Music Reviews

Angèle David-Guillou: En Mouvement

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 13 2017
Artist: Angèle David-Guillou
Title: En Mouvement
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Village Green Recording
Sounding very much like a Philip Glass composition you haven’t heard yet, Angèle David-Guillou’s “En Mouvement” is a piece of modern classical with a traditional sound and a complex interplay of arpeggios and musical moiré patterns that’s hypnotic and beautiful, albeit in quite a conventional way. Mirroring and counterpoint between piano, strings and woodwind are the dominant order of the day, with long sustained melodic top parts rolling over repetitive note runs which build with a confident steadiness. Choral notes (Angèle cleverly multitracked I think) are added from “Desert Stilts” onwards.

After a strong and fairly symphonic opening trilogy of pieces, central section “Exocet” and “That’s How The Light Gets In” through to “Iznik Flowers” have a slightly more sparse, lyrical, ballad-like tone. “Pas De Loup” has a slightly more sinister air of French melancholy that borders on spurned romance, before we conclude with “Too Much Violence” which throws romance out of the window of something more bleak, with the album’s only real sense of discord appearing briefly halfway through prior to a somewhat downbeat end.

If you’d played this to me blind and said “this is the new Philip Glass work”, I’d have thought “well he’s stuck well inside his comfort zone there”, that’s how strong the comparison is, and it’s certainly a compliment. My only criticism would be that at 42 minutes long, it’s too short.

Pedra Contida: Amethyst

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 28 2017
Artist: Pedra Contida (@)
Title: Amethyst
Format: CD
Label: FMR Records (@)
Rated: *****
In one of his poems pertaining to precious stones, the French poet Remy Belleau invented a myth about the one mentioned by the improv-jazz combo Pedra Contida (for the occasion made up of Angelica V.Salvi on harp, Nuno Torres on alto saxophone, Marcelo dos Reis on electric guitar, Miguel Carvalhais on computer and - last but not least - Joao Pais Filipe on an amazing set of metallic - mostly handmade - percussions). According to Belleau, Amethyst was a beautiful maiden, who refused the courtship by Bacchus, the well-known Greek god of wine, grapes and the inebriation induced by this lovely gift of Mother Nature. Mademoiselle Amethyste decided to pray gods in order to keep her uncorrupted (let's say so) and - it could sound strange - one goddess, Diana, replied and decided to turn her into something closer to pure quartz. I'm not sure that such a reaction was expected by that maiden... anyway as a consequence of such an abasement, Bacchus tried to corrupt the lady by pouring some wine into her new body, and that's a mythological explanation fo the reason why the related stone (considered a protection against wine-induced intoxication by ancient Greek believers) has that enchanting purple color. I'm not sure if these Portuguese musicians had this myth in their mind, but I hear something in the sound they explore that could ideally contain some of the aspects of that imaginary myth. The harp by Angelica and Marcelo's electric guitar, whose delicate picking opens the initial "Scree", by evoking a sort of gentle disquiet that gets highlighted by the smoky lines of saxophone by Nuno Torres. The whole atmosphere of the track gets more and more nervous over the track through a gradual agglomeration of pulses and prepares to the breaking dim light of the following track, "Chalk", where the initial tonal nodule by sax, percussions and electric guitar, provokes the asynchronous picking of the harp and the roaring distortions on guitar before the energy unleashed in the first part gradually fades out. This exhausted numbness following the tension of the previous track permeates the following and central output, "Agate", a sort of transition before the last two tracks where the joint connecting the elements is remarkably different. On "Obsidian", Torres' saxophone sounds like the unstable tiebreaker between Angelica's harp and Marcelo's guitar, whose fragile balance gets besieged by Filipe's crazy percussions and weird Carvalhas' inoculations, whose working is more clearly audible in the somber final piece "Touchstone", matchable to an annoying hangover after a punishment by Bacchus.

Volker Böhm: Endless Undo

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 28 2017
Artist: Volker Böhm
Title: Endless Undo
Format: CD + Download
Label: clang
In this short 5-track album, classically trained pianist and now software developer Volker Böhm lays out a relatively familiar fusion of mellow classical composition and sharp digital electronic soundscaping, with crisp, lightweight, glitchy rhythm patterns. The bell tones are relatively pure, it breaks very little new ground, but it’s eminently smooth and very pleasurable.

