Music Reviews

Eric Wong: YYSSN

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 01 2017
Artist: Eric Wong (@)
Title: YYSSN
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Minneapolis-born Hong Kong raised and Berlin-based guitar performer Eric Wong is the author of this amazing release on Portuguese label Creative Sources, named after the initial of each of the five pieces he collected here. Since the opening track "Yut", where he interlocks fast tapping, rubbing and pizzicato on his guitar together with sound processing that could let you think he's trying to change the state of matter of this amalgamation of guitar-driven sounds (if you can imagine audible elements as a physical entity), a listener can quickly catch his full command of the devices he handles as well as the inventiveness of his approach to the instrument. I particularly enjoyed that sort of stressing test that Eric proposed on the central track "Saam", where decaying low tones that disfigured the sound of guitar follows almost five minutes of over-strained and over-compressed guitar tones - a technique that sound reprised in the last part of the track -, and the bizarre "Sei", where the listeners can imagine that Eric managed to render an imaginary alien shop of cuckoo clocks by a weird alternation between a strange chirping and sudden cogs of such a chirping stream. The starting point of the other tracks - "Yee" and the final "NG" - are isolated guitar chords, that he gradually processed and dissected according to an approach that could let you think of unexpected and unrepeatable moments of manic lucidity by an experienced guitarist.

Koji Maruyama: comune

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 27 2017
Artist: Koji Maruyama
Title: comune
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Mimi (@)
Though Comune is woefully short, it stands up to multiple listens and fills this listener with childhood storybook wonderment. “Op.344” is a lot like Keith Jarret's early work, paradoxically sparse and full, assertive, a magic tune. With its cheery wind instrument opening melody, “Uzume” follows it with cascading piano that practically pans a wondrous anime landscape that would do Hayao Miyazaki proud. A minute-long song, it is a well-crafted, compact diamond at that. “Aoi Hasu” opens with slow rhythmic piano that slowly gains momentum as the song progresses, a train departing a station, then picking up speed as additional piano melodies are joined by strings, chimes and wind instruments that inspire visions of pastoral landscapes. A billowing, dreamy wistfulness with a melancholic lining wafts over the track like smoke from a locomotive. “Venice” is a live recording and no less beautiful, and evokes the music of Joe Hisaishi's piano music, but taps into more complicated, intangible moods rather than just the drama of an anime soundtrack. Playful, mellifluous, wistfully melancholic with fleeting moments of joy and yearning, Koji Maruyama's Comune is one of the gems in the trove of

Chris Abrahams: Climb

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 25 2017
Artist: Chris Abrahams
Title: Climb
Format: CD
Label: Vegetable Records
Rated: *****
This new ring in the chain of solo releases by New-Zealander, but notoriously Sidney-based, pianist and composer Chris Abrahams (mostly known for being one-third of the Australian cult band The Necks, even if he's active in many likewise exciting projects), collects a series of piano-driven studio recordings, supposedly composed or somehow blurted out during personal solo studio improvisations. From the exquisitely technical viewpoint, what impressed my ear is the way by which Chris performs a series of legato and staccato touches within gradually rising runs, a performative strategy that he manages to render using amazing tricks (subtle and sometimes instantaneous changes of scale as well!), even if he keeps on orbiting on the same tones, in tracks like the opening "Roller", the final "Shoreline" (the four compressed tone-made chords spurting out of the central movement are one of the more uprising moment of the whole album) or the lovely "The Sleepings and the Drifts". Likewise fantastic the assay of the so-called vertical phrasing technique in the self-describing track "Overlap", where slight variations of the pressure on the sustain pedal amalgamates tones to the point they get almost indistinguishable and homogenous, as well as the angular imploding of the convoluted phrases in "Fern Scapes" and the feverish rising tension of the lovely "Beach of Black Stones". The movement of "Dog Rose" sounds more predictable, but its almost soothing melody renders the idea summarized by the title - dog roses are Australian flowers that are widely suggested by naturopathic practitioners as a remedy against insomnia, paranoia, fear, and anxiety -. "Climb" sounds like an excellent musical restorative more than a pure pianistic exercise.

