Music Reviews

Miman: Ulme

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 15 2018
Artist: Miman (@)
Title: Ulme
Format: CD
Label: Motvind
Rated: *****
The talented Norwegian musician Hans Kjorstad (starting his musical path when he played the violin at the age of 7 in Fron in Gudbrandsdalen, a small Norwegian village, that has a lively folk music scene) recently established his personal imprint Motvind - as a sister company to the Motvind Festival - by releasing the debut album by Miman, a trio he founded together with Egil Kalman (playing double bass and synthesizer) and Andreas Røysum (playing guitar and a clarinet). According to the notes (...and we have no reason to not trust them!), these three folks recorded "Ulme" with the support of Magnus Nergaard over three days in March 2017 during which they improvised in front of a fireplace (as you can guess by the title of the first song "Omkring Ilden", meaning "around the fire") in a cabin in the woods north of Oslo. Wood and fire are important elements of the set, as it seems the musicians constantly gave voice to them by means of scratches, hits, creaking noises, which don't disturb the delicate melodies on which they pop out like fairy entities or maybe like those mushrooms in the sylvan undergrowth of the nice cover artwork. Such an aural organization, combining flakes of electronics and acoustics leaning on a ground of references to Norwegian, British and Indian traditional sonorities, is particularly clear on "De Vises Club", the more extended track of the album, but it's clear on the other tracks - where they often change the way by which they assemble sounds - as well, covering a wide range going from quite abstract and almost not-musical improvisations ("Torre", "Skarvor") and bluesy moments ("VÄgen Ut") to the pastoral delicate transcendence of "Walden" - a reference to the masterpiece by Thoreau? I recommend to enjoy it while driving over lovely natural sets, as I did while driving around the pre-Apennine areas close to Bologna if you like driving without fearing twists and turns! - and the lovely reverie of the closing "Plaums Draum".

Rothenberg / Hein / Tammen: Bird Saw Buchla

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 10 2018
Artist: Rothenberg / Hein / Tammen
Title: Bird Saw Buchla
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
There’s a purist streak to the way these three musicians have brought their own instruments- primilarly clarinet, guitar and a 70’s vintage Buchla music easel- to bear as equal thirds of this almost-hour-long collection of improvised works that sit on the border of avantgarde jazz and experimental electronic soundscaping. Sometimes toying with their own instruments, for example playing a guitar using saw motors rubbing the strings, at times it sounds like three decidedly introspective noise-makers whose simultaneous audability is more coincidence than design; at other points, there’s a clearer sense of musical responsiveness between the performers.

“Then Cry All Birds And Fishes” is a prime example of the latter, an expertly moderated nine-minute work of slow tension and build. In pieces like “Now In Sad Autumn” there’s strength in contrasts, the clarinet expressing the titular seasonal rustic melancholy but offset against bleeps, whirrs and scratches that map out a different path. One of the most interesting bits of soundscaping comes in final track “A Solitary Bird”, which at first glance appears to be a found sound cliché that reveals itself to be imitation bird noises constructed from oscillations that gradually devolve and lose their disguise while the Buchla steps out a sort of proto-techno pattern.

I’m very fond of the tonal qualities of clarinets, but even I have to admit that it perhaps over-dominates here at times. In mixing terms I might have liked to hear some of the rumblier electronic noises brought to the forefront, but they’re often crushed- obviously doing interesting stuff that’s buried underneath the bassier tones of a clarinet that does sometimes does everything except stop. There is some respite though, “Cold Pale Eyes Pour Tears” a successful example of what occurs when the balance shifts.

There are some deeply intriguing ideas at play here and it’s very well executed, certainly a release worth scratching beyond the surface of.

Gabriela Friedli Trio with Daniel Studer and Dieter Ulrich: Areas

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 08 2018
Artist: Gabriela Friedli Trio with Daniel Studer and Dieter Ulrich
Title: Areas
Format: CD
Label: Leo Records
Recorded in two days in late 2015 but only released this year, “Areas” is the live-in-the-studio sound of an avantgarde jazz trio brimming in both confidence and mutual trust. While Friedli’s piano work takes centre stage and the artist credit, it’s the interplay between her keys, Studer’s bass and Ulrich’s drums (and occasionally bugle) that make this a rich and complex performance.

