Music Reviews



LITTLE FYODOR : place is boring

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 22 2010
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Artist: LITTLE FYODOR
Title: place is boring
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore (@)
Rated: *****
Hard to deny this cd is fucking weird and sometimes I mean it in a really interesting way, if you're an orphan of the No Way generation, maybe this' exactly what you were waiting for, infact it partially reminded me of a demented answer to James Chanche's Contortions, funk elements noir irony and that punk element to add some salt. Sometimes it went really close to revive a psychedelic and crippled organ-driven version of some Dead Kennedys but maybe that's just my imagination. This music is well played well conceived and the recording is damn good, if you're familiar to Quintron or any Skin Graft fool in the likes you're really close to this weird combination of irony and madness. As I've said everything here is done intentionally and technically everything is great, but I really dunno what to say, even if I get the irony of the majority of the tracks I'm partially disoriented. Little Fyodor embodies perfectly that american madness some of you may like, but even if this product is well assembled it's hard for me I would buy it. Fool!!.

John Zorn: In Search of the Miraculous

 Posted by Mike V. (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 17 2010
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Artist: John Zorn
Title: In Search of the Miraculous
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik
Distributor: Tzadik, Amazon, iTunes
Rated: *****
First off, I'm going to avoid the good/bad or thumbs up/down review format here. After spinning even the first few minutes of this disc, I immediately sense the departed sound that Zorn is working towards. This is not Naked City or yet another sax freakout. But by way of hypnotic rhythms, dramatic and sublime harmonies and lovely jazz textures, Zorn pulls a beautiful white dove out of a hat here. Or maybe it's a blue flamingo.

'In Search of the Miraculous' falls somewhere inside the realm of jazz and minimalist contemporary classical music. Performed by the Alhambra Trio with special guests Kenny Wolleen on vibes and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on bass, Zorn takes credit for composing, arranging, and conducting. The tunes are memorable and nigh catchy at times, not unlike a Vince Guaraldi tune, but with Reich inspired rhythms (!). Hymn for a New Millenium sounds optimistic and the melodies in Postlude: Prayers and Enchantment are almost hummable. Zorn, hummable? Why not?

One thing is for certain about Zorn and I think this is relevant to understanding this release. Zorn is an artist who can't be easily pegged because (as it would seem) even he doesn't know what his next few moves will be. Its like he wants to undermine even himself. So, to bring your Zorn-brand luggage to this musical occasion may not actually be beneficial as approaching it without any expectations.

And with such unpredictability, even Zorn's biggest fans have albums they deplore. While this may seem like an artistic shortcoming to some folks, i see this as a sign of artistic awareness - perhaps moreso on the part of the composer than with the listeners. After so many years on the downtown music circuit, he's done it all. So it's great to see an artist who continues to break his own mold time and again. That said, this is one album to just throw on, kick back and enjoy the musicianship.

I hear it often that Zorn is becoming more listener friendly, perhaps appealing to a larger crowd, albeit unintentionally. I can imagine folks - the diehard Zorn heads - are not going to find this one up their alley. Especially considering that at the end of the day and away from the program notes here, the music on 'In Search of the Miraculous' is far from mysterious as the label tagline states. But that said, it's as bright and promising as the horizon Zorn is dawning for new music as a whole. Recommended to the more daring and openminded Zorn listeners out there as well as any newcomers who are interested in joining the party.

John Zorn: Femina

 Posted by Mike V. (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 08 2010
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Artist: John Zorn
Title: Femina
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik
Distributor: Amazon, iTunes, Tzadik
Rated: *****
For those who missed it -like myself- another fine Tzadik release worth noting, showcasing evocative sounds by an all woman band sewing concoctions of quintessential downtown musical textures. Describing itself as a 'colorful' tribute to women in the Arts, Femina surely contains some of Zorn's most beautiful and compelling music...among many other raucous things.

Having been a fan of Zorn's music for at least a decade, I always find his liminal albums to be the most interesting. Aporias, IAO, Music for Children vol 1, to name a few that I've enjoyed. This one has moments that fall into that realm, like new voice- even-for- Zorn category (although as prolific as the composer is, everything he does sounds consistent). But every artist of this intense and prolific nature has tricks up his sleeve, and I think Zorn is at his best when he's exploring music along its most dynamic pathways...especially when its quiet.

What makes Femina stellar in this regard is that each of the performer's voices is present in the recording - these are not hired guns reading scores. Lineup on this album: Jennifer Choi (vln), Okkyung Lee (vlc), Carol Emmanuel (harp), Sylvie Courvoisier (pn) Shayna Dunkelman (perc), Ikue Mori (electronics), and the lovely Laurie Anderson on the opening narration. Reading off of file (aka cue) cards, these players receive direction from the composer on how to proceed - be it going full bore, shouting, supporting a electronic noise swirl, or stopping a fortissimo gesture on a dime. They cover an incredible amount of territory here, and compared to some of the Naked City stuff for example, this chaos feels highly controlled. On the other end of the spectrum, the melodic material is just gorgeous. From the Renaissance to Celtic to Ravel, and everything in between - its here and its genuine.

