Music Reviews



ELLEN FULLMAN/SEAN MEEHAN: s/t

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 24 2007
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Artist: ELLEN FULLMAN/SEAN MEEHAN
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Cut
Rated: *****
Recorded Easter weekend, 2006, this eponymous disc sees Ellen Fullman back in action with her amazing invention, the long string instrument, in a live duo with long time friend Sean Meehan, playing "snare drum with cymbals". If you're not familiar with Fullman's instrument, you should try and find some photos, as it's quite hard to describe with words - and as unique is the sustained and resonating drone that she gets out of its strings. As for Meehan's equally inventive friction-based playing, I think, but I'm not really sure, that it generates the lower-end frequencies of such an otherwise entangled texture. The duo is extremely successful both in the moments of maximum energy, where all of the sound spectrum is covered (track 1), and in the more minimal and subdued pieces, when the acoustic instruments resonate in lower, almost sinewave-like tones.

JEAN-FRANÇOIS PAUVROS/MAKOTO KAWABATA: Mars

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 24 2007
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Artist: JEAN-FRANÇOIS PAUVROS/MAKOTO KAWABATA
Title: Mars
Format: CD
Label: Prele
Rated: *****
Guitarists Jean-François Pauvros (who has collaborated with the likes of Arto Lindsay, Keiji Haino and Noël Akchoté) and Makoto Kawabata (of Acid Mothers Temple, 'f course) met this year for a European tour, and recorded this 5-track, 61'40" album in Paris. I wonder if they ever met before, because the sinergy between the two is remarkable. Both mostly play their guitars with a bow, with or without effects, and the result is, well, as trippy as you'd expect from a modern psychedelic troubadour like Makoto. The first three tracks almost sound like movements of a larger piece, as they display a rising climax: from the moody and subdued bowings of the first one, through the increasing screeches of track 2, to the electric storm of of the third one, where the wailing feedback eventually settles to a metallic cloud, as rich in tones as an organ drone. After such a progression, the other two tracks naturally tend to add more of the same, but it's a sturdy addi(c)tion. After collapsing to near silence, the fourth performance weaves drones sounding like distant passing cars, then transfigured by delays and loops in a cosmic broth, which soon leads to another distorted crescendo. Hendrix's ghost is finally summoned in the last track, with the more aggressive, electric and "rock" elements ebbing and flowing in an exhausting wall of sound. Even if cosmic '70's guitars are not your cup of tea, you'll probably find yourself guilty of a few air-pick up/air pedal, until some orgasmic scream closes the album.

ANLA COURTIS/KOUHEI MATSUNAGA: s/t

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 24 2007
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Artist: ANLA COURTIS/KOUHEI MATSUNAGA
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Prele
Rated: *****
This collaborative work by former Reynols guitarist and concrete composer Anla Courtis and Japanese laptopper Kouhei Matsunaga manages to stay cohesive while exploring all sorts of crossings and swappings: solo pieces, long distance remixes, live collaborations, and my favourite tecnique of all, a "telepathic collaboration" (!) recorded in 2004. As underlined by the opening solos, Courtis seems use analogue means (tapes and guitars I guess; possibly a blank tape, Reynols-style, in "Amnesia of Amenesia"), while Matsunaga opts for a colder digital processing, mainly working with high-end frequencies and harmonics; both ways, as I've said, match very well together, creating a rich and detailed album even when a truly minimal sound palette is employed - which is especially true in the telepathic duo (a case for parapsychology?). The two live sessions (one of which features added audio scum by Rudolf Eb.er) are, predictably, the weirdo/free side of the cd, with a more varied, but less structured and refined flow of sounds, and while interesting they dilute the tension of the previous pieces. That said, this remains a truly worthwhile example of audio infection.

KRAIG GRADY: Beyond the Windows Perhaps among the Podcorn

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 24 2007
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Artist: KRAIG GRADY
Title: Beyond the Windows Perhaps among the Podcorn
Format: CD
Label: Transparency
Distributor: Cobraside (US), Sonic Rendezvous (Europe)
Rated: *****
Out of the blue, and with a quite anonymous cover, comes this one-piece, 55-minute cd from just intonation composer Kraig Grady, as executed by Jessica Catron (cello), Elizabeth Schenck (sax), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Kris Tiner (trumpet), and Tara Tavi (ex-Amps for Christ, Auto da Fe) and Plug Research recording artist Mia Doi Todd at vocals. The recording has apparently undergone no overdubbing or processing, which is almost incredible when you listen to it. For the record, Grady has composed according to a tuning created by Erv Wilson, called "Meta-Meantone". Whatever that implies, the result is gorgeous: the piece is a huge drone ebbing and flowing with a variety of tones and nuances, from open and ecstatic to shady, relying on sustained sounds only. Think of Phill Niblock's tecniques, and you'll get close to the picture; and by the way, this cd would have been perfect on XI Records.

TARAB: Wind Keeps Even Dust Away

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 24 2007
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Artist: TARAB
Title: Wind Keeps Even Dust Away
Format: CD
Label: 23five
Rated: *****
Melbourne soundmaker Eamon Sprod debuted with the album "Surfacedrift" on the Australian label Naturestrip in 2005, and this second full-length quickly establishes him as one of the best field recording-based composers around. Tarab, adopting as a monicker an Arabic word for the "ecstatic surrender one can experience when listening to music", is allegedly interested in the falling apart of modern world, through the sonic exploration of its junk and debris; however, his flowing and emotional soundscapes seem to find a new sense of beauty, rather than depicting a miserable sight. Sprod weaves microscopic close-ups of wind, water, glass, earth and whatever contributes to a rich texture, and skilfully alternates moments of serene contemplation with bursts of turmoil, as in the storm of "Away" which closes the album. Tarab is surely working along well-established lines, and I'm not the first to mention Tsunoda, La Casa, Toy Bizarre or Watson as possible references; but this rather inevitable element doesn't detract from the absolute excellence of the listening experience.


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