Music Reviews

Street Priest: More Nasty

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 18 2015
Artist: Street Priest (@)
Title: More Nasty
Format: Tape
Label: Humbler Records (@)
Rated: *****
This was at the bottom of my reviewing pile, and stayed there throughout the many releases I slogged through, mainly because I thought it was a rap/hip-hop project due to the name - Street Priest - 'More Nasty'. Think about it...makes sense, doesn't it? Well, if I had bothered to read the one-sheet, or was familiar with Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decodinging Society, I would have known better. But, when it comes to the outre regions of avant-garde free jazz, I guess I'm kind of un-hip. Then again, there was a time back in the 70's when I reviewed a performance by Leroy Jenkins, and Mr. Jenkins was impressed enough with the review to send me a thank you note, and that doesn't happen all that often.

Although this release is about a year old, it is still timely enough, considering the recent death of Ornette Coleman, one of the most recognizable names in the free jazz movement. But this band and their work admittedly owes more to Ronald Shannon Jackson than Coleman, although Jackson appeared on a couple of mid-70's Coleman releases. Then again, Jackson collaborated with so many musicians in modern jazz and free jazz that it would be easier to say who he didn't play with than who he did. The band's name - Street Priest, and release title - 'More Nasty' can be directly attributed to Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decodinging Society, being the name of two of their earlier albums from 1981, 'Street priest', and 'Nasty', respectively. There though, the similarity ends, as RSJ and his collaborators exhibited some sort of musicality on most everything they did. Here, there is practically no concession to that.

The group, from Oakland, California, consists of Kristian Aspelin - guitar; Matt Chandler - Bass; Jacob Felix Heule - drums. Chandler also plays with noise/grind/metal/power electronic outfit Burmese, and Jacob Felix Heule is in Ettrick, a free jazz/black metal duo with Jay Korber. Asperlin has performed and/or recorded with artists such as Damon Smith, Kyle Bruckmann, Joe Morris, Scott Looney, Weasel Walter, Jerome Bryerton, Paul Hartsaw, Marco Eneidi, Ralph Carney, Henry Kaiser, Moe! Staiano, and Phillip Greenlief. Out of the three, Asperlin is the likely candidate for being most out there on the fringe, and on 'More Nasty' it certainly shows. The release consists of four tracks - "Turk", "Taylor", Sixth", and "Market", all named after streets in San Francisco. Things start off slightly discretely on "Turk", with plinks, plunks, ticks, taps, creaks, swishes, etc., as the musicians feel their way into each others' territory. It isn't long though before it begins to get frenetic. Asperlin coaxes his guitar into sounding like squabbling hens while the Chandler and Heule's rhythm (or more accurately, arrythm) section supports, contorts and cavorts with a battery and barrage of bass and percussive noise. Kristian is all over his axe in ways Les Paul never dreamed of, and you could easily imagine the sound of a dozen other animals emanating from it than mere chickens. He's well versed in the use of feedback too, and incorporates it liberally. "Taylor" begins with Heule's erratic drum taps, hits, and cymbal zizzes, while Asperlin imitates insects on guitar, and I think Chandler contributes some bass electronic hum. Then ear-piercing feedback is let loose, strings scrape, and metallic plunks, more feedback, noise barrage, and...whatever. By this time the feedback has really put me off this, although Heule does some snazzy drum soloing towards the end.

"Sixth" is almost ambient noise in a way. String scraping that sounds like a motorboat, snoring, creaking door, sprinkled with bass and guitar harmonics. The touch here is much lighter than it has been previously all the way around, and so far, the most tolerable track. "Market jars you back into what these guys are really all about though- improvisational noise. Beginning with a clatter and cacophony from all players by their instruments, this piece rolls along with all the subtlety of road paving equipment. Perhaps a road paver is a good deal more controlled though as the chaos of everyone doing their own thing at once throws everything into abject confusion. There is a point where Asperlin actually begins riffing with notes on his guitar instead of just making noise creating some intense lead work while Chandler's bass rumbles some support from below, but Heule is still all over his drumkit. Things do calm down a bit following that, in the seething undercurrent of the tumult. Truth be told, there are some interesting sounds that emerge just before the conclusion of the piece, but I still wonder, what is the point? Perhaps I'm missing something here, but I don't think so. I just must be one of those people who needs a root of form and content (at least as a jumping-off point) based in something even marginally familiar in order to appreciate the extrapolation. Ronald Shannon Jackson knew that and had it down to a tee. Not so here. The inaccessibility of 'More Nasty' is bound to put off those looking for something more than just improvised noise, and as long as Street Priest continues in this direction, their audience will be very, very, very small.

23 Threads: Conspicuous Unobstructed Path

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 15 2015
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Artist: 23 Threads
Title: Conspicuous Unobstructed Path
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
After the release of a bunch of albums with the project Different State, Marek Marchoff return to this project after a couple of decades. Instead of his main project, this is an experimenter form of neofolk, where the acoustic skeleton is moved by electronic muscles, something closer to the weirdest moments of Current 93.
The music of an old record, used with a carousel, introduces the listener to "in deep forest" whose gentle guitar acts as a carpet for the voice for Ingrid Dawn Swen and the small noises creating a charming soundscape. "Philosophy" is based on noised and resonances while "in deep forest theme" takes the theme of the first track into unknown territories. "Still waters" returns to the form of a folk song dialectically connected to an electric channel. "Animal in the circle" reveals instead some psychedelic influence and "music box" returns to the old record of the beginning of the album acting as an interlude leading to "the fallen", based on delayed guitar notes and distorted music lines. All the instruments (guitar voices and samples) are filtered in "Terminal rise" while an hypnotic loop is the basic element of "seeing" and the (worked?) dialogue ending the track sounds like a (sad?) call to reality. The cello of "the bridge / different state - mega re-constructed /" closes this release leading the musical path into a crossroad between industrial and trip hop.
Something the absence of any ground-breaking moments could be seen as a negative element but, when it's the symptom of a solid craft of the form, it's the path to sharp form whose beauty emerges with every listening. Truly recommended.

