Music Reviews



Leaftree & Downey: Beethoven's Taxi

 Posted by Shaun Phelps (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 06 2005
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Artist: Leaftree & Downey (@)
Title: Beethoven's Taxi
Format: CD
Distributor: self-released
Rated: *****
Eccentric, electronic southern folk-rocker Downey Burns is back for his fifth release, Bethoven’s Taxi. Anyone who has previously heard Burns’ work is familiar with his off-kilter recording and vocal style, but for those of you that haven’t had the opportunity let me just say that it’s "different." I’m not sure I could put Leaftree and Downey in a genre if I tried. Burns fuses a myriad of genres ranging from country, 80’s new wave, classical, folk and then some, all with a strong electronic theme like none other.

The first thing that struck me about Beethoven’s Taxi is the more personal touch. Burns’ cynical viewpoints on social values are expressed not with rage or anger, but almost passively with a hint of sorrow and sadness. Burns seems to be approaching music a little more seriously on Beethoven’s Taxi as well, vocally melodizing more and integrating multiple new musical styles. Almost half of the CD is comprised of instrumental tracks that introduce what seems like randomized forays into new genres; making Beethoven’s Taxi not only a sentimental ride, but also an extremely interesting one sure to surprise even the most prepared Leaftree and Downey fan.

I really like Beethoven’s Taxi. Downey Burns’ strange/estranged lyrics make me grin, and his curiously crafty approach to music makes me grin a little more. Anyone who appreciated Leaftree and Downey’s previous releases or anyone who enjoys left-field music is sure to enjoy this album. As with Leaftree and Downey’s previous release, Wet Kisses, Beethoven’s Taxi is available for free at http://www.leaftreeanddowney.com (for a suggested donation).

IOIOI: Bright future!!

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 04 2005
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Artist: IOIOI (@)
Title: Bright future!!
Format: CD
Label: Ebria (@)
Rated: *****
Japan is behind the corner during the audio experience of IOIOI, the way she acts/dresses (I'm referring to her live shows) helps a lot but this "made-in-Japan-aftertaste" grows "bite after bite". "Minimal" electronics (that's probably the strongest european root of this release) not unlike Suzanne Brokesh "crossed" by vocals in the vein of Ikue Mori, Tenko, Toko Yasuda, or Kazu Makino. Somewhere else you'll discover weird guitar-pop fragments as if it was the soundtrack of a "manga comic" scenario. At times the vocals may even recall a less radical Diamanda Galas, unbelievable ?!?!. Disoriented I suppose?! But if you'll have the luck-guts to give a listen to "bright future" you'll discover it yourselves. If "asiatic music" in your head can be easily associated to "extremism", I've to warn you somehow a "pop extravaganza" breaks in here and there (no Boredoms-style approach). On the opposite, It's funny how even if some of the songs on this cd could be really "melodical" some odd particulars push the "factor weirdness" to its maximum level. What if I add IOIOI sings in an invented language mixed with japanese? Therefore: "Martial-electronic-music for mental disease" or "childlike-pop for the manga generation"? This is the question. I've seen this girl live lately two weeks ago and she also knows how to hit the stage while getting completely absorbed by her own set. "Weird" release for sure, but in a positive way.

MICHAEL RENKEL/LUCA VENITUCCI: Still

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 03 2005
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Artist: MICHAEL RENKEL/LUCA VENITUCCI
Title: Still
Format: CD
Label: L'Innomable
Rated: *****
Recorded in Berlin in late 2002, "Still" features Renkel at acoustic guitar, zither and "preparations" (whatever they are) and Luca Venitucci (also in Ossatura, here at accordion, flight-case and objects). Starting with a rather sparse playing, the interaction between the two musicians soon gets more, ahem, cohesive, though it could apparently sound like a paradox with this kind of radical improvisation. But Renkel and Venitucci are skillfully able to make their instruments/objects talk to the listener; proving faithful to the title, silence and rather quiet pauses give much needed breath to their dialogues.

DAVID BEHRMAN: My Dear Siegfried

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 01 2005
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Artist: DAVID BEHRMAN
Title: My Dear Siegfried
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: XI Records
Rated: *****
A double cd release from this US composer, who has been active in minimalist and computer music since the 1960s, as a member, among other things, of the Sonic Arts Union with artists like Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma and Robert Ashley. The first disc, "My Dear Sigfried", is based on the long-running friendship and correspondence between the renown English "soldier-poet" Siegfried Sassoon, and The New York Times journalist and writer Sam Behrman (possibly David's father, but I could easily be wrong). It opens with Sassoon's 1917 "Statement against the war" to go on with letters, memories and poems, and it is obviously a (filtered) spoken-words based work, with vocalists Thomas Buckner, Eric Barsness and Maria Ludovici accompanied, but also electronically arranged, by Behrman himself at keyboards and electronics, Ralph Samuelson at shakuhachi, Peter Zummo at trombone and Tom Hamilton at engineering and effects. The exception is the last track, "Everyone sang", where Sassoon's poem is turned in an almost lithurgical chant. I admit I'm generally not a fan of vocal-based works, but, that said, this is an important release in times of war - and, unsurprisingly, it was recorded "in the dark days of 2003". Disc 2, titled "QSRL: 5 pieces", collects five tracks, composed between 1969 and 2002, of minimal drone music mostly based on hand-made synthesizers and pioneer computer-performer interaction. A very worthwhile document of early computer music, with fresh and remarkable pieces like 1969 "A New Team Takes Over" (with press conferences by the 1968 Nixon administration drowned in amazingly pre-glitch electronics, sounding like Mika Vainio at his harshest!) and the static drone of "Pools of Phase Locked Loops".

Kris Tiner/Mike Baggeta: There, Just As You Look For It

 Posted by Perry Bathous   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 29 2005
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Artist: Kris Tiner/Mike Baggeta
Title: There, Just As You Look For It
Format: CD
Label: pfMENTUM
Rated: *****
Trumpet and acoustic guitar duet Tiner and Baggeta serve up a dozen tracks of their own original compositions. Spare, ultra-modern and nonlinear, the musical pieces are all founded on improvisation, with little or no symmetry. That does not mean they don't make sense, in and of themselves--they do; but instead of melody lines and rhythm, you hear mostly grunting bursts of horn over jumbled, jangly, atonal guitar scuffle. In track number ten, "One More Chance," these lapses into madness are broken by islands of melodic calm. At other times the guitar becomes a percussion instrument (with knuckle tapping) and is bowed into raspy scree with a violin bow (by Baggeta, in this case a guitarist obviously not trying to be Jimmy Page).

While this well-made yet spartan recording brings plenty of atmosphere with it, I have a hard time picturing its context. Is it romantic or existential? Urban or pastoral? Lyrical or elegaic? Jazzy or more classical? Does it take after Stravinsky or Coltrane more? It could be that its many ambiguities are what's good about There, Just As You Look For It, in the first place. It depends on how impressed one is by musicians who are able to get as many different varieties of sound out of their instruments in a non-rock-and-roll or non-electronic-music setting, without smashing them to bits. If this were a live recording, then perhaps it might be more convincing. I can't decide, so therefore you must.


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