Music Reviews

Nov 30 2017
Artist: Ernesto Rodrigues | Axel Dörner | Nuno Torres | Alexander Frangenheim
Title: NOR
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Lovers of the reductionist approach to improvisation will maybe adore this session that Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), Axel Doerner (trumpet), Nuno Torres (alto saxophone) and Alexander Frangenheim (double bass) recorded on 2nd May 2014 at Studioboerne45 in Berlin. They aptly titled it as NOR, the negation of logical OR in Boolean logic, which produces a value of 'true' (1) if and only if both operands are 'false' (0). If your mind chew these subjects as your eardrums chew reductionism, you will easily understand that this matching makes sense as well as the cover artwork: maybe it's not easy to see on the low-resolution image I'm attaching to this review, but there's a picture of the moon covered by nocturnal clouds inside that circle surrounded by a plain black field, as it seems that the Apollo Guidance Computer (if not engineered by Kubrick...), which supposedly brought man on the moon, was entirely based on NOR logical gates and three inputs. The 'false' or 0 operands are the instruments (two winds and two chords) in this session, as you can imagine: all of them are not played in a conventional way, so that you won't easily guess who is "playing" what, but the first to break what could be labelled as 'silence' and some sparse particles of sound in this silent colloidal suspension is Frangenheim's double bass, the most "silenced" voice in the first 21-minutes lasting of the three improv sessions you'll find in this release. The shortest session ('just' 13 minutes) is faithful to the same approach, but its general sonority could be thought as a wicked version of a soundtrack for a documentary focusing on the supposed moon-landing, and some sci-fi nuances get evoked by the brutalized winds in the third session, even if this one features more frequent of alternations between 'empty' and 'chaotic' moments than the second one.
Nov 28 2017
Artist: Viv Corringham / Stephen Flinn / Miguel Frasconi (@)
Title: Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
The amazing vocals of British (but currently living in US) singer, performer and composer (as well as certified teacher of Deep Listening and - very important detail - former student of Pauline Oliveros -) Viv Conningham, ranging from a sort of possessed yodelling, almost hysterical flicks and other great stunts in the thrilling set of ritual-like percussions Stephan Flinn and the hits on glass objects by Miguel Frasconi (including the funny echoing/imitation of a sort of door bell in the first seconds of the track) opens this good outputs, whose title quotes the pleasure gardens (known as Vauxhall gardens, as such a fashion was started in the well-known area on the Southern bank of Thames river in London) where the rising bourgeoisie had fun (but also something else) in the more or less public areas of park of major cities in the eighteenth century (mainly in UK, Belgium, and France). In the beginning, they just offered a dancefloor, a space for small orchestras, but they gradually evolved into the core of less visible aspects of social life, and they gradually offered amenities such shops for frivolous items, private rooms, and masonic temples. I guess these three skilled performers were running these ideas in mind while staging the impressive settings they rendered. Viv's vocals are really impressive, as she turned her voice into a key element of the scenography, sometimes by means of complete sentences - the hiccuping "don't tell anyone" turning into a strangled clucking in the second untitled track is an amazing example - or by imitation of natural elements - can you perceive the wind she seems to imitate on the third thrilling track? -, but she doesn't really need them to render vivid emotions and the way she matched her voice to the highly reverberated percussive sounds by Frasconi and the sometimes sinister entities by Flinn.

Felix Kubin: Takt Der Arbeit

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 17 2017
Artist: Felix Kubin
Title: Takt Der Arbeit
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Starting life as a soundtrack to a series of 16mm films on the theme of ‘work’, “Takt Der Arbeit” has expanded into a 4-track, 32-minute series of steady, light-industrial percussive environments with a slightly playful air.

“Musik für neue Büromaschinen” is an office soundtrack with steady organic percussion playing against a range of telephone and modem noises, with the odd Apple start-up sound and possibly a dot matrix printer in there for good measure. Principally it’s a novelty setting for some nicely virtuoso tuned and untuned percussion work.

“Geburt eines Schiffes” is a more sombre affair, slower plainer drumming underpinning gradually building sustained notes of tension, before an unexpected shift halfway through to an odd music concrete of old newsreel dialogue, sampled fanfares and a form of big reveal which gradually winds its way back to a new steady rhythm- perhaps the titular ship’s unveiling and first launch. In which case the final few minutes of sombre xylophone mood are harder to explain without the pictures.

