Music Reviews

Gabriela Friedli Trio with Daniel Studer and Dieter Ulrich: Areas

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 08 2018
Artist: Gabriela Friedli Trio with Daniel Studer and Dieter Ulrich
Title: Areas
Format: CD
Label: Leo Records
Recorded in two days in late 2015 but only released this year, “Areas” is the live-in-the-studio sound of an avantgarde jazz trio brimming in both confidence and mutual trust. While Friedli’s piano work takes centre stage and the artist credit, it’s the interplay between her keys, Studer’s bass and Ulrich’s drums (and occasionally bugle) that make this a rich and complex performance.

While tracks like opener “Largo”, “Bova Blaua” and “Masse” flow in waves, shifting between pause and mania and back a few times, other works like “Hul Hound” and “Um Su” are more consistently down-tempo and sombre affairs.

The artist photo in the CD inlay has two of them with straight faces and the other smiling, and that’s really quite appropriate for the tone of the release, which is predominantly earnest and straight-faced portraiture but not without a bit of playfulness, for example in the curt back-and-forth of “Minuten”. Both “Miedra” and “Fil Da Ramosa” flirt with steady, more straight-flowing classic jazz grooves but then pull away- rather far- from them.

It is, for want of avoiding contradiction, a fairly conventional-sounding avantgarde jazz work, with the sonic qualities and production values all high-quality but uninventive, with a very natural sound. It exudes quality throughout and if you like your jazz experimental and dynamic, but also quite straight-faced, then this is a premium product worth checking out.

Ingar Zach - Speak Percussion: Before Nightfall One

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 29 2018
Artist: Ingar Zach - Speak Percussion
Title: Before Nightfall One
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
This is the first in Australian percussion duo Speak Percussion’s intended series of one-day collaborations where they first meet their intended collaborator in the morning, they spend the day working and improvising together, and then they perform the result as a free concert the same evening- and this CD (or download) is the recording of that concert (mixed and mastered at a later date).

Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach is first up and the result is, as you’d expect, a percussion-fest- one 34-minute work constructed of a variety of melodic bells, metallic rattles, rolling noises and long decaying reverberant tones. It ebbs carefully between delicate arrangements and more cacophonous moments which arrive in slow waves. As it progresses and evolves, the contrasts between the very pure-sounding tuned glockenspiel-ish noises and the scratchy, edgy industrial harshness of some of the rhythmic elements are emphasised to strong, if conventional, effect.

I’m loathe to mention it as it’s such an Australian stereotype but the drone elements playing underneath the harsh scratches towards the end of the work really do have a touch of the didgeridoo about them.

Despite only having a few hours to work it out, this is the sound of three percussionists working on the same page and sympathetically. There’s almost nothing about the release that exposes the brevity of its compositional process, except perhaps at a push the fact that it feels somewhat ‘safe’ and that perhaps this is the sound of Speak Percussion’s comfort zone.

The duo have already done eight Before Nightfall events and this is the first to be released as a listening product. Presumably the others won’t be far behind and should also make for interesting listening.

Moskus: Mirakler

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 28 2018
Artist: Moskus
Title: Mirakler
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro
Moskus are a trio of piano, drums and bass, though they’ll hop onto some other instruments- keyboards, organs, vibraphones or recorders- on a whim. But at its core it remains three skilled musicians performing, mostly improvising, around each other in a manner that’s comfortable, almost cosy, and quite playful at times.

The clap-along “Irsk Setter” is one of the brightest tracks, with a poppy energy that’s halfway to making it an odd crossover radio hit, but other tracks are more sanguine, exuding the slightly smoking-sounding jazz tones in pieces like “Sang til C”. The vibes- literally- on “Min venns skaperverk” place us firmly in a quirky chamber jazz world. Particularly in the second half, many of the tracks are short- over half the tracks here are under three minutes long- giving us concise little patterns that are a touch under-baked at times, improvised melodic ideas being casually batted about and thrown away rather than really explored.

The track called “(_ ,)” is particularly sweet thanks to the judicious use of Hans Hulbækmo’s musical saw, sounding decidedly theremin-like when given preferential solo treatment.

Overall, it feels quite unchallenging. Musically the root concept behind pieces like the odd-stepping-rhythmed “Eventyrdagene” are interesting exercises, but the rest is something that sounds like it was more complex to play than it was to listen to (well of course that’s generally true but it feels even more the case here, if you see what I mean).

Luton: Black Box Animals

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 26 2018
Artist: Luton (@)
Title: Black Box Animals
Format: CD
Label: Lost Tribe Sound (@)
Rated: *****
Luton is the Italian duo of Roberto P. Siguera and Attilio Novellino whose electroacoustic music is something at the edge between modern classical and ambient. As they use traditional instruments as strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion and they reportedly wrote their pieces in various venues, this release sounds as a sort of journey diary with his impressive diversity.
"Mount Kenya Imperial" opens this release with a field recordings which is juxtaposed to drones generated by strings used to add a subjective mood to an objective landscape. "Spectres of Mark" is a minimal and hypnotic track developed upon a drone and a simple synth line. "Södermalm Phantom Cab" is instead a sort of jazz tune introduced by a field recording followed by the entrance of the single musical lines. "Eternal Now" is a short interlude where all elements of Luton's music are compressed to the essential. "Black Concrete" alternates noisy moments to ethereal ones. "Archipelago" in an evocative catchy tune where the clear arpeggio of the guitar and the melancholic trumpet line capture the listener. "Night Avalanche" is a drone crescendo interrupted only for another one using instruments. "Elk Talk" is a dialogue between a piano and a violin while "Submergence" uses editing techniques to escape catchy melodies. The melodic elements of "Ice Museum" emerge from the drone background and "Silent Firework" closes this release bordering on the edge of modern classical.
The clever and rather romantic use of melody let this release depart the rather pop territories of modern classical as the electroacoustic element appears to add an element of noise which is functional to avoid the sense of déjà vu while retaining the catchy elements. Highly recommended.

VV.AA.: Zoom In 12: New Art Music from Lithuania

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 25 2018
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Zoom In 12: New Art Music from Lithuania
Format: CD + Download
Label: MIC Lithuania
In the latest in their sterling work promoting avant garde classical music from their country, the Music Information Centre Lithuania have gathered together seven beautiful pieces from different artists into a lovely curated and coherent 74-minute relaxing listening experience. While these are mostly live concert recordings from 2015 and 2016- some recorded in other European cities- the consistently high recording quality (and the audience’s deferential silence!) give many of the pieces a studio quality. It’s pristine, detailed and really rather charming.

Highlights include Just Janulyt’s “Harp is a Chord” which plays baroque harpsichord sound against soft accordion drone to give a magical flavour, and the grumblier and more sinister tones of Marius Baranauskas’ “Delta Cephei” which showcases some deep tone-bending cello work.

Julius Aglinska’s “...” and Dominykas Digimas’s “no sense” are, despite their more out-there titles, two of the more traditionally structured pieces, both spacious and relaxed in their own ways.

The final piece, ibuokl Martinaityt’s 18 minute work “Chairoscuoro Trilogy”, is a self-contained mini-epic driven by extremely expressive piano work that steps through a variety of mood interactions with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, sometimes tense, sometimes argumentative, sometimes resolved.

Everything I’ve heard recently from MIC Lithuania has been of a very high quality- classical, sure, and at times not imbued with truly unique character, but always an engrossing and premium listening experience, and this new compilation is no exception.
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