Music Reviews

GIW: Never Is Always

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 04 2017
Artist: GIW
Title: Never Is Always
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: ti-Records
An exercise in contrarianism, “Never Is Always” is Pablo Giw’s experiments with creating electronic music, both house music and darker more experimental works, but only using acoustic means- his trumpet, found sound percussion and his own voice. It’s an ambitious and diverse project and the results are intriguing and mostly very successful.

Opener “Morning Machine” is actually one of the weaker parts, with 60’s-style beat poetry updated for the digital age, an indulgent self-analysis involving rewriting one’s ego in binary, over a layered drone of trumpets and other noises- one of those tracks you wish there was an instrumental version of. Similarly “The Golden Calf” is more conventionally jazzy and more akin to what you might expect from ‘a trumpet album’, with late-arriving lyrics that are vaguely Karl Hyde-like in the way they manage to sound like stream-of-consciousness yet carefully planned at the same time.

As the work progresses though things get much stronger. “Hain” is a highlight, a long piece of unique-sounding dancing music with a simple and infectious groove. The layered atmospheric trumpet-sourced atmospheres like “What’s Outside Isn’t There” are very strong, as is “Gone” which sounds like someone trying to play a full Phillip Glass orchestral work on a solo trumpet at racing speed, yet somehow it works. “I Saw You - Trouble” is two connected short ideas, with “Trouble” an organic recreation of stuttering house music with a strangely endearing awkwardness. The dark sinister stepping electro of “Right Endeavour” is a short interlude that hints at a very different style that could easily be explored much further to great effect.

So while the poetry-driven tracks ultimately didn’t ‘click’ with me, overall there’s enough energy and originality in here to make it definitely worth checking out.

Ernesto Diaz-Infante: Manitas

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 24 2017
Artist: Ernesto Diaz-Infante (@)
Title: Manitas
Format: CD
Label: Kendra Steiner Editions (@)
Rated: *****
This new release by Ernesto Diaz-Infante is a structured improvisation where he tries to achieve, using his words, "a spectral way of playing" and was inspired by ecil Taylor’s ‘Air Above Mountains’. While his latest releases were based on strumming, this release is based on guitar lines without a tone center. This makes the first minutes of this release hard to follow for those unacquainted with this kind of musical development. The second part of this release, starting at approximately 10 minutes, is based, more than on the strumming with whom it begins, with the guitar as a sound source rather than on his traditional use so it's even noisy. The final part, beginning with another strumming, returns to the free form territories as if the structure called for a circle.
It's noteworthy how, instead of closing himself in a cliché, he decided to explore a different territory without resorting to the usual contemplation of guitar sound with strumming but entering a dimension closer to free improvisation exploring another level of guitar sound. Even if this could frighten a fan used to hear more or less the same music from a known artist i.e., have his expectation fulfilled, he's reminded how listening means being exposed to the unknown. Recommended.

Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin: Im Hellen

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 21 2017
Artist: Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin
Title: Im Hellen
Format: CD
Label: Hat Hut
This trio of violin, contrabass and violoncello perform improvised pieces with a playful earnestness that combines a slightly impulsive aesthetic of plucking, stretching and percussive approach to performance with a wise appreciation of minimalism, space, hiatus, and the power of the pregnant pause. The result is a 45-minute performance, recorded in 2015 in Radio SRF2’s Studio 1, that commands attention in the same way that an irregularly dripping tap cries out to be observed.

Opening piece “Im duetlichen Morgen” is a self-contained work of rise and fall. Especially in the opening few tracks, in pieces like “Was Wiesel Wissen”, it’s as though the trio are wilfully attempting to make the smallest sounds possible that would still constitute playing, this is one of those releases that needs to be heard on headphones in a quiet room to be appreciated.

“Gib Mir Honig” adds a note of tension, the addition of longer bass notes adding the sinister sense of something approaching, which pairs nicely with the dynamic peak of the album in “Safran Im Februar” in which the bowing becomes more violently stabbed and the layering more frantic. “Out Of Reach” with its faintly droney bed takes us back through suspense towards a more sci-fi soundscape. “Hinter WÄnden aus Papier” threatens momentarily to wander into jazz, but restrains itself. “Hinüber Oder Vielleicht” is perhaps the most conventional of avantgarde classical pieces, toying with discord and variations in attack and sustain in a way that feels like a throwback to half a century of preceding classical improvisations.

