Music Reviews

Angelina Yershova: Resonance Night

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 06 2017
Artist: Angelina Yershova
Title: Resonance Night
Format: CD + Download
Label: Twin Paradox Records
The core of “Resonance Night” is an instrumental piano album, around which is built a very high-end electronica production full of sharp digital noises and sampled breathing. There’s a strong emphasis on melodic leads, often sparse rather than lyrical, some catchy, some improvised. The net result is somewhere between Planet Mu, Leaf, Chilly Gonzales, Brandt Brauer Frick and the rich contemporary vein of experimental soundscapes.

Though the press release cites “piano drones”, I don’t wholly agree. Rhythm is a frequent presence here, and there’s often a steady and assured drive and pattern, whether it comes from the piano itself in pieces like “Resonance Train” and its partner piece “Resonance Night”, or from the heavy drum programming on “Sweet Glissando”. Atmosphere-led pieces like “Intermezzo 80 Hertz” are in the minority.

“Melancholy Modulation” encapsulates the album’s common tone nicely, opening with clipped stabs of the piano’s lower register before transitioning halfway through into romantic chords and calmness, before boom! The following track, the standout “Anarchic Piano” kicks in, more bass piano stabs, rumbling kick drums, percussive effects, and complex chord stabs. It’s an album full of energy and variety and it’s not afraid to wander between emotional territories.

There’s a strong and obvious sense of travel, most expertly played out in “Start Of Journey” (the final track!) where the heavily processed rhythmic bed, that may itself have evolved from a piano, is strongly evocative of rolling wheels, while interim piano notes are akin to passing scenery. It’s not a unique idea but it is expressed in a warm and mesmerising fashion.

When I was sent this release, I’ll be honest, I first approached it cynically. The mainstream classical music industry seems to thrive on young, attractive-looking new performers for their marketability, sometimes slightly regardless of their abilities; was such a base commercial effect in danger of drifting into more avantgarde classical territory as well? Well don’t worry, once I’d listened to the album I slapped myself hard on the wrist and chastised myself for being so cynical. While there is certainly a slight degree of ego here- few artists in this field put photos of their faces on their covers- this is absolutely NOT a case of style over content.

Check out ChainDLK’s interview with Angelina Yershova from last week for more info about the artist’s personal history and thoughts on the work.

George Lewis & Splitter Orchester: Creative Construction Set™

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 03 2017
Artist: George Lewis & Splitter Orchester
Title: Creative Construction Set™
Format: CD + Download
Label: Mikroton
Comprising three more-or-less twenty-minute long improvised journeys, distinguished only by number, “Creative Construction Set” takes a well-established avantgarde orchestral performance format and sprinkles small amounts of live electronics in, but stays well within a moderately timeless and analogue structure that gives relatively little indication of its 2016 recording date.

The majority of the pieces are spent at peace- slow, mellow strings, soft hits, layers politely taking their turn, percussion sat at the back of the room never overpowering anything, and so on. But there are regular exceptions. Sixteen minutes into piece ‘3’ (the first one- they’re out of order), chaos arrives, cacophony happens. When it does, it’s brief, very theatrical and borderline comedic, with an increase in the proportion of squeaks, slapstick clanks and clarinets quacking like ducks. Perhaps it’s actually deeply political high art and it wants to be taken excruciatingly seriously, but to me it’s quite endearingly childish in its un-virtuosity in these moments.

The other two pieces both have similar ‘chaotic events’, louder than anything else in the piece, as though everything that comes before it is patience and everything after it is recovery. (Longest piece ‘1’ does have two such events, in a way, though the second one is less abrasive.)

The title “Creative Construction Set” (with a trademark symbol, though I don’t know if that’s genuine) implies a modularity which is fairly true in parts, as sections within each piece are quite discrete at times, but no more so than in other experimental pieces of this ilk and the title in a way is a fairly simple and not indicative of anything unique in the music, or seemingly in how it was created.

