Music Reviews



Moodring: Cottage Mess

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jun 22 2017
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Artist: Moodring
Title: Cottage Mess
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Media
After a brief hiatus, Silber Records make a welcome return with three-piece Moodring’s collection of eight tracks of energetic twisted dark shoegaze jazz. Long sustained keyboard chords and steady mostly single-note electric bass playing are the core, with live drums often allowed to cut free and loose among sound effects, samples, vocal wails and and other elements lifted from the more electric side of indulgent prog rock.

There’s a broad sweep of styles involved and every track has its own character. After the relatively straight-up prog rock of opener “Of Metal And Burning”, “Pete In A Cage” is unusually accessible, with a steadier poppier rhythm and an electric bass that’s borderline funky, while “Snow Shadow” centres around a plaintive piano over a swaggering bassline. Proceedings are equally unpredictable in the second half, with “Nobel Iron” flying closest to the song format before the chaotic avantgarde 70’s throwback sounds of “There Is No Last Word”. Final track “Thuja” showcases flitty, skittish and effect-heavy flute work over a warm drone and guitar pattern.

It’s a warm and tightly-constructed short album with atmosphere and energy, that finds a good balance between musicality and the deliberate repetitiveness that can be the strength of the genre. It’s one of Silber’s more accessible offerings and definitely worth checking out.

Paul Dolden: Histoires d'histoire

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jun 21 2017
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Artist: Paul Dolden
Title: Histoires d'histoire
Format: CD
Label: empreintes DIGITALes
Unusually for this genre, the press release on “Histoires d’histoire” is sparse- a simple list of titles, durations, dates and credits. There’s no written rationale or post-justification with heavy use of adjectives- the music will justify itself. And it really does.

It’s a collection of long, expansive and ambitious avantgarde classical pieces that combine ‘proper’ modern classical in the style of Lygeti or Bartók with a range of more Eastern-sounding percussive instrumentation, and gentle and occasional use of post-production, re-processing and resampling at unexpected moments. The histories being squared here are not purely Western, not purely any tradition, perhaps a history from a universe parallel to our own.

“Music Of Another Present Era” is the main work, in five distinct and individually named parts. After the warm overture of “Marsyas Melodies”, “Shango’s Funkiness” is a percussive workout, at times sounding like an improvised drum workshop descending into either confusion or ennui before repeatedly recovering. Shortest piece “Entr’acte” is the most Lygeti-esque, bursts of long and then short string sustains flirting with cacophony, segueing into “Air Of The Rainbow Robe And Feathered Skirt” which has a similar attitude with a broader, more operatic palette. It evolves further as “The Cosmic Circle” treats the same ingredients with an extra spark of spontaneity, before twisting into a kind of bizarre alt-jazz in the final third- an obtuse way to wrap up.

Two further long pieces, each a few years old, fill the CD almost to its brim. The eighteen-minute “BeBop Baghdad” is, despite the name, practically prog rock- long noodling guitar notes playing over sporadic percussion, like a kind of subdued and Eastern-influenced Yes or Robert Fripp piece in parts. The sixteen-minute “Show Tunes In Samarian Starlight” is similarly adventurous, but with the central instrument switched from Maurizio Grandinetti’s electric guitar to ukasz Gothszalk’s layered-up B-flat trumpet, bringing proceedings back into the weirder suburbs of out-there jazz.

It’s an extensive 80-minute journey through a whole heap of ideas, sounds and moods, a real patchwork quilt of organic ideas arriving and departing with plenty of energy and a hint of frivolity. That playfulness and slight shortage of coherence disempowers it somewhat from being a really ‘wow’-inducing listening experience, but it’s a very out-there listen.

Brutter: Reveal And Rise

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jun 20 2017
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Artist: Brutter
Title: Reveal And Rise
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro Music
Established Norwegian jazz siblings Christian and Fredrik Wallumrød’s “Reveal And Rise” is an exploration of rhythms, and also of the absence of rhythms. Being singularly focussed on drums and adopting a sonic palette that mixes 1980’s style proto-techno with the analogue electronic avantgarde tones of a generation earlier, but wrapping them up with a sprinkle of modern dubby production, gives everything a very small-scale, insular vibe, like listening to the most complicated headache you’ve ever had (and then some)- but instead of techno’s regular thumping, this seems to be a piece of music where the space between the beats is more important than the beats themselves. It’s spaced out, in the literal sense- super-slow and consequently rather dark.

The real meat of this very short album is the two tracks “Mi Tek No” and “Your House”, both deep adventures into delay, punchy subbass and echo. “Mi Tek No” is surprisingly foot-tapping-friendly and a great entry point- “Your House” is deeper and more sparse.

