Music Reviews



Damo Suzuki & Sound Carriers: Live at Marie-Antoinette

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Apr 24 2017
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Artist: Damo Suzuki & Sound Carriers
Title: Live at Marie-Antoinette
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Play Loud! Productions
Performed by a supergroup of sorts, fronted by Can’s Damo Suzuki and personnel from Schneider™, Pan Sonic and others, “Live At Marie-Antoinette” has a very traditional live prog rock album feel to it that, save for a handful of digital electronics, could have been firmly placed in the mid 1970’s. Four super-long tracks of pulsing guitar drones, spaced out FX floating over slowly shifting and speed-changing simple bass notes, this is indulgently retro stuff.

It’s only in certain sections, such as the grand finale of second piece “Stern des Nerren” or the nuanced distorted drone underneath “Die Leere füllen”, do electronics that tell you this is a 2011 recording (being released, for no given reason, six years later).

It’s generally well-performed, with a strong understanding between performers and a strong intuition for pace change and uniform threads through the improvisations- this is accomplished musicianship, evading the ego of virtuosity in favour of coherence and consistency.

Suzuki’s vocals have a broad range, at times growling like Satchmo, sometimes more like Jim Morrison, but in places it draws too many comparisons to suggest that it really has its own modern character. It’s a faithful, always nostalgic revisiting of the even-more-indulgent side of prog rock but unfortunately it lacks the character or modern twist that would make it stand out as anything more than a curio with big names attached to it.

Jim Denley: Cut Air

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Apr 21 2017
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Artist: Jim Denley
Title: Cut Air
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sofa
You probably have expectations of what a solo flute album would sound like- you may need to revise them. The diverse Australian, South Pacific and Amazonian ethnic traditions of the diverse flute family meet the European tones I’m more familiar with on this collection of layered improvisations of extremely long drone-like notes with a warm, deep, comforting tone. In my ignorance some parts sound like a didgeridoo, but there’s also plenty of other shapes and tones going on.

The feeling of breathing transcribed through the instrument is steady and mostly soporific, though certain note alternations (for example 5 minutes into the first track) do lead to slightly more active periods. It never shifts into anything that might be called challenging or difficult.

With an LP-like format, you get two 19-minute long pieces with a similar flavour. “For Celina Rokona” has slightly more percussive elements in parts but as pieces they are non-identical twins. The gating-like and fluttering effects at the end of the title track and the opening of “For Celina Rokona” are a fascinating example of organic noises imitating electronics, sounding almost Radiophonic Workshop-like at times.

“Cut Air” is a bold and simple listening experience, a captivating example of the breadth of possible sound from one instrument family- and also quite simply a nice way to chill out.

Mary Lattimore: Collected Pieces

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Apr 17 2017
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Artist: Mary Lattimore
Title: Collected Pieces
Format: Tape
Label: Ghostly International (@)
Mary Lattimore is a classically trained harpist who has recorded or performed with an impressive list of artists. Having released her third solo album “The Dam” last year, “Collected Pieces” is a gathering together of miscellaneous improvised harp solos from over the last decade- seemingly to be regarded as a compilation, though it has the consistency and sheen of a new album.

A pure harp sound has an intrinsic association with lullabies and the persuasion to sleep. From the opening patterns of “Wawa By The Ocean”, this release shows it’s not going to shatter that connection. But while that familiar and beautiful sound is a starting point, we do get taken a few steps further, thanks to the delicate and sympathetic use of electronic effects to provide extra layering and filters that add a little extra to the dynamics.

In particular, low notes reverberate further, becoming drones that ebb and wave much longer than natural, giving the soundscape a much deeper and broader texture than you’d expect one harp, no matter how resonant, to provide. Higher frequencies are sometimes quickly retriggered, giving a gentle gating effect which I’ve heard on some Mike Oldfield releases.

But for all that electronic assistance, truthfully this is still an album you can fall asleep to. “Bold Rides” is a perkier piece, relatively, but it never stops being gentle and harmonious. Despite the title, “We Just Found Out She Died” is relaxed and jaunty, adding harmonium-like synth tones and vocal ‘ahhhh’s in a manner that does tend towards celtic chillout cliché, but is still lovely.

“It Was Late And We Watched The Motel Burn” is certainly not cliché, bringing the delays and layer repetition to the fore for a dark and tense atmosphere which is the most abrasive part of the collection. It contrasts beautifully with the pure and optimistic tone of the following track “The Warm Shoulder”. Final track “Your Glossy Camry” rounds things off sweetly, reintroducing the deeper bass tones subtly.

