Music Reviews



Para: Paraphon

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Dec 21 2017
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Artist: Para
Title: Paraphon
Format: CD + Download
Label: Freifeld Tonträger
“Paraphon” is the third album from Para, a trio consisting of prepared piano, French horn and double bass. It was recorded live at the Kaleidophon festival in 2016, though the sonic quality is easily that of an expertly produced studio album. There’s a broadly improvised feel, that I might even label as “traditionally avantgarde” if that’s not a contradiction in terms. Each instrument gradually builds or wanes its performance either in parallel with, or counterpoint against, what the other two are doing- leaving some periods of near-silence (and some very lush low subbass tones) and some periods of cacophony and chaos.

Of the seven tracks, over half of them have titles that were totally indecipherable to my media player, so I’ll have to refer to some tracks by number rather than name. The opening track “Karpaten” has a short and almost scat-like spoken-word section towards the end (Greek I think but I’m a language novice so I’m not sure) which gives a nice twist in an almost-jazz direction as it develops. The scat style reappears to strong effect in the fifth track, in which the French horn commits to a very passable didgeridoo impression and, with the best will in the world, it starts sounding like the soundtrack to a brilliantly deranged spaghetti Western.

The sense of tension in third track “Aupa” derived from the relentless piano high note hammering gives it a more horror-like flavour that isn’t necessarily all that welcome or successful, as for me the arrangements work better when they’re more refined, such as in sixth track “Matrjoschka” which develops a very dark, breathy and alien second half, and the much more relaxed final track “Glut”.

It’s a sterling performance that must surely have been mesmerising to watch live. Over the course of 53 minutes it’s got a careful level of dynamism and progression that keeps you attached at all times. While a couple of tracks some to lose themselves somewhat in their own melée and the sinister tones just occasionally come across as insincere, overall it’s a bold musical work definitely worthy of attention.

Fred Lonberg-Holm / Adam Golebiewski: Relephant

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Dec 08 2017
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Artist: Fred Lonberg-Holm / Adam Golebiewski (@)
Title: Relephant
Format: CD
Label: Bocian Records
Rated: *****
In the huge pile of stuff that keeps on reaching impressive heights on my desk, there was this 1-year old awesome output (it was released Polish label Bocian on 18th Nov 2016, but I think it should be possible to find it somewhere on internet or specialized music shops, even if this label drops only 300 copies of each item) by the hyperactive American improv musician and performer Fred Lonberg-Holm and the inventive Polish drummer and percussionist Adam Golebiewski. The CVs and the experiences of both musicians are really impressive: I already heard many Fred's collaborative outputs (particularly on FMR Records), but I discovered that great people of modern music like Morton Feldman, Anthony Braxton and Pauline Oliveros taught him something when he was a student yet and that he also collaborated with likewise appreciated contemporary musicians such as Rob Mazurek, Jim O' Rourke or Peter Brotzmann after a more attentive check of his artistic path; Adam is younger than Fred (he was born 22 years after Fred), but he can brag about a likewise respectable bunch of experiences in improvisational and free jazz scene (including some performances with iconic characters of experimental music such as Yoko Ono and the brilliant American guitarist Thurston Moore). Fred and Adam officially met on a stage in Poznan, in Germany, where they also recorded the four tracks of "Relephant" (recorded on 12th and 13th May 2013 at Club MDX Dragon). The artwork could describe the intricacy and the complexity of the dynamics they forged, featuring a wide set of overlapping frictions and abrasive collisions. A title like "Obviously in the room", but mainly the recipes of its sound (highly distorted and extremely fast bowing over fragments of percussive metallic patterns) could let you think the desperate research of a key to unlock a killing machine by some "player" of Jonathan Kramer aka the Jigsaw's cruel games of the popular horror film series. The shortest track of the fourtet, "Disguised", featues an almost robotic 3-tonal wick melody, repeated by noises getting harscher and harscher, a weird parenthesis preceding the 14-minutes lasting "Being Run Around Inside", the track which has something closer to a proper structure (overlapping with other improvised micro-structures) and where the listener can notice even a sort of gradually cathartic process, but the more surprising track for its concision, its intensity and the impressive way by which the sonic tools by Adam and Fred played symbiotically is maybe the final pne, "Meeting three blind people". Have a check.
Nov 30 2017
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Artist: Ernesto Rodrigues | Axel Dörner | Nuno Torres | Alexander Frangenheim
Title: NOR
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Lovers of the reductionist approach to improvisation will maybe adore this session that Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), Axel Doerner (trumpet), Nuno Torres (alto saxophone) and Alexander Frangenheim (double bass) recorded on 2nd May 2014 at Studioboerne45 in Berlin. They aptly titled it as NOR, the negation of logical OR in Boolean logic, which produces a value of 'true' (1) if and only if both operands are 'false' (0). If your mind chew these subjects as your eardrums chew reductionism, you will easily understand that this matching makes sense as well as the cover artwork: maybe it's not easy to see on the low-resolution image I'm attaching to this review, but there's a picture of the moon covered by nocturnal clouds inside that circle surrounded by a plain black field, as it seems that the Apollo Guidance Computer (if not engineered by Kubrick...), which supposedly brought man on the moon, was entirely based on NOR logical gates and three inputs. The 'false' or 0 operands are the instruments (two winds and two chords) in this session, as you can imagine: all of them are not played in a conventional way, so that you won't easily guess who is "playing" what, but the first to break what could be labelled as 'silence' and some sparse particles of sound in this silent colloidal suspension is Frangenheim's double bass, the most "silenced" voice in the first 21-minutes lasting of the three improv sessions you'll find in this release. The shortest session ('just' 13 minutes) is faithful to the same approach, but its general sonority could be thought as a wicked version of a soundtrack for a documentary focusing on the supposed moon-landing, and some sci-fi nuances get evoked by the brutalized winds in the third session, even if this one features more frequent of alternations between 'empty' and 'chaotic' moments than the second one.
Nov 28 2017
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Artist: Viv Corringham / Stephen Flinn / Miguel Frasconi (@)
Title: Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
The amazing vocals of British (but currently living in US) singer, performer and composer (as well as certified teacher of Deep Listening and - very important detail - former student of Pauline Oliveros -) Viv Conningham, ranging from a sort of possessed yodelling, almost hysterical flicks and other great stunts in the thrilling set of ritual-like percussions Stephan Flinn and the hits on glass objects by Miguel Frasconi (including the funny echoing/imitation of a sort of door bell in the first seconds of the track) opens this good outputs, whose title quotes the pleasure gardens (known as Vauxhall gardens, as such a fashion was started in the well-known area on the Southern bank of Thames river in London) where the rising bourgeoisie had fun (but also something else) in the more or less public areas of park of major cities in the eighteenth century (mainly in UK, Belgium, and France). In the beginning, they just offered a dancefloor, a space for small orchestras, but they gradually evolved into the core of less visible aspects of social life, and they gradually offered amenities such shops for frivolous items, private rooms, and masonic temples. I guess these three skilled performers were running these ideas in mind while staging the impressive settings they rendered. Viv's vocals are really impressive, as she turned her voice into a key element of the scenography, sometimes by means of complete sentences - the hiccuping "don't tell anyone" turning into a strangled clucking in the second untitled track is an amazing example - or by imitation of natural elements - can you perceive the wind she seems to imitate on the third thrilling track? -, but she doesn't really need them to render vivid emotions and the way she matched her voice to the highly reverberated percussive sounds by Frasconi and the sometimes sinister entities by Flinn.