Naoto Yamagishi: Hossu No Mori

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 14 2015
Artist: Naoto Yamagishi (@)
Title: Hossu No Mori
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
The title of this solo-release by Japanese (but currently living in Paris) drummer and percussionist Naoto Yamagishi, whose artistic range is not strictly limited to the fields of electro-acoustic and so-called non-idiomatic improvisation due to his collaboration with many kind of artists, is an interesting metaphor of his sonic art: the expression "Hossu No Mori" could be translated as "forest of Hossu", being the hossu that wood or bamboo "haired" stick, which is a sort of symbol of authority and a shield against desire (it's often used to keep flies and other insects away without killing them!) by Zen priests. You could imagine it as an enhanced drum stick, which can gently hit many objects , so that it could stand as a nice description of Naoto's style. Even if you have to consider it was recorded on 1st of June 2011 in Japan, some techniques could sound not really original as many other improv musicians could have widely tested some of them - for instance the sound which opens the initial track "kurohae" derives from the brushing of drum skin by means of metal objects or sheet as well as the squealing noises on the following track "Ukisu" -, but some camouflage of used instruments are really amazing and there are many moments where he's using horns or strings instead of drums and percussions, where the only unaltered and unperturbed element is the steady thud from an unidentified taiko that he often hits.

Hans Koch | Gaudenz Badrutt | Alexandre Babel: Species-Appropriate Animal Husbandry

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 14 2015
Artist: Hans Koch | Gaudenz Badrutt | Alexandre Babel (@)
Title: Species-Appropriate Animal Husbandry
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Recorded at the well-known Faust Studio, Hans Joachim Irmler's studio in Scheer, Germany, in June 2012, this odd file in the huge archive of releases by Portuguese label Creative Sources comes from a trio of imaginative improvisers (Hans Kock on bass clarinet, Gaudenz Badrutt on electronics and Alexandre Babel on percussions), whose seemingly abstract stuff often sounds more concrete than you can guess: the somehow sinister whistle and its resounding arching on sneaking electronics and slight tremblings on the short introduction open up the hinged jaw of a claustrophobic and mysterious sonic world. The longest track "apartment" sounds like the fast track processing of a series of conventional domestic activity, as if listeners got invited to hear what happens in the house of a sped up SIM character's "life" and, as you can easily guess, noises of snoring, metallic hits, resounding keys, bottles and similar listenable entitites have wisely been included in the package. The first and more lasting interlude, where a squeaky sound that becomes thinner and thinner pierces a menacing nocturnal atmosphere, prepares the ground for the second main improvisation, "outside", where they seem to focus on the mirroring or the rendering of external sounds (including trains, interferences, buzzes and beeps) by means of their instruments where both electronics and percussions are surprisingly not so intrusive, even if its intermittent scrolling sounds like a gradual asphyxiation. If the first two main tracks of the album, the above-described "apartment" and "outside", could have been appeared like an unzipping file of sometimes indecipherable snapshots, the third main track "inside" is even more elusive in spite of its occasional pauses, which features the feeble whistles of the final track "end" as well.

Simon Crab: After America

 Posted by Pierre Parenteau   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 13 2015
Artist: Simon Crab
Title: After America
Format: CD
Label: Fathom Distribution
Distributor: Fathom Distribution
Rated: *****
Simon Crab has been making music since the late seventies and he is the founder of the experimental band Bourbonese Qualk, which was dismantled in 2002 when the band's guitarist died. Crab is now a member of Sunseastar, a musique concrete band, as well as the London's Gamelan orchestra. The music he creates is the outcome of his experience: "After America" is dense, rich in tones and superbly produced. The album is reminiscent of Bourbonese Qualk discography, being eclectic and mastered at the same time, something not a lot of people can accomplish. Simon Crab learned traditional African and Middle Eastern music and it shows: you can clearly hear that he's a knowledgeable musician, the rhythms on the album are skillfully carried out, be it live played or electronic. Crab also has the ability to fuse the acoustic with the electronic in a very natural way. Everything fits very well together

On this first solo effort, Crab mixes traditional tribal percussion with deep electronic tones (using SuperCollider among other tools) and sound collage with thick layers of acoustic and electronic rhythms. The result is exciting to say the least, and the sonic landscapes on the album have a truly immersive effect because of the quality of the recording. Some of the tracks are definitely beat oriented while others are ambient and sometimes even melodic! My favorite track being a melodic almost idm affair: 'For Jian-an' could have been written by Aphex Twin or Multiplex (Christian Dormon and Roland Dormon). While he juggles with multiple genre of music of various origins (occidental electronic music, traditional African rhythms, Indonesian gamelan ensemble music), every track is well executed. Various genre also means various instruments, mixed with electronic music, we can hear guitar, clarinet, acoustic drums, synthesizers, congas, bongos, accordion, flute and more.

While I've never heard of Simon Crab before, I was pleasantly surprise by the quality of this album. Overall, this is an excellent release beautifully produced by Simon Crab himself.

Standout tracks: For Jian-an, Kropotkin, Cobra Mist.

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