Overall this is a polished collection of performances, with restrained use of electronics making a solo harp album that retains its purity of expression but avoids being one-dimensional.

Esecutori di Metallo su Carta: Histoire du Soldat / Storia di un Soldato

 Posted by Marc Urselli   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Apr 09 2017
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Artist: Esecutori di Metallo su Carta (@)
Title: Histoire du Soldat / Storia di un Soldato
Format: CD
Label: 19'40" (@)
Rated: *****
"Histoire du Soldat / Storia di un Soldato" is a live recording of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's 1918 work with Italian text for seven instruments and narrator and it is the second installment in the subscription-based UK/Italian label 19m40s.
The original piece was premiered in Lausanne Switzerland while the composer lived there in exile and was supposed to be travelling through Europe with an ensemble of 7 musicians in a carriage (the origins of live concert touring maybe?) but due to financial constraints and the Spanish flu it was never performed again while the composer was alive. However it became an important piece in his repertoir that was later played around the world and in particular in French (with the original libretto by CHarles-Ferdinand Ramuz) and in Italian.
Esecutori di Metallo Su Carta, is a fresh collaborative new music ensemble based in Italy but open to outside collaborations and personnel. In this version of the ensemble, its original founder Enrico Gabrielli and Sebastiano De Gennaro play the clarinet and percussions respectively and are joined by Japanese first violinist Yoko Morimyo and four other italian musicians, a conductor and narrator Stefano Panzieri.
The premiere of this piece by this group took place at the "Fuck Bloom! Alban Berg!" festival at Bloom Club in Mezzago and was recorded live in an ex-church .
I suppose if you don't speak Italian this might be a less exciting listening experience (unless it is true, as they say, that italian is a very musical language you can enjoy even if you don't speak it...) but the CD booklet comes with a summary of the libretto as well as some background notes on the composer, the ensemble and the composition.
The CD comes in a beautiful packaging and is limited to 200 hand-numbered copies so if you want one you better head over to the label's website and subscribe to one of their four plans to make sure you get their releases.

Esecutori di Metallo su Carta: Progetto Generativo

 Posted by Marc Urselli   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Apr 09 2017
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Artist: Esecutori di Metallo su Carta (@)
Title: Progetto Generativo
Format: CD
Label: 19'40" (@)
Rated: *****
Enrico Gabrielli, the mastermind behind "Esecutori di Metallo su Carta", is one of my absolute favorite musicians/arrangers/multi-instrumentalists in Italy, a true artist who knows how to change, evolve, re-discover and re-invent himself within the scope of his career and the passing of time. He is a multi-instrumentalist (piano, reeds, percussions) and has played with some of the most interesting Italian bands (Afterhours, Mariposa, Baustelle, Calibro35) as well as international artists (Mike Patton's Mondo Cane, John Parish, Daniel Johnston, PJ Harvey).

Of course he also has his own projects, like Der Maurer and this latest one: Esecutori di Metallo su Carta, a chamber ensemble which plays his classical re-interpretations of tunes by some of the most interesting alternative/metal/noise/experimental bands from Italy (such as Zeus!, Aucan, Zu, Appaloosa, Morkobot, Hobocombo, Meteor, Bologna Violenta, Julie's Haircut and Fuzz Orchestra).
These arrangments feature oboe, bass clarinet, trombone, tenor tuba, violin, percussions and piano and take you on a wild ride of music that has a very visionary and cinematic feel to it but can also take a very "neue musik" turn that will appeal to the most accultured and trained of ears.
The extensive and very interesting liner notes explain that this CD also serves as a hypothesis "that those bizzare tunes [...] could demonstrate a striking similarity to the experiments born under the umbrella of the so-called contemporary classical music [..] and demonstrate a shocking affinity between the brainwaves of those alt-rock musicians and the ideas of such composers as Louis Andriessen, Magnus Lindberg, David Lang, even Chales Ives, to name a few". Of course the CD also can and should serve as an impetus, trigger or excuse to go and research the original tunes by these amazing bands, which are a whole other universe of their own.

This CD comes in a beautiful hand-numbered cardboard fold out CD enclosure and actually represent the first release by the subscription-based record label 19'40" which is based in the UK and was created by Enrico Gabrielli himself together with Sebastiano De Gennaro and Francesco Fusaro. The label aims to put out one new release every 4 months and has 4 subscription plans to choose from that range from 60 euros to 160 euros. I highly recommend you subscribe (as I did) before these limited editions run out!
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