DMG Newsletter for November 19th, 2021
“What’s a Man”
By The Travel Agency - From their
1st Album released in 1968 on Viva Records
You've joined the army, have you, son?
To learn to march and fire a gun
And soon, you'll wear a suit so grand
And show the world that you're a man
But what's a man?
Is it something that lives without feeling
That destroys its own kind without thinking
Who, in darkness and misunderstanding
Can destroy itself protecting what it thinks is right?
You say it's part of gettin' older
To help your country as a soldier
To travel anywhere and fight there
And show the people what is right there
But what is right?
Is it right for a man to be living
In old slums just because his skin isn't white
So while death rates and tax rates are rising
We're content because we're doing everything right
You can't imagine what I'm thinking
We've got to fight them while they're small
Or their disease will soon be spreading
And then we'll never kill them all
But must you kill?
Didn't you know, my friend, that by killing
You committed all mankind's most selfish sins
And that this long disease that you're fearing
You must work to make your country stronger then
Yeah, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh
Thus opens the first song from the first and only album by The Travel Agency, which was released in 1968. I recall hearing 2 or 3 songs from this record on FM radio the year it came out, when FM radio was free to play anything known or unknown as long as it was some sort of rock/pop/soul/blues/folk music, mostly with singing involved. The Travel Agency were a quartet from the Bay Area, pretty obscure with little or no press about them that I can recall. I hadn’t heard of any of their names although two of them (Steve Haehl & Frank Lupica) ended up in a band called Shanti who had an LP on Atlantic in 1971. I do own that record but can’t remember what it sounds like so I will have to find my copy when I can get to it (since it is buried behind a wall of CD’s in crates). I found a CD copy of the Travel Agency album which was reissued around ten years ago. To me, it still sounds great, sort of odd, pop/psych unlike anything else at the time. I like the way this album was produced with some shrewd psychedelic effects used selectively. I do know of the producer here, one James Griffin, who became a member of Bread in the next year. Although Bread are well-known for their soft-rock hits, I still dig their first album, another pop/psych gem. I love the somewhat naive anti-war lyrics which still ring true today. Some folks call me “Captain Obscurity” since I know more about obscure bands & musicians from around the world and throughout modern history than most other serious music archivists. This is my life, my job and one of the main reasons I keep finding hope and inspiration within the many records, concerts and memories that I’ve consumed over my long journey. I will be heading to Florida next week to visit my Mom, sister & step-family and it will be so good to get away and see/feel the ocean. There will be a short newsletter next week while I am away. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you around the world! We all need something or someone to be thankful for, so the search continues.. Peace & Love Always, Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
THE DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY IN-STORE SERIES CONTINUES with:
Tuesday, November 23rd & 30th:
No Gig - Bruce away for Thanksgiving Vacation in Florida w/ Mom, Bon & my Step-Family!
Tuesday, December 7th:
6:30: JOSH SINTON - Solo Baritone Sax
7:30: SEAN ALI / JONAH ROSENBERG
Tuesday, December 14th:
6:30 - THOMAS HEBERER / CHARLOTTE GREVE - Trumpet & Alto Sax
7:30 - JAMES ILGENFRITZ
Tuesday, December 21st:
6:30 - DISSIPATED FACE 2021- Reunion with Special Guests!
7:30 - SUBURBAN BOHEMIA - Special Apocalyptic/Pandemic Version!
Tuesday, December 28th:
6:30: CHERYL PYLE & BEYOND FLUTES GROUP!