After that, the remaining pieces are shorter and have a more unfinished experimental tone to them. “Stand To Downfalls” is a simple playing with mixing reversed and unreversed kick drums, while “Fallfinish” takes body-fall style effects and loops their tails indefinitely. “Push Push” sparingly adds Pierre Henry-esque electronic squeaks while “Hide And Sink” has a slow slightly swaggering groove to it and stands out by sounding more like ‘normal music’.

As a 34-minute exercise in thumping beat complexities, this album grabs your attention and keeps it. It’s a standout bit of experimental work.

STAUB Quartet: House Full of Colors

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jun 19 2017
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Artist: STAUB Quartet
Title: House Full of Colors
Format: CD
Label: JACC records (@)
Rated: *****
As you can easily guess, this multicoloured musical house got occupied by four tenants from the lively Portuguese improv music scene: the brilliant violinist Carlos "Zingaro", the skilled guitarist Marcelo dos Reis (we already introduced some of his outputs in the recent past), bassist Hernani Faustino and cellist Miguel Mira. The title is not really related to what is known as 'chromatic scale' in music (as in improv music, variations on standard scales, wherever they get followed, almost belongs to the 'rule' of the game), but the variety of varnishes is more stylistic or I'd rather say emotional or even spiritual, if we consider the attached introductory words by Sergio Piccirilli: "the approach offered in this debut album of this quartet of distinguished musicians finds its inspirational epicentre in the concepts of light and colour. [...] So claimed Paul Cezanne, "Light is not something that can be reproduced, but something that should be represented using something else". The artistic testimony amalgamated by STAUB Quartet in House Full of Colors, the means used for that representation, are sounds and music". The initial "Quiet Arcs" is just apparently quiet as it includes seeds of a vehemence, that will explode later on and sounds more like a warm-up, where the relatively slow tempo got led by Faustino's double bass. The sound acquires the inflammatory tones of Mediterranean folk music traditions in the following "Red Curtains", where Marcelo dos Reis seems to mirror some sonorities by Django Reinhardt in the swirling tonal vapours and first flashing fires by other instruments. The longest piece of this release "Opacity Rings" sounds almost meditative and the more exotic to my ears, due to the bizarre intersection of lulling guitar melodies that could vaguely resemble some Far East tradition, easily perceivable counterpoints and a general progression from darker overtones and aptly dumb atmospheres to a lighter and almost soothing one, a temporary tonal harmony that got dissolved by the following "Knots of Light". All the instrument sounds overheated and the incandescent setting gets mirrored by the fast-paced playing by Carlos on his violin. Following such a furious parenthesis, the players seems to look for cooler places in their house, where the light and the heat cannot reach them, but the sliding through the shadows projected by a closed window or by the open door of some cabinet is not exempt from a certain sorrow in "Resonant Shades"...the strange disharmony they render in the second part is simply awesome like the way Marcelo quiets the tonal instrumental contrasts in the final "Discrete Auroras".

Im Wald: Orion

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jun 18 2017
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Artist: Im Wald (@)
Title: Orion
Format: CD
Label: Wide Ear Records (@)
Rated: *****
Even if it's not so brand new, this entry by Im Wald (German for 'in the wood') on Swiss label Wide Ear could be considered as a sort of programmatic statement. You could listen to it as a sort of gradual elevation from the short intro "Flachen" (meaning 'surface' or 'ground') to the longest suite 'Orion', where the suite in between - "Nebulae" - could be perceived as a sort of narrow interstice before the sound of this ensemble, made up of Tobias Meier (alto saxophone), Matthias Spillmann (trumpet), Frantz Loriot (viola), Nicola Romano (cello) and Raffaele Bossard (bass), spreads his sight out or above the in-between cage-like space of the just mentioned track. Phrasing in this stage sounds truncated and it seems that the intricate wooden web of low-lying branches and the dense brush frustrates any attempt of sketching a tune: the feverish and sometimes convulsive brushing on strings often turns into exhausted chirping or sinister buzzing, single strokes on bass chords evokes a sort of occasional acceptance of such an insuperable hurdle, the air into the saxophone often results into choked breaths and such a sequence of attempts last over the full length of the suite (around 11 minutes). The sound opens on the mentioned final suite "Orion", but it's a gradual process as the first half of the suite seems to mirror a phase of a troublesome and still sorrowful recovery, but I prefer not to say how the sound will evolve in the second half. I said this output could be programmatic for the presence of a long introductory article (title The Space Of Music) by Berni Doesseger, who made an interesting historical excursus tracing back possible forerunners of the style that this label keeps on exploring. Have a check.
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