The twenty-five credited musicians include mostly traditional instruments, primarily string instruments like violins and cellos that are a common go-to sound for both tense plucking and sustained, otherworldly sobriety and for that ‘strung out’ feeling (pun sadly intended). The minority of musicians are credited for ‘electronics’, and even a ‘reel-to-reel tape machine’ and ‘turntables’, adding to the sense that this improvisation could easily have happened in 1976 rather than 2016 and would still have sounded spiritually very similar. With the exception of a brief reportage-sampling intro to piece ‘2’, this is largely a familiar layout that was groundbreaking half a century ago but more commonplace, and not in a bad way, today. The interplay between patterns looping at different speeds across different instruments is at times very beautiful, at times raw and at times seemingly just loose.

This is a fresh but familiar-tasting collection of avantgarde modern classical that would certainly be worthy of gracing some of BBC Radio 3’s experimental through-the-night programmes. I don’t know if it was meant to, but it made me smile.

Anthony Burr & Anthony Pateras: The Long Exhale

 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 03 2017
Artist: Anthony Burr & Anthony Pateras (@)
Title: The Long Exhale
Format: CD
Label: Immediata
Rated: *****
Well, try to imagine a couple of fictitious scenarios. The first one: you are inside a white room, and besides you, there's only one painting hanging on one wall; whenever you focus on a detail of the portrayed scene (any scene), it disappears and this process loop till only the framework or other relatively insignificant detail. It's like that piece of art or representation gradually lost its function without any other relation in an empty world. The second scenario: the initial conditions are the same of the first one, but instead of disappearing each detail you focus on detaches from the scene or changes by itself into something unimportant like a spot of color with no relation to the other portrayed elements. You could find such a preface slightly elusive, but for some mysterious reasons, the music your eardrums will meet in this output by Australian pianist, composer and electro-acoustic musician Anthony Pateras developed with his fellow countryman, the clarinet player Anthony Burr, whose path has crossed the ones of well-respected and well-known big names of American avant-garde and minimalist scene such as Alvin Lucier and La Monte Young, could get sticked to the above sketched scenarios. Belonging to the planned 15 volumes series of extremely limited CD edition on Pateras' dedicated imprint Immediata ('The Long Exhale' is the seventh ring of this chain), the seven meditations on clarinet, piano and electronics orbit around that declension of minimalism embodied by latest outputs by Morton Feldman, where any tonal life signs of each instrument are sometimes rare, as if they got narcotized by other likewise thin elements of the composition. It's what you'll notice on the opening "some association I didn't know about", where a sort of perpetual ARP oscillation acts like the opiate that drugged other instruments up, or on "that wasn't the idea at all", where thumping piano chords on lower keys seems to hamper any attempt of sketching a melody by the clarinet. Similar dynamics resurface on the other meditations, sounding like an attempt of making chamber music in a room filled with opium smoke. As for previous outputs, Pateras also included a 16-page booklet including the transcription of a long interview/conversation with Burr intended to focus on Burr itself by means of extensive talking about many different subjects (they covered the Brisbane underground in the 80ies, experimental rock of Chicago in the 90ies, hip hop, classical music marketing, and Burr's collaborations with Alvin Lucier and La Monte Young).