The disc comes complete with a foldout digipak, a 52 page photo booklet designed by Kiki Smith, as well as liner materials. The recording itself is fine and crystal clear. My only complaint here is just how short the album is, clocking in at a mere 35 minutes. The rest of the packaging is impeccable as well, with a transparent sleeve housing the entire album, all done to the nines. Pure quality and definitely going the extra mile to represent this disc beyond the actual recording. Hats off to Tzadik for keeping the concept of packaging alive and well.

In short, a fantastic release. Most fitting for the Zorn collectors out there as well as those looking to delve into Zorn's catalog, but without going straight for the crack-inspired, over the top noise releases. Femina has those moments - at times a barrage of sound collisions and at others a breathtaking gasp of wordless emotions, this is one I'll be coming back to.

Teiji Ito: Watermill

 Posted by Mike V. (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 01 2010
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Artist: Teiji Ito
Title: Watermill
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik
Distributor: Amazon, iTunes, Tzadik
Rated: *****
Composer Teiji Ito is one of the most unique voices of the 20th century musical avant garde. Born in Tokyo, his family emigrated to New York where he would remain for the rest of his musical career. Growing up in the big apple from the age of 6, he soon became part of the NYC underground (later known as the Downtown scene), where he worked with some of the most legendary artists on the planet in music, film, dance and theatre.

His early work can be heard in the films of Maya Deren, whose films Ito would begin scoring at the age of 17. As the story goes, it was here that he acquired an appreciation for ceremonial and secular drumming techniques from traveling to Haiti, where he would later pass away in 1982.

A little background to this album: Ito grew up in a working theatrical family, and this influence is clear in his music. There are hints of Kibuki theatre, borrowing rhythms from here as well as taiko drumming. He works primarily from the pentatonic tonal system, but draws from all sources to add an almost sound design-y element to his music. Its wild in context, causing the spaces to shift unexpectedly time and again through the course of the album. The sound is somehow always fresh and light, despite the various terrains traversed through its course.

Watermill, denoting name of this album as well as the ensemble, was written by Ito in 1972. The instruments alone are a formidable presence. To name a few: shakuhachi, calimba, sho, voice, koto, bamboo sticks, ocarina, wratchets, flutes, gongs, the list goes on. As mentioned above, also flown in are sound effects like dogs barking, jet planes, and unidentified noise. Nevertheless, it's cohesive throughout.

At times meditative and at others nightmarish, Watermill covers a wide variety of spaces and places. Impeccable and virtuosic performances by the Watermill ensemble make this one of the most definitive performances that might ever come available. And what makes this version worth owning is the connections to Ito and the piece itself performer- Mara Purl was in the original ensemble that premiered this work. Teiji's daughter also performs on the piece, which (it would seem) provides some legitimacy and endorsement to such a timeless endeavor by this underappreciated composer. Either way, this disc deserves a standing ovation.

Watermill is a truly authentic presence in itself. Highly recommended.

Tetsuya Hori: s/t

 Posted by Mike V. (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 30 2010
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Artist: Tetsuya Hori
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Naivsuper
Distributor: Naivsuper
Rated: *****
Formerly of Japan, Berlin's Tetsuya Hori catches my ears and eyes because of his use of everyday objects from which to generate music. This 3 track release features source material derived from beer bottles, water, and flute, respectively. As Tetsuya demonstrates across the album, each one contains a new world of sonic possibility going beyond the source's mere existence. It's quite easy to forget what you are actually hearing, as I found myself losing focus on the origins of the material often. That's great.
According to his liner notes, his approach to composition is with 'no concept'. I imagine he's emphasizing sound just for the sake of developing sound, which intimates a sense of well considered development and exploration across each work. Piece 1, for beer bottle and laptop features slowly morphing forms of metallic and wind-like tones, as well as glass-like emergences of pitch and timbre. Piece 2 for glass of water and laptop features plopping, bubbling, and emerging sounds of water in a wide stereo space, almost like you are actually inside of the glass of water. The highs are high, and the lows are felt in your core. The piece later lands on an underwater sound stage with an orchestra of aquatic life. I enjoyed this one most, as it was a new soundworld to my ears.
And piece 3 is for flute and laptop, played by flutist Ryoko Sakurai. Following a minimal soundworld, we are thrown back to planet earth with vocalisms reminiscent of Takemitsu's Vocalism AI. This piece is also the most effects-heavy, with endless reverbs and heavily digitized blankets of sound being pulled across your ears.

In all, Hori's use of space through is intriguing, taking care to illuminate tones in the distance as well as in the forefront at most every moment. Through the album, there is a clear sense of spontaneity and improvisation which will keep this a fresh listen into the future.

It should be noted that since this release he has also produced an album with Soon Kim called Non-transposed sense. If it's anything like his self titled album on Naivsuper, its surely a release to be consumed as well.


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