Felix Kubin: Takt Der Arbeit

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 17 2017
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Artist: Felix Kubin
Title: Takt Der Arbeit
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Starting life as a soundtrack to a series of 16mm films on the theme of ‘work’, “Takt Der Arbeit” has expanded into a 4-track, 32-minute series of steady, light-industrial percussive environments with a slightly playful air.

“Musik für neue Büromaschinen” is an office soundtrack with steady organic percussion playing against a range of telephone and modem noises, with the odd Apple start-up sound and possibly a dot matrix printer in there for good measure. Principally it’s a novelty setting for some nicely virtuoso tuned and untuned percussion work.

“Geburt eines Schiffes” is a more sombre affair, slower plainer drumming underpinning gradually building sustained notes of tension, before an unexpected shift halfway through to an odd music concrete of old newsreel dialogue, sampled fanfares and a form of big reveal which gradually winds its way back to a new steady rhythm- perhaps the titular ship’s unveiling and first launch. In which case the final few minutes of sombre xylophone mood are harder to explain without the pictures.

“Martial Arts” is, as the title may suggest, a sharper affair, repeating xylophone(-ish) patterns with a faintly ethnic flavour over a more urgent-sounding rhythm that is interrupted somewhat less. On top of this are some old-fashioned electronic bleeps and wobbles to add just a smattering of electronica. Things get progressively weirder with shades of avantgarde jazz towards the end.

Final track “Uhren”, again as the title suggests, brings a sense of clockwork regularity and the reassuring effect of steady mechanics, with a glockenspiel or similar meandering some kind of musical code over the top consisting of distinct short note patterns which repeat and then disappear.

It’s a warm and very accessible collection of soundtrack pieces which would be very interesting to see with picture accompaniment, not dissimilar to the Cinematic Orchestra’s “Man With A Movie Camera” in parts but with less conventional melody and more rhythmic surprises. Top notch stuff and certainly worth a listen.
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