Music Reviews

Ergo: As Subtle As Tomorrow

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 02 2016
Artist: Ergo (@)
Title: As Subtle As Tomorrow
Format: CD
Label: Cuneiform (@)
Rated: *****
Ergo's "As Subtle As Tomorrow" is one of the most impressive outputs recently labeled by the excellent Cuneiform - an imprint that should regularly be checked by lovers of high-quality contemporary music -. Unlike other remarkable releases from the label founded and masterfully managed by Steven Feigenbaum and his wife Joyce, "As Subtle As Tomorrow" doesn't feature any instrumental explosions or those stunning melodies that could get matched to prodigious strokes of geniality, but the gently evocative infusion of progressive jazz, ambient and electronics by sonic architect and composer Brett Sroka (playing trombone and controlling computer), Sam Harris (on - sometimes prepared - piano and Fender Rhodes) and Shawn Baltazor (on drums) orbits around minimalism and electro-acoustic textures in a way that manages to render the likewise evocative and somehow mysterious poem by Emily Dickinson, that gave name to this release: "As subtle as tomorrow/That never came,/A warrant, a conviction,/Yet but a name.". Sroka, who took fragments of the poem as titles of each of the seven pieces of this suite, says: "She’s my favorite poet. There’s something about her simplicity and succinctness and clarity, which is so direct and poignant, that I decided I wanted to use that verse for this suite. As I started writing, I gave fragments to different pieces, and the only reason that the poem is broken up is that the music flowed better that way. The title for each one felt right.”. This fiery bolt of inspiration influenced the style of Ergo, who wisely interlaced silence or quieter moments in their musical flow, fitting any intense reflection on time and destiny that both music and Dickinson's words could inspire and the firm interest in ambient music by Sroka, who implements techniques like granular synthesis, slicing/sequencing, time and pitch shifting, is the lymphatic element of the sonic language developed on this album by this trio: “There’s something that appeals to me about space and silence and attractive melodies. I’m interested in ambient music, which led to Arvo PÄrt and John Cage and patient listening music that incorporates a lot of silence. One motivation might have been a response to jazz that’s out there, music that’s hyper technical, hyper busy, with a lot going on all the time.". The path, starting where the frail motif of "as tomorrow" sounds like defrosting and ending where the blossoming drum by Shawn sound like exploding in the rising intense whirl on the 10-minutes lasting suite "a name", deserves to be crossed.

Urs Leimgruber | Alex Huber : Lightnings

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 18 2016
Artist: Urs Leimgruber | Alex Huber
Title: Lightnings
Format: CD
Label: Wide Ear Records (@)
Rated: *****
We already introduced some interesting outputs by Swiss label Wide Ear and this one where one of label co-founder, the brilliant drummer Alex Huber, pairing with saxophonist Urs Leimgruber, one of the most appreciated improvisers in Europe, - it was lying almost entirely buried by messy columns of CDs and paper, I'm typically surrounded by -, should be considered as a gemstone for lovers of the genre. The choice of the awarded pattern that Austrian art designer Peter Kogler made for an internal space of Kunsthaus Zug as the cover artwork refers to the place where these sessions got recorded on March 7th, 2014, but it could also mirror the unusual approach of this duo to sound. They seem to have followed the deformed web of those painted walls by ensnaring and trapping the so-called jazz standards in the cells of a grid, where saxophone jazz harmonies and its phrasing by Urs become somehow homogenous when the fantastic drumming by Alex starts hitting (getting close to breakbeat in the convulsive tails of tracks like "Swift" and "Resistant") without any real interruptions. The way the two instruments interact is close to mimicry, as you'll quickly notice while listening to the four sessions, as whenever tones and beating fade in or fade out, there's a perpetual mutual mirroring, but the strategy by which they turned the intensity of the sonic stream through bizarre timbre and tone morphing up is the really catchy element of the whole release.
Sep 13 2016
Artist: Yannis Kyriakides with Slagwerk Den Haag & Silbersee (@)
Title: Lunch Music
Format: CD
Label: Unsounds (@)
Rated: *****
I won't wonder if the hissing of turntables looping empty traces would come by an old vinyl of the catalogue built by Owen's His Master's Voice in the 60ies, which got notorious for his logo was the famous dog pointing to a gramophone as well as for a plenty of excellent rock'n'roll outputs, including the ones by those Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, whose hit "Shakin' All Over" got quoted by "Shakin'". It's just an element of the sonic stream by which Yannis Kyriakides blended the vocal snippets of another master, William Burroughs, whose masterpiece "The Naked Lunch" was the primary source for inspiration of "Lunch Music." Besides the almost logical attempt of rendering the hallucinatory or just altered states of mind provided in that wisely mad novel - the set of resounding objects, including what a listener could imagine as the tired clacking of a typewriter by an entirely drunk writer in the attempt of completing his last poem of his spiritual testament in the opening track "smell down death", literally plead the cause -, Yannis focused on one of the most interesting aspect of that novel, that is polyphony. Polyphony, fostered by emulated drug abuse and vividly known by Burroughs that flattened out into a monologue, where the web of the signifier and the signified got somehow melted or wholly unmatched all over the different parts of Naked Lunch. Yannis and his collaborators - the inventive percussionist Slagwerk Den Haag, who commissioned the piece for the same named dance/music theatre piece, and Silbersee, the ensemble focused on contemporary vocal music and its possible connections and intersections with other forms of art - seem to have caught the beauty of Burroughs' output and managed to feed that stream by means of trippy agglomerates of live electronics, sometimes disorientating modulated voices, feverish hits, fragmented percussions and samples melodies (some of them seem to cast hallucinations in between Mexico, one of the critical stages all over the world of Burroughs' trips, and the borderline side of that insane melting pot of American society, which never had mouth before Burroughs' literary raving) in a crazy and appropriately polyphonic whirlpool of resounding entities and meanings. Burroughs' fans will surely appreciate this release.
Sep 10 2016
Artist: The International Nothing (...and something) (@)
Title: The Power Of Negative Thinking
Format: CD
Label: Monotype (@)
Rated: *****
Flaubert dreamt of writing a book about nothing, the Berlin-based clarinet players Kai Fagaschinki and Michael Thieke managed to create a band referring to the idea that charmed the mind of the French writer. Kai and Micheal overreached this idea: they've given a sort of global dimension by calling their collaborative project, involving the precious contributions by bass player Christian Weber and drummer Eric Schaefer, 'The International Nothing (...and something)'. By means of the persuasive power of the language, they even coined an unusual title for this release, possibly subverting the dogma of contemporary sentimental education (please excuse this further quotation), according to which the so-called negative thinking is something that must be condemned and combated by any possible expensive means by a flimflam psychotherapist. Besides any possible matching, "The Power Of Negative Thinking" features seven bizarre sessions, where the sound of clarinet, together with crooked stressing by bass and drum, looking like belonging to a dark-jazz ensemble in slow-motion, portrays sinister and somehow deviant soundscapes in between melting elongations on single tones, gently sneaking grooves, bipolar microtonal clarinet beatings, softened hits and other helpful tricks that succeed in rendering a mysterious atmosphere, reaching its acme in the almost disturbing choked crescendo of "Long Bow Glowing", the hypnotic minimalism of "What You Need To Know About Drowning" and the thin and almost lulling dissonance spurting in tracks like "The Golden Age Of Miscommunication" and the final "Nothing's Gonna Last Forever".

