Music Reviews

Andrey Kiritchenko: Overt

 Posted by Steve Mecca   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 25 2018
Artist: Andrey Kiritchenko (@)
Title: Overt
Format: CD
Label: SPEKK (@)
Rated: *****
If you are already familiar with Ukrainian electro-acoustic artist Andrey Kiritchenko, 'Overt' (his third album on the Japanese SPEKK label) will surprise the hell out of you. Kiritchenko has been active in fields of electronic music since 1998, both with his own projects, as well as collaborations with artists such as Kim Cascone, Francisco Lopez, Jonas Lindgren, Moglass, Jeff Surak, Frans de Waard, Brian Lavelle, Scanner, and others. 'Overt' is much more intense and highly constructed than many of his previous releases, and you might not be prepared for what you're about to experience right off the bat. First, this is a very active album. Most pieces are quite busy with a lot going on. If I had to only use one phrase to describe it, that would be "staccato contrapuntal extravaganza." It's deceptive though; from the first minute and a half of "Enough Heaven (Absolute)," you think you're going to get mellow ambient, but then the staccato bassoon comes in and sets the tone for most of the rest of the album. Jazz-tinged new classical is largely what the music of 'Overt' falls into. With the underpinning of staccato instruments melodies and contrapuntal harmonies are woven into the fabric of these pieces making what would otherwise seem like an exercise in calculated form a beautiful dance of exquisite interplay. Take "Ecstatic Piece" for example. It begins with a repetitive, climbing cello phrase through which another cello accents single notes, then a third cello plays a bittersweet melody, and single piano notes ascend a scale. Then all instruments coalesce into a repeating melodic figure while other elements support this main theme. An interesting bellish digital synth with filtered noise takes over the rising melody supplanting the strings, and even that sound then morphs into something else as the melody grows sonically complex. This morphing happens a few times throughout the piece but never goes that far afield from the piece's ascendancy. This all leads to a rather rhythmic complexity. These techniques are used throughout 'Overt' in different permutations. On "Soundtrack for a Sad Movie," rhythmically complex piano forms the basis for melancholy string melodies, and sub-melodies on guitar and vibes with incidental melodic bass counterpoint. The more you listen to it, the more amazing you find it. The piece that really got to me though is "Blackouts". It's got this very cool repeating staccato trombone figure which sets the tone off of which everything else plays- brief piano phrases eventually turning more complex; clarinet sub-melodies, electronics and more, with an underpinning of rhythmic staccato bass and brushed snare percussion. Even that changes before the end as nothing stays static. There is much more to this but you really need to hear it, not hear me describe it. Things don't mellow out until "Untold," but even that number becomes complex with it's happy gamelan influences. Perhaps the most techno-infused track is "Manifest" with its one-note repetitive staccato synth holding down the rhythm while a number of varied sonic elements play around it. No melody emerges until the piano takes the lead nearly halfway though, and even that becomes part of the rhythm. It's a marriage of rhythm and melody that few seem to be able to pull off successfully, but Kiritchenko does it with aplomb. This is beyond Reich and Glass, and my only criticism here is that it could have used some spatial sound treatment (reverb, echo) in places to broaden the effect. 'Overt' may be a very busy album but it certainly isn't irritating or fussy like some busy music can be. It's more fascinating, and lends itself to cinematic use, especially in its development of themes, motion, and counterpoint. Not everyone is going to go wild over this, but there is just so much going on that those who are ready for it can't help but be enthralled. I know I was.

Kamran Ince: Passion and Dreams

 Posted by eskaton   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 21 2018
Artist: Kamran Ince (@)
Title: Passion and Dreams
Format: CD
Label: Innova (@)
According to the liner notes, Kamran Ince is a Turkish American composer who holds a doctorate from Eastman School of Music, and his works have been performed by the likes of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The pedigree is certainly here, but I am not reviewing for the New York Times; this is Chain DLK, so we’re generally looking at experimental music, and this is the standpoint from which I must write my review. That said, let’s see what we have here. “Dreamlines,” kicks this off, and opens with chanting and a middle eastern vibe. Not bad, but pretty straightforward. “Zamboturfidir” provides our first hint at hint of experimental music, as piano lines tumble all over themselves with a sense of controlled chaos. But this is not pure improvisation, as the seventh movement illustrates, with its tightly controlled syncopated rhythms, which the entire group plays in lockstep. “Fortuna Sepio Nos” likewise has a good energy, but nothing that pushes the envelope. My wife thought that “Partita in E” sounded vaguely Celtic. “Two Step Passion” brings it full circle with a middle eastern inflected dance number. If you like classical with a world music feel, this may be of interest to you. This album weighs in at around 80 minutes.