The quality is exemplary, the performances clean and powerful and the musical focus tight. It’s a really bold and clear musical vision that commands attention.

Dusty Tears: Internet Hits

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 19 2017
Artist: Dusty Tears
Title: Internet Hits
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Media
The overdue return of Silber Media’s 5-in-5 series, where a band cram 5 pieces into a total running time of 5 minutes or less, is a strong bit of post-rock-n-roll from Shane De Leon and Jamie Smith, experimenting with some succinct little ideas that, rather than being half-baked demos, are well-rounded self-contained pieces with hints of Henry Rollins or surf-rock blended with some electronic elements and an energetic sense of experimentation.

The two biggest pieces are “The Cobra Den” and “Gold Chains And Acne” that are expert demonstrations of how a pop song can be fully rounded without needing to hit the obligatory three minute mark. “Cockblocked By Spotify” is a fun little trip-hop ditty. Opener “Turning Seventeen” is an odd juxtaposition of guitar solo and languid, strangely They Might Be Giants-like vocal. “Gluten Free” is nothing more than a groove loop.

By the account of the press release this was quickly chopped together in some tourbus downtime, but you can’t tell. It’s one of the strongest 5-in-5s so far, and a great advert for both the band and the series.

Annette Vande Gorne (Werner Lambersy): Yawar Fiesta

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 12 2017
Artist: Annette Vande Gorne (Werner Lambersy)
Title: Yawar Fiesta
Format: Blu Ray disc (BD)
Label: empreintes DIGITALes
Though I’m reviewing it in old-fashioned stereo, “Yawar Fiesta” is a 7.1 surround sound extravaganza. ChainDLK doesn’t currently have an entry for “Blu-ray Audio” as a known format, so I’ve had to pick “Laser Disc” as a cludge, but please be assured this is Blu-ray.

Unconfined by the duration limitations of vinyl or CD, this is a work just shy of 90 minutes dominated by operatic vocal snippets, long drones and hums, and waves of both distant and close percussive vocal noises that attack and decay in a way that’s leisurely at times, but never comfortable. Sourcing the majority of the sonic ingredients from the voice- with a particular favouring of masculine bass operatic tones and throat singing, but not without feminine and spoken word moments too- but without actually using a singer, brings us frequently into bizarre arrangements akin to choral arrangements gone wrong- at times quite Lygeti-like. Much of the time the elements are multi-layered, keeping everything hectic and relentless throughout. Electronic glitches, tape-style effects, pitch shifts and flangey panning (isn’t that a type of cake?) are thoroughly modern and digital and give the work an extra twist.

The work is ostensibly an opera- the press release describes a piece in multiple acts that’s a hybrid of actual storytelling and the name-dropping of broad themes into something that’s frankly very difficult to follow. But the result definitely has distinct scenes, and when holding your attention, is like listening to the most off-the-wall opera re-work you’ve ever heard.

After the bewildering 44-minute journey of “Condor (Le Veillee)”, second track “Taureau (Le Defi)” doesn’t perhaps represent enough of a shift. The addition of traffic noises and horns gives the sonics a different hint, as does the heavier use of discernible French language sources, but the core arrangement is essentially half an hour more of the same experimental opera.

“Monologue final” is also consistent rather than contrasting, but with fewer operatic elements and more emphasis on digital processing such as layering offset copies of the same sample at different speeds, and with sound effects akin to alien rocket launches and monstrous whispers tilting it more in the direction of sci-fi. The sound of rolling stock evokes the spirit of the KLF towards the very end.

It’s an unusual buffet, sometimes reminiscent of 60’s avantgarde choral works, sometimes the spacier sound of 90’s ambient house, sometimes very contemporary and sharp-sounding digital electronic frippery. It’s got a unique quality to it that demands attention, even though at 87 minutes long it perhaps can’t hold that attention throughout.
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