There are a handful of Creative Music Elders who seem to be on a mission to release as much of their own Creative Music as they can, no matter how old and wise they: Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, John Zorn, William Parker, Joe McPhee, Henry Kaiser, Ken Vandermark and Wadada Leo Smith! Even serious listeners & collectors like you all and myself can barely keep up with their vast and ongoing catalogue of sonic treasures. We just got in two incredible releases from Visionary/Composer/Trumpet master Wadada Leo Smith:
WADADA LEO SMITH’S GREAT LAKE QUARTET with HENRY THREADGILL / JACK DeJOHNETTE / JONATHAN HAFFNER / JOHN LINDBERG - The Chicago Symphonies (TUM 1004; Finland) This is the second release of Wadada Leo Smith’s Great Lakes Quartet, the first was a 2 CD set which was released by TUM in 2014. This marvelous box set is an even more ambitious 4 CD set with a thick booklet filled with illuminating liner notes, pictures and an impressive discography of all of Wadada’s previous releases. The personnel for the Great Lakes Quartet of Wadada, Henry Threadgill, John Lindberg & Jack DeJohnette remains, although saxist named Jonathon Haffner is added on the last disc. You should certainly recognize the names of all the members of the Great Lakes Quartet, although I know less about Mr. Haffner who has a duo record out with Kenny Wollesen on Tzadik and has worked with Butch Morris and the Nublu Orchestra. There are four symphonies here, one per disc, each one named after a gem: ‘Gold’, ‘Diamond’, ‘Pearl’ and ‘Sapphire’. Each symphony has 4 or 5 movements and each movement is dedicated to or inspired by mostly Chicago (AACM) or New Orleans musicians of note: the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Sun Ra, Phil Cohran and many others. This most ambitious undertaking was inspired by a number of important musicians & composers, most of whom grew up in & around Chicago and other places in the midwest. The liner notes mention that these musicians were influenced and evolved during a particularly difficult period of time which dealt with civil rights, freedom of expression and other outside forces which made life difficult for Creative Musicians to survive and thrive. The Great Lakes Quartet are an impressive force to be reckoned with, all four are great musicians, composers and bandleaders on their own. Their combined lineage/experiences/vision is focused here and the music is consistently engaging through the entire four CD set. I’ve only heard the first two discs so far since the promo copy only arrived earlier this week but already I realize how much incredible music is found here. Could this be the Great Creative Music boxset of the year?!?!? No doubt about that! - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
4 CD Deluxe Box Set $70
WADADA LEO SMITH / JACK DeJOHNETTE / VIJAY IYER - A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday (TUM 60; Finland) Featuring Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, Vijay Iyer on piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 & electronics and Jack DeJohnette on drums & percussion. It was only 6 months when we got received two new 3 CD sets from Wadada Leo Smith (a solo & a trio), both are/were incredible and are in-between pressings since they sold pretty quickly. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I heard about two more important releases on the Finnish label TUM, which were delayed for a month and have finally arrived this week (mid November of 2021). Mr. Smith has several ongoing bands which overlap personnel-wise, hence every disc that he is on has different collaborators. One of Mr. Smith’s best band's was/is called the Golden Quartet whose personnel started with Anthony Davis, Malachi Favors and Ronald Shannon Jackson. As the band evolved, Mr. Favors and Mr. Shannon Jackson passed away and were both replaced with Jack DeJohnette and Vijay Iyer, both strong players, bandleaders and composers on their own. This disc features the trio of Mr. Smith, Mr. Iyer and Mr. DeJohnette. It is also a tribute to Billie Holiday, considered to be the greatest jazz singer of all. All three members of the trio contributed both solo and trio compositions. In the liner notes both Mr. Smith and John Corbett mention that Wadada has long been involved with trios which don’t include a bassist, going back more than 50 years with the trio of Smith, Anthony Braxton and Leroy Jenkins, with some fine albums out the Delmark & BYG labels.
The title track, “Billie Holiday: A Love Sonnet” is first, it begins with some exquisite, solemn mallet-work by Mr. DeJohnette who is soon joined by Mr. Smith’s haunting, ancient, poignant, lush-toned trumpet and sparse floating piano by Mr. Iyer. I am currently reading a small book on the Count Basie Orchestra which includes some chapters on each of Basie’s sidemen, including Lester Young. Ms. Holiday often chose Mr. Young and several of Basie’s musicians to collaborate with. I listened to some early Count Basie Orchestra last night as well as some early Billie Holiday from the same era. Mr. Smith’s trumpet playing here has some of that sad, beautiful, hypnotic grace that Ms. Holiday’s voice often captured. On “Deep Time No. 1”, Mr. Iyer adds some spooky electric piano, electronics and/or a sampled speech by Malcolm X. I can’t make out the words but it does sound like an ancient radio transmission from another room in an earlier era with some Old School synth added to the mysterious sonic scenery. The trio here often strip things down to a skeletal space, hanging on to and carefully placing each note. The trio take their time to build to their explosive outbursts. The one long tracj here, “The A.D. Opera: A Long Vision with Imagination…”, has three sections, one of which features some sublime, haunting muted trumpet and eerie “In a Silent Way”-like electric piano. The last piece, Rocket” features some rather funky organ and a great sly groove by Mr. DeJohnette. Wadada Leo Smith takes his final slo here and it is a true gem! This is a strong, thoughtful, emotionally involving release that gives us quite a bit of food for thought. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
RENE LUSSIER / MARTIN TETREAULT / ERICK d’ORION / ROBBIE KUSTER - PRinTeMps 2021 (Victo CD 143; Quebec; Canada) Featuring Rene Lussier on guitar & daxophone, Martin Tetreault on turntables & electronics, Erick D’Orion on electronics and Robbie Kuster on drums. I recall the times when the Victo label released some 3-5 discs a year, most of them from concerts which took place at the previous annual Creative Music Fest a/k/a FIMAV. Things have changed in recent years since CD’s are selling less so the Victo label releases usually 1 disc per year. This disc was recorded earlier this year in May of 2021 and it features a fine Quebecois quartet. Guitarist Rene Lussier I’ve known since the early days of Victo when he played in a duo called Les Granules with Jean Derome, both of those players were members of Fred Frith’s Keep the Dog, while Mr. Lussier was also a member of the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet. Mr. Lussier also cofounded the Ambiances Magnetiques (AM) label, which released a number of his diverse projects. Lussier plays at FIMAV every few years and each time with a different project. This quartet also features turntablist, Martin Tetreault, who has also has many discs out on AM label has done a number of great duos with Otomo, Kid Koala and Kevin Drumm. The other two musicians names, Erick D’Orion and Robbie Kuster are mostly new names for me although Mr. Kluster does have a trio effort out on the AM label.
