clicking, noisy atmosphere. This is a high pitched stress test for your ears, but it still remains engaging because of the incidental sounds that punctuate the wall of noise. Four minutes in, we have a clicking beat that finally triumphs over the noise mixed with what sounds like bird chirps. Interesting, but it goes on a bit longer than it needs to and would have been more solid with a bit of editing. If this is the most I have to complain about on a remix disc, this album is pretty far ahead of the competition. The remix of 'On the Juiciest Walk' by Picore is a rollicking number with a hard-driving pounding drum beat and a melody that seems ready to fall apart at any moment. It finally slows down for a bit at 3 minutes in before taking off again. Throw this into your next workout mix for extra calorie burn. With 'I Decided to Lie,' if the original and the live versions were too intense for you, this version by The Berg Sans Nipple is for you. Bass drum and toms mixed with a simple synth line mixed with the spoken word narrative. Where the live version delivers the shock of an event that just happened, this remix conveys the weary retelling of the story for the 10th time to a new listener. With Rapoon, one good remix deserves another as Storey takes on 'CSP' with ethereal drones that wash over brief snippets of sped-up voices, sparse percussion, and incidental sounds like didgeridoo and random clanks. The 'Only Hazard' remix by Imminent is a bit less drum and noise than what I would expect from this artist. The simple beats and synth over chunks of sampled vocals are present and accounted for, but compared to Imminent's own work this starts off downright mellow. Eventually it opens up and kicks into the drum and noise that we all love from Imminent. 'Les Rapports' S' by Roger Rotor keeps the drum and noise alive with a minimal, repetitive reinterpretation. The 'Ark' remix by Needle Sharing is a frantic swirl of beats and analogue synth sounds. The vocals that make the live version so disturbing are used mainly for atmosphere here as they are deconstructed beyond recognition. The Von Magnet remix of 'After May June, And Before Berlin' is a thing of beauty; peaceful and serene. In all, these are interesting tracks that could, for the most part, stand on their own without having heard the originals.

This is one worth picking up for both the live renditions and the remixes. The live disc weighs in at around 68 minutes and the remix disc weighs in at around 71 minutes.
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