Bell Monks + Gregory Taylor: Brocades + Palimpsets

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 04 2016
Artist: Bell Monks + Gregory Taylor (@)
Title: Brocades + Palimpsets
Format: CD
Label: clang (@)
Rated: *****
Sometimes a few elements are enough to make music that can speak to listener's soul. Bell Monks, the bicephalous project by Jeff Herriott and Eric Sheffield, mostly based on the reprise and the morphing around seemingly useless and unused musical sketches by Jeff, whose music has been aptly described as "colorful....darkly atmospheric" by New York Times, "incredibly softly, beautiful, and delicate" by Computer Music Journal and as a combination of "the minimalism of Brian Eno's ambient work with the gloomy songwriting of Low" by The Onion's AV Club, seems to be a clear evidence about such an assertion. The sonic strategy by which Bell Monks filled many albums and EPs over a decade ranging from ambient, post-rock, and pure computer music and grabbed the attention of many listeners. The description by the media as mentioned earlier voices could be applied to this release, whose primary input was based on 14 short and extremely peaceful tunes for guitar and Rhodes they composed in spring 2012 for an art event in Milwaukee. Some lines of contrabass and saxophone were furtherly added respectively by Ben Willis and Matt Sintchak, but even if this first make-up was good enough for an official release, they decided to forward these tunes to Gregory Taylor, who transformed instrumental parts using a series of computational techniques. This release is the result of the final cut by Lars Graugaard, the man behind clang's curtains, who decided to select the tracks which mostly reflected the original tracks by Bell Monks over more than 100 minutes of sonic material. The quality of selected items is extremely high. Sometimes you could have the impression that melodic lines of different tracks are very similar or almost identical - you could notice some resemblances between the lines of the lovely "Whirling Halves" and "Beacon E23" for instance - and many moments could sound like melancholic lullabies, but listeners will get instantaneously immersed by the slow catchy and wisely processed guitar chords, the sparse melodies whose sonic grasps got mirrored by the eloquent cover artwork that has been chosen for this selection. The compositional process is undoubtedly similar to the way by which Brian Eno and some similar artists in the dawn of ambient music followed, but you could find some similarities to other contemporary stuff (primarily Tor Lundvall - check tracks like "Electric Light" or the entrancing "Ether Limning" - or some artists in the roster of 12k singing interesting crossovers between field recordings and ambient - particularly in the last part of the album -) dealing with isolationist and meditative electronic music. Recommended for swimming in private mental or emotional pool.
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