“Martial Arts” is, as the title may suggest, a sharper affair, repeating xylophone(-ish) patterns with a faintly ethnic flavour over a more urgent-sounding rhythm that is interrupted somewhat less. On top of this are some old-fashioned electronic bleeps and wobbles to add just a smattering of electronica. Things get progressively weirder with shades of avantgarde jazz towards the end.

Final track “Uhren”, again as the title suggests, brings a sense of clockwork regularity and the reassuring effect of steady mechanics, with a glockenspiel or similar meandering some kind of musical code over the top consisting of distinct short note patterns which repeat and then disappear.

It’s a warm and very accessible collection of soundtrack pieces which would be very interesting to see with picture accompaniment, not dissimilar to the Cinematic Orchestra’s “Man With A Movie Camera” in parts but with less conventional melody and more rhythmic surprises. Top notch stuff and certainly worth a listen.

Ueno Takashi: Smoke Under The Water

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 11 2017
Artist: Ueno Takashi
Title: Smoke Under The Water
Format: CD + Download
Label: Room40
In seven numbered-but-not-named pieces, guitarist Ueno Takashi offers up a series of lengthy rapid-picked layered guitar pieces that breathe at length into an almost hypnotic but very very odd dream. Imagine if Philip Glass was a virtuoso Mike Oldfield-esque guitarist on a sugar rush going completely solo trying to score a suspense-driven horror movie, and you’re in the right area.

The longest track, opener “One”, feels as much maths as it does art, a fifteen minute exploration of different discordant arpeggiations that step almost systematically between pleasant melody and more devilled intervals. “Two” is similarly paced but with much milder plucking and less discomfort, before “Three” twists us back into a slower, more drunken wig-out environment, “Four” continuing that theme but with a darker rumbling ambience.

“Five” is like the most sinister music box lullaby pattern you’ve ever heard, and things just get weirder and weirder in “Six” which adds a relentless electronic hum and almost daft wobbly squeaks. By the time of “Seven”, which doesn’t do anything I haven’t already described, there is a slight sense of going-through-the-motions by the end.

It’s a bizarre hour-long head-bender of a listen, not short of character but certainly a bit of a struggle for all but the most dedicated of listener. Modern-day out-there, even by ChainDLK standards.

Fallen: No Love is Sorrow

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 09 2017
Artist: Fallen (@)
Title: No Love is Sorrow
Format: CD
Label: AOsmosis (@)
A rather sombre follow-up to the dreamy-wistful Secrets of the Moon, No Love Is Sorrow tackles weightier emotional themes with its double-meaning laden title. With some exceptions, No Love... comes off as gloomy, but has more interesting electronic textures artfully merged with well-crafted guitar, oboe, keyboards, and percussion among other instruments. The opening, “Echoes and Sin” rolls in like a thick fog to then recede to keyboard and guitar melodies while oboe notes float gracefully above as the piece then builds into a dramatic finish. For some reason, the haunting oboe keeps evoking The Dream Academy debut album to this listener. “Eyes like Windows” has a lovely electronic textured opening that would do Tangerine Dream proud before it is overwhelmed by anxious guitar and string instrument note progressions which then collapse into wind-note melancholy. Title track, “No Love is Sorrow” is decidedly a more electronic work, punctuated with piano notes and cowbell clangs while overshadowed with gloomy overtones but somehow an oboe pierces through the overcast like sunbeams break through clouds, offering hope. “Soft Skin, Eternal Verses” is among the more intense pieces here with its fuzzier electro-textures and more dogmatic cowbell, more complex interplay of keyboard and organ almost Steve Reich-ian for their near geometric patterns that in turn give way to guitar and gun-shot like percussion. “Shimmering” seems to pick up where Brian Eno left off in Music for Films with piano and atmospherics, but carried along with restrained percussion. To wrap up, the optimistically titled, “A New Beginning” sounds like Phaedra-era Tangerine Dream until the piano notes sober the piece from the acid trip and an almost orchestral-like finish overwhelms with guitar, wind-instrument, percussion, string and atmospheric tempest delivered onto the calmer shores of organ and vibes. Perhaps Fallen is exorcising some emotional demons, but he does so in an mellifluous way. No Love is Sorrow is cloudy with sunny breaks and a well crafted expression of raw emotion wherein you can feel the artist put ‘his all’ into this lovely work.
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