While tracks like opener “Largo”, “Bova Blaua” and “Masse” flow in waves, shifting between pause and mania and back a few times, other works like “Hul Hound” and “Um Su” are more consistently down-tempo and sombre affairs.

The artist photo in the CD inlay has two of them with straight faces and the other smiling, and that’s really quite appropriate for the tone of the release, which is predominantly earnest and straight-faced portraiture but not without a bit of playfulness, for example in the curt back-and-forth of “Minuten”. Both “Miedra” and “Fil Da Ramosa” flirt with steady, more straight-flowing classic jazz grooves but then pull away- rather far- from them.

It is, for want of avoiding contradiction, a fairly conventional-sounding avantgarde jazz work, with the sonic qualities and production values all high-quality but uninventive, with a very natural sound. It exudes quality throughout and if you like your jazz experimental and dynamic, but also quite straight-faced, then this is a premium product worth checking out.

Ingar Zach - Speak Percussion: Before Nightfall One

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 29 2018
Artist: Ingar Zach - Speak Percussion
Title: Before Nightfall One
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
This is the first in Australian percussion duo Speak Percussion’s intended series of one-day collaborations where they first meet their intended collaborator in the morning, they spend the day working and improvising together, and then they perform the result as a free concert the same evening- and this CD (or download) is the recording of that concert (mixed and mastered at a later date).

Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach is first up and the result is, as you’d expect, a percussion-fest- one 34-minute work constructed of a variety of melodic bells, metallic rattles, rolling noises and long decaying reverberant tones. It ebbs carefully between delicate arrangements and more cacophonous moments which arrive in slow waves. As it progresses and evolves, the contrasts between the very pure-sounding tuned glockenspiel-ish noises and the scratchy, edgy industrial harshness of some of the rhythmic elements are emphasised to strong, if conventional, effect.

I’m loathe to mention it as it’s such an Australian stereotype but the drone elements playing underneath the harsh scratches towards the end of the work really do have a touch of the didgeridoo about them.

Despite only having a few hours to work it out, this is the sound of three percussionists working on the same page and sympathetically. There’s almost nothing about the release that exposes the brevity of its compositional process, except perhaps at a push the fact that it feels somewhat ‘safe’ and that perhaps this is the sound of Speak Percussion’s comfort zone.

The duo have already done eight Before Nightfall events and this is the first to be released as a listening product. Presumably the others won’t be far behind and should also make for interesting listening.

Moskus: Mirakler

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 28 2018
Artist: Moskus
Title: Mirakler
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro
Moskus are a trio of piano, drums and bass, though they’ll hop onto some other instruments- keyboards, organs, vibraphones or recorders- on a whim. But at its core it remains three skilled musicians performing, mostly improvising, around each other in a manner that’s comfortable, almost cosy, and quite playful at times.

The clap-along “Irsk Setter” is one of the brightest tracks, with a poppy energy that’s halfway to making it an odd crossover radio hit, but other tracks are more sanguine, exuding the slightly smoking-sounding jazz tones in pieces like “Sang til C”. The vibes- literally- on “Min venns skaperverk” place us firmly in a quirky chamber jazz world. Particularly in the second half, many of the tracks are short- over half the tracks here are under three minutes long- giving us concise little patterns that are a touch under-baked at times, improvised melodic ideas being casually batted about and thrown away rather than really explored.

The track called “(_ ,)” is particularly sweet thanks to the judicious use of Hans Hulbækmo’s musical saw, sounding decidedly theremin-like when given preferential solo treatment.

Overall, it feels quite unchallenging. Musically the root concept behind pieces like the odd-stepping-rhythmed “Eventyrdagene” are interesting exercises, but the rest is something that sounds like it was more complex to play than it was to listen to (well of course that’s generally true but it feels even more the case here, if you see what I mean).
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