After opening track “Heisenberg” spends the best part of five minutes exploring percussive glitches and electronic tweaks, we reach a more melodic landscape occupied by sparse but structured piano playing and soft chord pads. This gentle introspective sound continues throughout the almost ballad-like “Liub” and then deeper into the sleepy, drooping eyelids atmosphere of “Dezember”.

As the name implies, “Klicker” returns to a more rhythm-based arrangement, with short bleeps and effects very reminiscent of Venus Hum at times. At 35 minutes, it manages to avoid overstaying its welcome, and by the end of lush, Rhodes-heavy final track “Madeira” your state of relaxation ought to be complete.

The melding of mellow sustained chords with complex rhythm patterns has been explored in many ways before, but what this release doesn’t have in terms of originality, it certainly has in terms of polish. It’s a smooth, oddly relaxing work that really benefits from focussed, active listening.

Things To Sounds: 3 [42:02] Live

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 24 2017
Artist: Things To Sounds
Title: 3 [42:02] Live
Format: CD
Label: Wide Ear Records (@)
Rated: *****
A possible keyword to tag this album - the third in their discography as you can easily guess by its title - by Things To Sounds - a trio free-improv grouping Tobias Meier (alto saxophone), Yves Theiler (piano and synth) and David Meier (drums and things making sounds...) - could be 'tension', as they managed to make something where they rendered a constant tension from the very first moments to the end. Live recorded at Limmitationes Festival - one of the nicest meeting in the field of free-jazz and improvisational music, organized by Udo Preis in Austria for many years - on 14th May 2016, their live session shows up a wide range of techniques (tapping, strangled phrasing, screeching, cave-like reverberations and many more over 42 minutes - another detail you can guess by the title) and an impressively wide set of unpredictable strategies to render a somehow palpably lively nervousness and a tension ranging from low to high voltages, which is going to meet the tastes of the lovers of free improvisations on live stages. Have a check if your ear is wide enough (to paraphrase the name of the amazing Swiss imprint that released this sonic object) and if it's accustomed enough to this kind of sonorities.

Annabel (lee): The Cleansing

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 22 2017
Artist: Annabel (lee)
Title: The Cleansing
Format: 12"
Label: Youngbloods
After debuting on Ninja Tune two years ago, Richard and Sheila Ellis move to Youngbloods for this album “The Cleansing”, an eight-track, 36-minute album which, despite its short length, has two relatively distinctive halves. A fusion of jazz, ambient, and mellow folkish ballads, but with subtle production touches like repeating vocal sections more akin to dub, the first half is distinctly mellow while the second half ups the melodrama somewhat.

After the rich poetry and loose form of opener “Acquiesence”, it’s from “Move With Me” onwards that we meet the band’s main structure- soft acoustic guitar patterns with slightly bluesy female vocals lilting in and out. The purity and breadth of the vocal tone is the major selling point, with the long notes on “Paris, Room 14” an impressive feat of control. Often it’s the tone of the sound, rather than the lyrics, that really attract the listener’s attention.

From the opening piano of “The Cleansing” the extra tension is audible in the second half, but it’s never in your face. The sometimes multi-tracked vocal is cleverly done to add just a hint of alienation. “Far” is a good entry point to the album, on one level fairly conventional pop music but underpinned by odd theremin-like noises that give it a distinctive edge. The almost drunken strings and vinyl-style crackling on “See Her” coupled with a strongly Billie Holiday-esque vocal make it feel like a retro 1960’s dream gone wonky- a vibe which flows into the final piece “Autumn Requiem” that evokes feelings of melancholy in open woodland.

Overall it’s a silky and luxuriant bit of downtempo, spaced-out jazz-pop, not as soporific as its opening suggests, quite engrossing and musically very accomplished and confident.

For extra promotion, the track “Far” is also being released as a digital single on the same date, featuring the album version of “Far” bundled with a studio-quality live version of album track “Paris, Room 14” that proves that Sheila can certainly cut it live vocally as well.
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