Mia Zabelka: Monday Sessions

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 22 2017
Artist: Mia Zabelka (@)
Title: Monday Sessions
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
5th January, 12th January, 19th January, 4th February of the year 2015 have a thin red line (or I'd rather say a black line, considering their color on a calendar). They occurred on Monday, the first five Mondays of that year to be precise during which Mia Zabelka decided to record these ten improvisations at Klanghaus in Untergrieth, a small village in southern Austrian Styria using her acoustic violin. I don't know if she got somehow influenced by the typical aversion (if not real idiosyncrasy) that working people are generally supposed to feel against the first day of the week, as part of the dramatic stages she masterfully manages to evoke by the awesome way she plays violin or her voice (one of the funniest moment of this release is the vocal track "Oscillations", a whirlpool of mourns, sneers, suffocated wails, choked shrieks, neighs, hiccups, whose extreme and fast-rolling changes could let you think a jester having some epileptic fit) sound perfect for the mindset of people, who got influenced by such a figment of calendar-related imagination. It's pretty bizarre a cliche got evoked by a performing style, the one by Zabelka, which completely avoids cliches, as highlighted by the introductory words of the inner meaning of Mia's improvising by well-known guitarist John Russel printed on the inlay: "We are improvisers to the core, acknowledging an 'everthen that everwas' while constantly trying to subvert and go beyond the mundane. The core of the music is found at any point and is completely malleable making the musical choices that provide a 'narrative' a uniquely personal experience.". Violin tones could get matched to wood-shavings during a sawmilling intended to turn a log into sawdust in "Concentring Circles" or 'flavour enhancers' for the staggering pace of some performative escalations - in tracks like "Imminent Disaster", "Papagei" (German for 'parrots', a funny tracks where Mia seems to emulate those cute birds by the integrated use of violin and voice) or the opening "Dunkles zu sagen" - or tonal expectorating of introspections and mental convolutions ("Stream of Consciousness", "Remembrance"). They sometimes disappear to acquire a percussive functions in tracks where Mia seems to exploits the 'hidden' percussive or noisy features of violin, as it happens on "Stroemungen," "Entfremdung" (a German word whose translation could describe such an extended use of violin, as it could be translated both as alienation or estrangement and as an exception of the destination for purposes that are different from the intended one!). Mia's outputs can also be listened and enjoyed during other days of the week.

Pauline Oliveros + Musiques Nouvelles: Four Meditations / Sound Geometries

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 17 2017
Artist: Pauline Oliveros + Musiques Nouvelles (@)
Title: Four Meditations / Sound Geometries
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
2016 was not only the year that is going to be filed as the one when a series of pop rock iconic characters passed away, but this perpetual funeral oration was devoted to many legends of the avant-garde and erudite contemporary music scene (I could mention Jean-Claude Risset - one of the pioneers of computer music - or Tony Conrad), equally (and sometimes much more) important than particular mass phenomenon. One of the greatest and less famous (for the less erudite listeners, I mean) character of the contemporary music scene that recently died was Pauline Oliveros. She passed away on 25th November, but she kept on doing experiments till her last days, in particular on her favorite instrument, the accordion. Besides some interesting compositions, her most significant contribution to listeners are a couple of theories, which are also lessons on how to listen to music and sound: according to some reviewers, both the theory of "deep listening" - an expression that she used to name her project and her "band", by which she focused on the research of really bizarre performative spaces, such as cathedrals, caves, and underground cisterns - and the one on "sonic awareness" got partially influenced by the meeting with theoretical physicist and karate master Lester Ingber. The latter was soon turned into a sort of new system of music notation: according to Heidi Von Gunden, a musicologist who wrote an essay on Pauline Oliveros' sonic and musical research, sonic awareness was "a synthesis of the psychology of consciousness, the physiology of the martial arts, and the sociology of the feminist movement", whose way of processing aural information was based on attention and awareness, that got respectively represented by a dot and a circle by Oliveros in some compositions. Some of the above-sketched theories could help you better understanding this important release on Sub Rosa, including two long-lasting pieces. The first one, "Four Meditations for Orchestra", was composed between 1991 and 1997 and features vocalist Ione, who wonderfully interprets those reflections by using different languages and a dramatic vocal transpositions ranging between mournful moments, litany, raving ecstasy and onomatopoeia, while Belgian orchestra Musiques Nouvelles sets the sound by a seemingly disassembled technique, where the cohesion between elements got reached after each instrument seems to say something while the other ones prepares the ground, before amalgamating with Ione's voice. The second piece, "Sound Geometries (for Chamber Orchestra)", got recorded by means of Expanded Instrument System, a sort of platform to process sounds grabbed by microphones and channelling them into ten geometrical patterns, which were a kind of guided paths to move player's sounds in the sonic space through a 5.1 surround sound system. It's ideally divided into three movements: the first ones get somehow matched as you can listen how the patterns seem to lead the instrument from a vaguely organized layout to something similar to chaotic improvisation, both of them preceding the ascending choral effect reaching its acme and its higher voltage in the very last five minutes.
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