The thing I’ve always dug about Mr. Lussier is the way his guitar always shines through whatever context or group of musicians he plays with. The set starts out slowly with mysterious sounds floating together. A soft cushion of hands-on-drums, eerie, fractured guitar sounds, turntable and/or electronic sounds swirling tightly together. Although this music is freely improvised, there is some strong focus at the center, an obvious center to the electronic storm. On the second track, “La suivante”, the drummer breaks into a sly groove at one point while the rest of the quartet spins tightly around him. The odd sounds of a daxophone (invented by Hans Reichel, who made one for each member of the Frith Guitar Quartet), sampled voices and strange electronic sounds. Since the electric guitar is so diverse, stylistically or genre-wise, it often add a direction or genre-like recognition when it emerges from the various sonic waves around it. The turntable, which is also much more utilized in the 1980’s and 1990’s, also adds a certain older sound that we don’t hear as often nowadays. It is currently dinnertime (11/17/21) in my apt building and both the aroma of someone cooking near me and sounds of the disc both evoke odd memories of dinners with friends (at Mykonos) and the way the FIMAV fest always delivers us the best in Creative Making every year. Last year the festival didn’t occur and earlier this year, I couldn’t attend due to travel restrictions between the US & Canada, which makes me sad since I’ve been attending this wonderful fest every year since 1987. This disc helps me to deal with the loss of not attending this year and missing all my friends from the fest and the long journey to get there, listen seriously and experience something ever so special! Happy off to Rene Lussier, my old friend and the rest of this wondrous quartet! - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
MATTHEW SHIPP / STEPHEN GAUCI - Pandemic Duets (GauciMusic 04371; USA) Featuring Matthew Shipp on piano and Stephen Gauci on tenor sax. Recorded in August of 2020 at Scholes Street Studio. Every month or so, Steve Gauci leaves us with another short stack of his ‘Pandemic Duets’ series, all studio recordings and all duos with Mr. Gauci. Aside from these, Mr. Gauci also has a monthly series of duos & trios which he does here at DMG. Last Saturday (11/13/21), Gauci played duos with Vijay Anderson on drums and Sandy Ewen on guitar plus a trio set with all three players. It was a great night and all three sets were quite different.
