Music Reviews

Aviva Endean: cinder : ember : ashes

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 15 2018
Artist: Aviva Endean
Title: cinder : ember : ashes
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
This is Melbourne-based clarinet player Aviva Endean’s first solo release but it doesn’t appear short of confidence. Lengthy, indulgent and captivating experimental performances, making the most out of the clarinet’s distinctive deep tonal qualities, culminating in long rolls, and languid melodic elements.

There’s an intimacy to the recording, highlighted in the sharp breathy sounds prominent in “undulations : behind”. Predominantly it’s an album of sparse and ghostly atmospheres, notably in “apparition : above”, and while there are also some more chaotic moments, such as in “vapour between”, the boldly stripped-back instrumentation always provides a strict framework that keeps proceedings small.

Whilst principally solo, at times Endean uses timpani skins or pocket amplifiers to transform the sounds, and “undulations : behind” features a harmonic flute called an umtshingo which is melded with the clarinet notes in a nicely symbiotic way, the umtshingo giving the end product a temporarily more metallic- and even electronic-sounding edge.

Even without my previously disclosed love of the clarinet, I found this a really captivating bit of experimental audio performance, and considering that this is a solo debut, it’s barely anything short of stunning.
Oct 11 2018
Artist: Keisuke Matsuno, Moritz Baumgärtner & Lars Graugaard
Title: Crush
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
For the second time, back in 2016, Danish avant-garde artist Lars Graugaard, German modern jazz drummer Moritz BaumgÄrtner and experimental e-guitarist Keisuke Matsuno met for a single day’s soundclashing and instrumental improvisation in a Berlin studio and here, just over two years later, is the output- fifty minutes of a relatively raw and spontaneous experimental fusion, split across five tracks with fairly different outlooks.

“Tomorrow Never Comes” is a haunted house affair full of sharp strings, thick reverbs, sinister approaching bass pulses and distant eerie rumbles, while the short “Grindle” is an vignette of electronics-led dark jazz, while “Blended Conurbation” more guitar-noodling orientation places it on the grittier side of prog rock.

Final and longest piece “Keep Something On” is more immersive, its own twenty-three minute ebb and flow which again skirts around prog rock but with glitching (that at times frankly sounds like a faulty CD-R read but probably isn’t) and some sporardic dives into deeper rumblier noise washes, before resolving into perhaps the most conventional structure of the set for a moody finale that seems to throw back to opener “Wheefing The Hoofer”.

It’s certainly an interesting collaboration, one that would certainly bear interesting creative fruit if nurtured long-term, but as it is, the somewhat raw edge to it perhaps doesn’t work in its favour, but it’s still a bold experimental statement.

Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole II

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 08 2018
Artist: Golden Oriole
Title: Golden Oriole II
Format: LP
An energetic, backwards-looking stab at recreating edgy, experimental instrumental 1970’s psychadelic prog rock, Golden Oriole’s second release hits its apparent target. Often manic guitar-led meanderings are bolted together with analogue effects and twiddles bounce off against rigid, sometimes tribal-tinged drum work that has the consistency and sometimes tone of a drum machine, but sometimes the complexity of a complete wig-out.

It’s made of two tracks, though each track has fairly distinct parts so this seems a little arbitrary. “The Waxwing Slain”, after a particularly aggressive opening, evolves into a longer more mesmeric shifting pattern in two parts. Three minutes before the end of the seventeen minute piece it drops out completely, to introduce a high-pitched tinnitus-tickling electronic screech to either brainwash or punish the loyal listeners.

Second track “Az Prijde Kocour” kicks off with similar punchiness, which this time takes longer to abate. When it finally settles it works itself into a strangely funk-channeling stepping-groove affair, as though aimed at the world’s twistiest dancefloor.

It’s a punchy and very focussed LP that will appeal to anyone who fondly remembers (even if they’re not old enough to remember) some of the experimental-guitar excesses of the 70’s.

Mike Cooper: Tropical Gothic

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 03 2018
Artist: Mike Cooper
Title: Tropical Gothic
Format: LP
Label: Discrepant
Mike Cooper uses his collection of guitars as a primary sound source, but wraps and envelops them in thick processing and ambience to create ‘ambient exotica soundscapes’. This release takes those soundscapes and fuses them back with more conventional instrumental song structures, sometimes bordering on pop, resulting in a rather idiosyncratic whole with a quite distinct flavour. While ‘exotica’ might sometimes bring with it connotations like ‘kitsch’ and ‘cheese’, more often than not this is a brooding collection of sonics from the underbelly of the same soundworld.

The first side of the LP is made up of eight short tracks, some just vignettes, ranging from the quirky Hawaiian-tinged lounge vibe of “Running Naked” to the slightly sinister ambiences of “Shindo’s Blues”.

The second side of the LP is entirely given over to the 18-minute piece “Legong / Gods Of Bali”, a more immersive wallowing in bells and reverb and gentle exotic rhythms that’s quite mesmerising if just sometimes shading a little too close to the ‘Glastonbury wigged-out hippy tent’ vibe.

Distinctive and full of character, it’s an unusual dark twist on tropical tones that tells its own story and tells it well.

Lars Graugaard, Grup Instrumental De Valencia, Joan Cervero: Engage And Share

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 01 2018
Artist: Lars Graugaard, Grup Instrumental De Valencia, Joan Cervero
Title: Engage And Share
Format: CD + Download
Label: Kairos
Though recorded in 2017 and released in 2018, and although driven by some intriguing computer-based technology for spontaneous real-time composition, “Engage And Share” reminds me of 1960’s avantgarde classical music. A relatively conventional orchestral set-up, showcasing but but overly deferential to Graugaard’s work as a flautist, is instructed to break their melodic mould and work with contrasts between dischord and ambience, chaos and emptiness, with a blend of musical proficiency and energetic theatrics that makes it sound fresh.

After the title track feels like it wouldn’t sound out of place soundtracking different sections of Kubrick’s “2001 A Space Odyssey”, second piece “Slonk” has a faintly more militaristic and urgent tone driven by low piano rolls and curt repetitive brass that gradually fades away into melancholy. Final piece “Blind Lemon” returns to the expressive ebb and flow approach, driven more by string this time and with a subsequently more silent-movie flavour in parts.

What once would have seemed musically cutting-edge and challenging now seems almost nostalgic but there’s certainly no harm in that here. Modern classical music is, on this evidence, alive and well.
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