Music Reviews



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Artist: Peter Evans and Nate Wooley (@)
Title: High Society
Format: CD
Label: Carrier Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of these artists, but I have heard of their previous collaborators: John Zorn and Fred Frith were the ones that stood out to me. So this is trumpet improvisations, but you'd never know it by listening to it. To me, that's a good thing. Here's how the label described it in the press sheet: 'What you get is two of America's leading lights on the instrument laying everything on the line in one of the rawest, loudest, and delightfully abstract free improvisation records of its time. Using guitar amplifiers and their trumpets to shape feedback squall, Evans and Wooley have proposed a new kind of timbral dialogue to an already percolating world improvisation scene.' Much like their labelmates Architeuthis Walks on Land, they take their instruments and completely reconceptualize what can be done with them. This is noisy and harsh with plenty of feedback in the mix. But it is also varied enough to keep it interesting. Most importantly, I found myself wondering how they managed to get those sounds out of two amplified trumpets. This was pretty impressive and nothing like I expected. Give it to your favorite trumpet player and ask, 'can you play trumpet like this?' This album weighs in at around 64 minutes.
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Artist: Vortex
Title: Rockdrill
Format: CD
Label: Cyclic Law (@)
Rated: *****
According to the linear note of this album, rockdrill is the history of the sculpture made by Sir Jacob Epstein and depicted in the pictures in the curated booklet. So this is, in fact, a work about the (con)struction and (de)struction of a work. The history of the rockdrill is a strange one: a sculpture destroyed by the war, reconstructed and, casted again, partially destroyed by the author unsatisfied by the result.
"Rockdrill I" opens this release with a drone that develops in an almost industrial beat, "Canto Spoleto" relies on spoken word part that try to evoke a nostalgic novel of past times. "Spiral" is an oppressive drone coloured by atmospheric samples. "Fatalism" use a classical guitar line to brighten the musical journey. "Iron Cage" juxtapose an almost religious chorus above a martial beat. "Persistance" and "Asylum" are ambient tracks constructed above samples that are almost an introduction to the final part of this album. "Construction" marks the part of the reconstruction with metal resonances and and a soundtrack-type texture. "The Fall" is an atmospheric track relying on a ritualistic beat while "Rockdrill II" is a solar tune based on a clear drone. "Epilogue: Canto Zero" begins with an high frequency noise above a sad line of guitar and ends with metallic resonance above a martial beat.
This release has the unusual quality to be able to tell a story, so it's one of the best release of the year. Truly recommended.
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Artist: Tetsuya Hori (@)
Title: Dried Fish is Just Good as Bait
Format: CD
Label: Aphonia Recordings
Rated: *****
When you have comments like 'For Voice and Cigar Box' and 'For Voice, Face, and Rubber Bands,' you know that you are in for an interesting ride. The disc is packaged in a poster that, according to the press material, has images of Izumi Ose making different facial expressions that correspond to the silence the disc. I have to admit that this approach didn't really do much for me (although it does clue you in on when the yelling is about to start). Perhaps part of this comes from Hori's statement that 'My pieces do not have a concept. That is the concept. . . . I want to show the listener nonsense.' My wife commented that it sounded kind of like Sun Ra at the beginning and I can see that with the sudden vocal exclamations and spacey sounds, but Sun Ra had a lot more complexity; I would put this along the lines of some of Hafler Trio's work. But Hori is also a serious musician as evidenced with track two, which contains a nice piano interlude. Overall, this is interesting and engaging. The mixture of sudden screams, peaceful music, and silence works quite well. It's nice to see someone pushing the envelope of music and this album does just that.
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Artist: Mario de Vega
Title: Live 03.12.09 Next Festival / Bratislava Slovakia
Format: CD
Label: Acheulian Handaxe (@)
Rated: *****
Like most of what I get to review, I had never heard of Mario de Vega, but the fact that it lists modified turntables, objects and electronics let me know what I was in for. The packaging is quite sparse, and there was no press release, so this was pretty much all I had to go on. Happily, de Vega does not disappoint. There are great moments of cacophony amid bass drones and high pitched feedback squeals. However, there are times when the bass becomes a bit too static and dull, where it takes over rather than providing a counterpoint to the other noise he creates. It isn't so bad on disc, but I am picturing myself at the live show where this took place and thinking that it would have been a bit boring at times. Overall, this would be a decent introduction to experimental music for the uninitiated ' not too challenging but not too bad. This album weighs in at 32.44.
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Artist: Andy Haas
Title: Paradise of Ashes
Format: CD
Label: Resonant Music
Rated: *****
When I put this disc in the player, I was reminded of the classic exchange in the movie Spinal Tap, in which Nigel explains that he is working on a piece 'in D minor which is the saddest of all keys, I find. People weep instantly when they hear it, and I don't know why.' As Haas opens the disc with the track 'New Maladies of the Soul,' you get such a feeling. In fact, if I were to describe the entire disc, the word I would use is 'mournful.' Of course the saxophone lends itself well to such an endeavor. After all, how else would one describe a track entitled 'My Life Would Such Without You'? I had to do some looking to find info on Haas because there was no press sheet in the package (or it got lost on my desk) but according to an online bio, 'Andy Haas has performed, recorded and collaborated with many musicians who were at the center of the creative avant garde music coming out of NYC by the '90s, such as John Zorn, Fred Frith, Ikue Mori, Thurston Moore, Marc Ribot, and more.' That said, if you are looking for the kind of freakout sax of Zorn or the wall of noise that Moore can create, you'll be disappointed. I don't think that this pushes the envelope of experimental as much as I would like for most ChainDLK listeners, but it is pleasant listening and it does try to bring the weirdness. Maybe that comes from the fact that it was produced by ChainDLK's own Marc Urselli. But there are moments of randomness in tracks such as 'Enta Omri (You Are My Life)' with percussion and noise that doesn't quite jive with the saxophone melodies (in a good way). 'It's Only a Paper Moon' throws down an almost dark ambient soundscape under the sax as well. In fact, this was one of the standout tracks for me. Overall, a good, relaxing album. This disc weighs in at around 40 minutes.
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