For this session, Mr. Gauci plays a duo with the great Downtown-based piano Matt Shipp. Mr. Shipp, who is even more prolific than Mr. Gauci and has played in sax duos with Daniel Carter, Evan Parker and even moreso with Ivo Perelman. Mr. Gauci has also been playing a series of duos with pianist Cooper-Moore and has two recordings released. Mr. Shipp is known to be a big fan of professional boxing and in some sense this does sound like a sparring session at times. Right jab, left jab and perhaps a few coco-butts. I am kidding or am I? These two players work well together and keep some of these duos relatively short. The second track starts off like a soft ballad, sparse and suspense-filled, slowly building as Mr. Shipp some haunting chamber-like chords midway, eventually adding some intense clunky block chords later while Gauci lets out those foghorn-like bellows. When things speed up on the third piece, it sounds like they are drawing from the bebop spring with some quick, tight spirals. Things calm down volume-wise on track 6, yet the tempo still increases as the duo spin their furious lines around one another in tight streams. There is strong balance going on here with Shipp often playing those dark, dense, probing chords while Gauci adds some warm, almost tender tenor swirls, the two blending their styles together as a fine, united duo. Like most successful duos, this one sounds like a conversation between old friends at times with the occasional heated arguementment(s) also erupting at certain times. Although this was their first recorded duo, both veteran musicians play extremely well together. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
JONATHAN GOLDBERGER / STEPHEN GAUCI - Pandemic Duets (GauciMusic 04369; USA) Featuring Jonathan Goldberg on electric guitar and Stephen Gauci on tenor sax. Last month (October of 2021), the GauciMusic monthly series at DMG featured a Gauci duos with Jeff Davis and Jonathan Goldberger and a trio with all three. It was another great night of live music here at the store. I’ve been checking the guitar playing of Jonathan Goldberger for the past decade or so, hearing him work with Bizingas, Surface to Air Trio, Chris Lightcap and Devin Gray, quite an eclectic bunch. The duo take off right from the gitgo with Mr. Goldberger spinning out furious paced lines of notes while Gauci winds his way through the torrent of notes. Goldberger creates a different ambiance or vibe on each track. He sounds like he is looping a low-end drone on the second piece which Mr. Gauci slows down and carefully bends each note. Goldberger slowly adds a layerof fractured jazz/rock leads on top of the looped drone and careful note-bending tenor sax squeaks & squawks. I’ve heard Mr. Goldberger in a varied of situations but none quite like this one where is noisier and improvising intensely throughout. Midway, the duo get into some ballad-like mellowness which feels great. On track 5, Goldberger loops as a quick, bent line and then adds an assortment of fractured notes while Gauci weaves his way around the ongoing stream. There are moments when Mr. Goldberger’s guitar keeps switching between softer shades and more intense erupts which push Gauci to also keep changing his approach as well, playing some lyrical lines one moment and then adding some abrupt twists & turns when the mood changes. I love the way that Mr. Gauci continually alters his approach or sound to accommodate whomever he is playing with, never knowing where the duo will end up. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
WENDY EISENBERG - Bent Ring (Dear Life Records 025; USA) Featuring Wendy Eisenberg on vocals, banjo & electric bass and Michael Cormier on percussion. Of the wave of newer Downtown musicians that have been creating New Music here over the past few years, Wendy Eisenberg might be the hardest to pin down. Eisenberg keeps busy in a wide variety of music situations. Hence, I never know which version of Wendy will pop up in any of their live sets or recordings as all are unpredictable/different. This characteristic is one of the defining traits of all Downtown Musicians who come here, create something unique and collaborate with other like-minded experimenters, often turning anyone’s expectations inside-out. Eisenberg currently has a half dozen releases of solo, duo and trio efforts, plus they have played at DMG sponsored gigs numerous times. Wendy continues to surprise us at each opportunity.
‘Bent Ring’ is yet another surprise as it features some hymns and original material with Eisenberg singing as well as playing banjo and bass. Commencing with “Abide by Me”, which does sound like an acapella hymn with lovely vocal harmonies. “When I am an Artist”, is a sweet sounding song with Wendy’s charming vocals floating on top. What this reminds me most of is the sunshine pop of The Free Design but more stripped down. Eisenberg uses just their voice, banjo and skeletal percussion to create these delightful, lovely, haunting sort of pop/gospel songs. Even with a minimum of words, Wendy stirs emotions with their odd yet inviting world/view. If you have a problem with that high-speed bluegrass banjo sound, this is not what we have here. This is more about sublime folk/pop quirky songs that sound simple on top but there is more going on once we listen to the words several times. It is early on a Thursday morning (11/18/21) here and this is the first disc I am reviewing today. It is sunny and breezy here and this music fits the vibe of the day so far. On “Don’t Move”, the banjo speeds up and keeps repeating this difficult phrase which is most enchanting to hear. Eisenberg adds layers of voices on most of these songs which make this disc even more hypnotic/charming. I can’t think of any other record I’ve heard in recent memory that captures the slightly skewered magic that I find here and that, my friends, is a good thing. Ding ding, your new treasure is ready to be delivered. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
