Music Reviews

Inabile Caos: 1.0

 Posted by Focus   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 13 2020
Artist: Inabile Caos
Title: 1.0
Format: CD + Download
Label: Essentia Mundi (@)
Rated: *****
1.0 by Inabile Caos is the project of Davide Denvito and this debut release, 1.0, is fucking fantastic. A unique sounding endeavor covering a lot of sonic ground but I was immediately hit with the same great vibes I get when listening to bands like Earth, Bohren and der Club of Gore, The Dale Cooper Quartet, Godflesh and other great acts pounding out chill drones and metal textures and cascades. If reading any of those band names perks an eyebrow… then grab this record immediately. It’s hitting all the right places. Stand out tracks: 1.4.1 really surges from heavy heavy to super sparse and chill. It’s a good journey. 1.5 is probably my favorite. The Twang of western flavored guitars drifting around in lost in time landscapes while the man with no name is dodging bullet snares and rimshots.

Gnostic Trio: John Zorn - Masada Book 3 - The Book Beri'ah Vol. 7: Gnostic Trio - Netzach

 Posted by Mike Measer   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 11 2020
Artist: Gnostic Trio
Title: John Zorn - Masada Book 3 - The Book Beri'ah Vol. 7: Gnostic Trio - Netzach
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik
The Book Beri’ah Vol. 7: Gnostic Trio - Netzach

This is the fourth album recorded by Gnostic Trio, made up of harpist Carol Emanuel, guitarist Bill Frisell and Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone and bells. At this point, the trio sounds like they’ve been a unit for decades, whereas in reality, they do not play together all that often. It is a testament to the skill of the players, the quality of the compositions and the skill of the recording engineer that the performances are so seamless and riveting.
Many of the pieces are arranged in such a way that the harp and the vibraphone keep a cyclical rhythm going, which build or stay relatively the same, while the guitar is out front following the theme laid out by the vibes and harp but also throwing in melody at angles and introducing tension through bits of atonality. Yet there are also some pieces in which the guitar is keeping the rhythm while Wollesen on vibraphone and Emanuel on harp provide the lead lines. Frisell on guitar nevertheless can usually be heard getting some time in the spotlight, and I can only guess that the reason for this may be due to Zorn understanding that the guitar has the greatest breadth and depth of tone and sonic possibility.
The album has an overall ethereally haunting, somewhat somber quality, due to both the harp and the general guitar tone throughout. The vibraphone certainly adds to this through choice of notes. Whether or not Zorn had these pieces in mind for this trio I can’t say, but it seems as though they were written specifically for these three. I think it’s more likely that he wrote the pieces with an open framework, more so than some of the other Book of Beri’ah compositions, and the three players were able to develop these arrangements through their own study of the music and each other.
With Marc Urselli once again at the controls, capturing the performances, there is at once both an intimacy as well as an openness to the sound. Certainly, at this point Urselli knows exactly what Zorn is hoping for from a recording of this trio and he has certain microphones, pieces of gear and parameters within that gear that will ensure he gets what he wants. It’s obvious that he hears, in his head, what he wants the finished recording to sound like and makes the necessary preparations in order to capture it. The mastering work by Scott Hull has given the past 15 to 20 years of Zorn’s output (and more of Tzadik’s offering beyond Zorn) a level of consistency and even familiarity that I think would be hard to match.
Artist: Christine Abdelnour / Magda Mayas
Title: The Setting Sun Is Beautiful Because Of All It Makes Us Lose
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
This album is one 35-minute piece, recorded at the duo’s concert at Ultima Festival in Oslo in 2018. Not content with the long title of the album, the piece itself is called “Thousand and One” and it finds Abdelnour and Mayas experimenting and improvising with acoustic instruments, in a manner of playing that makes the base instrument sometimes unrecognisable. Breathy clarinet and saxophone-like parps, harp-like strings that are variously caressed and strained, soft percussive hits across a variety of surfaces, and treated and often harsh piano plinking are casually tossed together into an out-there assembly of avantgarde jazz. As instruments are switched in and out, we are given different phases, like chapters, that keeps things moving.

It’s full of measured energy, sometimes feeling like a polite sonic argument, two performers responding to each other’s expressions but with an excitability that leaves them often overlapping, but moments of real synergy, or even tonal simultaneity, are quite rare. When they do occur, it’s in the space between flurries, rather than the flurries themselves, that the performance really seems to be in accord.

As a live performance it’s well-recorded, though compared to the standard of other live recordings I’ve heard which have sounded studio-quality, there is just a touch of brightness lacking, an edge of hollowness which makes some of the sounds feel a touch muted or undetailed- but this is very minor and you would still be hard pushed to know it was a live recording if not already told.

It would certainly have been an impressive performance to see at the festival, but unfortunately there’s something about this recording that doesn’t really sparkle. It feels like a workday piece of experimentation, rather than true inspiration, and while it rolls along nicely and produces some interesting textures, for me I’m afraid it doesn’t charm or amaze.

Daniel & Mikael Tjernberg: Death Of A King

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 27 2020
Artist: Daniel & Mikael Tjernberg
Title: Death Of A King
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: self-released
“Death Of A King” is a short 2-track CD single of music written and produced by Daniel and Mikael Tjernberg, and performed by the strings of the Malva Quartet (MalvaKvartetten), with additional bass on the first piece.

The title piece starts somewhat abruptly, as though we have dropped into a longer soundtrack work that we have arrived late for, but quickly unfolds into a rich emotive melodic journey that avoids repetitive phrases in favour of a wilful free meandering of thought. It’s melancholic, as the title suggests, but not overtly sombre or funereal. If this were film music, this would be for the montage of happy memories more than for the sense of loss.

“Ad Interim (Minuet in G Major)” plays even more so to the traditional qualities of a string quartet and feels like it may have been plucked straight from a formal dance of centuries past, with a lilting top end and sweetly optimistic rises and plucking. A slightly more pensive mid-section leads into a positive and affirming end. It’s shamelessly feel-good classical by the end.

It’s nicely presented in a smart gatefold sleeve with artwork that seems purpose-made to retrospectively drop these pieces into classical music history. At only eleven minutes long, it certainly leaves you wanting more.

Aidan Baker & Gareth Davis: Invisible Cities II

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 24 2020
Artist: Aidan Baker & Gareth Davis
Title: Invisible Cities II
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karlrecords
Two years after the debut collaboration from Aidan Baker on guitar and Gareth Davis on clarinet, here’s the sequel. Five long, atmospheric and meditative compositions built from loose melodies, with plenty of post-production layering and reverb effects. For the most part the clarinet is performed conventionally, while the guitar work is more invested into the dark atmospherics and effects work.

The first and longest piece “Hidden” sets an interestingly ambiguous tone that different listeners will interpret differently as either relaxing or sinister depending on whether they latch on to the gentle and pure clarinet sounds, or some of the lower rumbling drones and near-vocal grumbling below it and the crisp radio interference noises it ends with.

This tone persists without any great diversion through the deep-jungle-invoking sonic imagery of “Eyes”, through the sombre graveyard tones of “The Dead”, and into the barren, empty underworld of “Continuity”. The differences between pieces is fairly subtle throughout, though final track “Names” is notable for losing some of the rumblier tones in favourite of a more sedate palette, as though the previous tracks were set at night and this is a form of dawn to finish.

The consistency is both a blessing and a curse. Overall it’s a very coherent and quite single-minded 43-minute work, setting a filmic atmosphere- but any film that painted only one mood for this long would be accused of being dull. Such is the danger with this- if you’re not completely immersed and engaged with it, it may well leave you cold.
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