Laurence Crane / Asamisimasa: Sound Of Horse

 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 02 2017
Artist: Laurence Crane / Asamisimasa (@)
Title: Sound Of Horse
Format: CD
Label: Hubro (@)
Rated: *****
I guess the John White, quoted in the title of the opening extended suite "John White In Berlin" (composed in 2003), is the English experimental composer and performer, who invented the so-called systems music, the British branch derived from American minimalism, as the seeming stasis of the track, vaguely reminds the style of that John White: one of the most amazing feature of this suite for electric guitar, cello, piano and percussion is the slow succession of almost looping similar chords on flute and piano over a likewise almost motionless reverberating sound (supposedly derived by the slow brushing of cymbals), which seems unpredictable just when listeners think he'll predict its slow procession by truncating phrases or changing the primary instrument just whenever a phrase is close to its supposed end. This first composition unveils some of the features of its author, the London-based composer Laurence Crane, whose unpredictable but placid compositional quirkiness got masterfully performed by avant-garde-oriented Norwegian ensemble Asamisimasa. The sudden end of the short "Old Life Was Rubbish" (a short composition for open instrumentation, dating back 1998, performed by Asamisimasa using an electric guitar, a piano and a bass clarinet) sounds like a rude awakening that interrupts a lovely dream, just when it was going fine) and a similar bittersweet aftertaste gets evoked by the sudden vanishing of the lulling instrumental voices (a cello, a clarinet and an electric organ) that feed the daydreaming suite of the following "Riis". According to some reviewers of Laurence's music, this sort of humorous "castration" (someone could nicely consider him a cheeky bastard!) could get explained by a typically English way of being. Similarly some suitably English manias and an enjoyable self-mockery resurface along the funny three parts of "Events", a suite for three clarinets, a vibraphone and a voice, who sings about a series of facts related to 7th February 1997, the day when it was composed (a list of people, their age and profession celebrating their birthday on that day in the first part, a selection of foreign exchange rates and a list of places and their weather conditions at 12 AM on that was raining in Bristol...) and the unpredictable rages of crazy rockish explosions in a typically chamber music suite in 7 parts that give the title to this amazing collection. The choice of such a bizarre title - "Sound of Horse" - has a double meaning, as it refers to both the place where the idea behind the piece was conceived - Horse is the name of a sound (a stretch of water) in Scottish Highlands nearby the Coigach Peninsula - and the sound that guitarist Mick Ronson sometimes made by his instrument. According to Laurence own words, "on a few occasions during Mick Ronson's work with David Bowie in 1970-73, he made his guitar sound like a horse's 'neigh', most notably on the song 'Time' on the LP 'Aladdin Sane'"....and we all know how English gentlemen love horses!

Peter Adriaansz: Enclosures

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 01 2017
Artist: Peter Adriaansz (@)
Title: Enclosures
Format: CD
Label: Ergodos (@)
Rated: *****
On the occasion of the release of "Three vertical Swells" and "Music for Sines, Percussion, E-bows and Variable Ensemble" by Unsounds, we had the chance to extensively talk about the exploratory approach by Dutch composer Peter Adriaansz (during an interesting interview with him). This recent output on Irish label Ergodos could be a further aural supplement to understand better Adriaansz' sonic art (or I'd rather say science, as the approach to sound treatment is sometimes scientific). It embraces the years between 2008 and 2013 and all the four chamber works, representing according to Peter's words various phases in his compositional development, included in this selection got exclusively written for the involved ensembles and musicians. The earliest work, "Enclosures", is the one that gives the name to the whole collection, as a tribute to Irish keyboard player and musicologist Bob Gilmore (sadly gone in the beginning of 2015), and features the performance of Gilmore himself, whose slight oscillations matches the intent of the Peter's research: all the three parts (each of them lasting approximately 7 minutes) of this suite get based on a study on interval and time, where the involved aural inputs (Gilmore's oscillations, Elisabeth Smalt's viola, and Alfrun Schmid's spectral voice) get gradually and almost imperceptibly faster by three different initial starting points. The whole listening experience sounds closer to the rendering of psyco-acoustic algorithms as well as slightly hypnotical (particularly the first and the third parts). Time has a primary role in "Phrase", the first of two related piece composed in 2011 for Ensemble Klang (Erik-Jan De With on alto and soprano saxophone, Pete Harden on guitar, Joey Marijs on vibraphone, Chinese gongs and table dulcimer, and Saskia Lankhoorn on piano and autoharp), where each looping lines got continuously slowed down and sped up to reach a sort of inner balance against a likewise changing sine wave. On the other hand, the relation between interval and tempo got investigated in the second piece "Fraction": the only "static" element seems to be the wind one, while the others (autoharp, guitar, and percussions) got accelerated and decelerated on the basis of Henry Cowell's harmonic tempo scales (another link to Irish culture, due to the strict relation and knowledge of the American composer and Irish musical folk tradition). The most recent suite of this collection is the opening "Attachments," a composition for an enharmonically prepared piano, where Saskia Lanmkhoorn explored many excellent combinations and features offered by a piano, whose strings got modified by a series of paperclips and rubbers.
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