Sonny Sharrock: Ask the Ages

 Posted by Tyran Grillo (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 15 2018
Artist: Sonny Sharrock
Title: Ask the Ages
Format: CD + Download
Label: M.O.D. Technologies
Rated: *****
In 1991, the planets of saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, bassist Charnett Moffett, and drummer Elvin Jones aligned with the sun of guitarist Sonny Sharrock to yield the once-in-a-generation musical experience that was ASK THE AGES. Produced by Bill Laswell, who also chaired this reissue 24 years later, it has stood the test of time because it is time incarnate, a defining force of suggestion by which any subsequent imitator will burn in its atmosphere. It therefore pales in comparison with truth to say that Sharrock’s final proper album (before his untimely death in 1994) sounds as fresh as ever, for this would imply it’s even prone to decay to begin with.

From the interactive alchemy of “Promises Kept,” it’s clear that Sharrock was someone who cherished the forthrightness of a melody, an artist who gave so much that the only ether could contain him. It’s not that he transcends himself through the music, but that the music transcends itself through him. These energies rub off on his bandmates, who bring their own locutions to bear on the collective text that emerges. Moffett’s solos are as concerned with smoke as Sharrock’s are with fire, while Jones breathes oxygen between them. Sanders, for his part, plants the bandleader’s every atom in the garden of “Little Rock,” while the rhythm sections flips every atmospheric pancake before it burns. Whether in the blasting evocations of “Many Mansions” or the cerebral glories of “As We Used To Sing,” Sharrock bungee-jumps into one abyss of inspiration after another, breaking open the packaging of ancient materials and eliciting from them geysers of information. He not only shreds but reimburses other dimensions for their sacrifice.

Even the tamer “Who Does She Hope To Be?” is no less replete with flame, trading explosiveness for a smoldering burn. The air itself becomes flammable, as throughout “Once Upon A Time,” wherein finality sings through Sharrock’s blinding talent. And even as his influence remains palpable in such diverse axe-wielders as Buckethead and Nels Cline, ASK THE AGES proves that his influence extends lives in the flesh of listeners just as well, and I would dare anyone who professes love for the guitar to experience these sounds without wonder.

this difficult tree: double sun

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 06 2018
Artist: this difficult tree
Title: double sun
Format: LP
Label: Wide Ear (@)
Rated: *****
The almost imperceptible tapping on hi-hats by Vincent Glanzmann, the rising harmonium-like (but many people match it to the sound of portable Nintendo!) drone of a shruti box played by Silvan Jeger himself, the slyly looping theme by Silvan Schmidt's trumpet and imitated by Frantz Loriot on his viola (and reprised in the second half of the track) is the nice way by which Zurich-based double-bass player and singer Silvan introduces his quartet This Difficult Tree through the nine-minutes lasting opening composition "Magnetplanet", sounding like a lazy (and maybe slightly unwanted) awakening. The significant stylistical variations and contaminations of every single track in this release, whose relaxed atmosphere and insightful mood could be described as a possible balancing between free improvisations and chamber music, seem to mirror the wide spectrum of interests and collaborations - as part of Day&Taxi and the Reto Suhner quartet - as well as his attempts to build bridges between the song form, world music, jazz and improvisations of this Swiss guy, who churn out the best moments whenever this integration is more discernable (particularly when he uses his own voice): in spite of their compositional pop-like semplicity, "Momoko", "Winter", "City Lights", "Angststueck" or the final "Neu isd nicht immer besser" are maybe the more immersive aural outputs by this quartet, but the thin psychedelia inspired by the title track "Double Sun" or some other crackling vibes they grasped into tracks like "Skulldull" or "Flutternoia" are important complements to the definition of their sound. Have a check.

Wordclock: Heralds

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 28 2018
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Artist: Wordclock
Title: Heralds
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
As I already have a reasonable number of releases by Cryo Chamber already reviewed, and this is one of the last labels completely committed to a genre, I approached this release with a certain confidence about what to expect. As usual, this release is presented with few words and a generic inspiration about journey hunting for myths of forgotten sacred sites; so this is supposed to be dark ambient.
So, as the first notes of "Bell Ringing I" begins, there's a surprise in the acknowledgement of a framework closer to modern classical and without the pseudo-romantic cliche related to the genre: strings and piano draw quiet lines of sound with a production giving a feel to be recorded some time ago as there's a sort of blurring applied. "Bell Ringing II" is, instead, immersed in a background close to the form of the label but, as soon as there's a melody emerging, this is a canvas and not the drawing. "Bell Ringing III" close this track introducing the listener towards a proper song with a perceptible rhythmic structure. As "Beatrice's Euphoria" evolves there's a sense of writing as, instead of the drone emerging, there are melodic lines. While at first sight "St. George" seem static, it's only because the loops are almost imperceptible in a noisy environment. While "Where Mercy Lives" is almost danceable in his catchy elements, "Thames Does Flow" is more dreamy in his gentle musical tones. "Heralds" closes this release blending all the elements of the previous tracks leaving the listener with the feeling that something is missing.
Almost impressive in his détournement of the elements of the genre, which are present but relegated in the background of a form deeply rooted in the pivotal use of the tune, so that it could be even appreciated by the casual listener. It's able to escape both the trap of dark ambient (boredom) than the ones of modern classical (triviality). Applauses.
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