ROBBIE LEE - Prismatist (Relative Pitch Records SS009; USA) Featuring Robbie Lee on sopranino sax, tuning forks and kaleidoloops. Recorded in an empty house on July 4th, 2018. Robbie collects and plays dozens of ethnic, exotic & often folks instruments. He records infrequently but has collaborated with Mary Halvorson, Che Chen and Jozef Van Wissem. Mr. Lee has also produced a few rare solo offerings for his own I & Ear and Telegraph Harp labels. Although Lee collects and plays a large number of Renaissance stringed and woodwind instruments, on this disc he plays mostly sopranino sax, tuning forks and something known as kaleidoloops, which I’ve never heard of. The sopranino sax used to be the smallest of the sax family until few years ago when someone invented a soprillo. The sopranino is favored by Roscoe Mitchell and Jon Irabagon and can be rather squeaky and high-pitched. Starting with, “Duskfallen”, Robbie starts spinning out a wave of spiraling lines in several registers both higher and midrange. He soon starts bending and twisting certain notes or lines, altering his pattern of lines as he goes. A tuning fork is a device one strikes to get a certain note to tune to. They are rarely used as instruments themselves although they are used for certain percussive or drone-like effects. Robbie uses some sort of looping device on “The Expanded Present”, which repeats or elongates certain notes while the occasional tapping of tuning forks. Each register of the sopranino seems to have a different effect. On “Truetone”, Robbie adds several layers of loops which provide some hypnotic drones, then slowing the drone down for the next piece. I like how Robbie often takes certain sounds and then loops them slowly altering their lines as he goes without pushing things too far out, keeping the center calm much of the time. On occasion, Mr. Lee will move into Roscoe Mitchell-like circular spiraling but usually keeps his pieces on the short side rather than pushing us like Roscoe. Mitchell or Evan Parker tend to do. This disc is part of the Relative Pitch Solo series which has also released solo efforts by Chris Pitsiokos, Tamio Shiraishi and Erin Roberts. I really like this series and only Relative Pitch takes a chance with so many of these challenging soloists. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
JAMES ILGENFRITZ / ROBBIE LEE / BRIAN CHASE - Loss and Gain (Infrequent Seams 36; USA) Featuring James Ilgenfritz on contrabass, Brian Chase on drums and Robbie Lee on saxes, recorders, flutes & electronics. What happens when we put musicians from varied backgrounds together in a new combination and let them improvise together? Something which changes every time it is played, something which evolves as it takes place… Something special which can’t be explained easily with words since when communications flow freely, words can’t really describe what is actually happening through our senses and inside our (collective) minds. I know each of these fine fellows through a variety of previous combinations: Mr. Ilgenfritz from his work with Gordon Beeferman, Liturgy & his own unique compositions; Mr. Chase has been the go to drummer for past decade working with Zeena Parkins, Allan Licht, Andrea Parkins & Catherine Cikora; Robbie Lee plays assorted renaissance woodwind & stringed instruments and has worked with Mary Halvorson, Che Chen & Jozef Van Wissem. Mr. Lee’s recent solo effort on Relative Pitch is one of the best/weirdest solo efforts of the years so find a copy and see/hear what I mean
This is an all or mostly acoustic trio outside of a bit of electronics or loops scattered amongst the free domain. Robbie Lee switches between varied saxes (sopranino?), recorders or flutes while Mr. Ilgenfritz plucks, rubs and bows the strings of his contrabass while Mr. Chase takes his time to ornament with hand-percussion, drums & cymbals. On “Fragile”, the careful bowed bass and high-end reed add layers subtle drones to a most eerie effect. There are certain sections here where it all comes together, all three musicians becoming part of one stream, all connected and flowing together. The flow or stream reminds me of the organic flow of life and nature intertwined together. Things really take off midway when the flow increases in tempo and the energy goes from simmering to boiling point to free-form freak-out. When improvised or Free Music really works, you know something special is going on since it takes you along for the ride no matter where it goes. This is what is happening here. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
STRING NOISE - Alien Stories (Infrequent Seams 031; USA) “Too often, throughout the non-profit industrial complex indebted landscape of New Music, ensembles and presenters exclaim loudly about the social weight and cultural deconstruction that their programming represents while ignoring basic structural flaws that preserve the discourse in an alienated space. The violin duo String Noise’s “Alien Stories” is a model example of gracefully avoiding this pitfall. Here they have assembled a commission collection explicitly intended to elevate the work of young black composers from diverse musical backgrounds, executed with a clarity of purpose that champions musical meditations on growth, invention, and complexities of being. Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, apart from displaying characteristically adventurous and tempered playing, possess a keen sense of how to pick their collaborators, and construct a thesis by letting the composers speak for themselves. The packaging is simple and direct, laid out much like program notes displaying the impressive pedigrees of each composer and the musical goals of each piece. Throughout this relatively short disc, gradient commonalities surface across repeated listens. The material all coalesced throughout the pandemic, and each composer in their way grapples with both the disease oriented isolation and the summer 2020 explosion of the Black Lives Matter conversation following the death of George Floyd. These pieces are designed to challenge our established notions of time, independence, history, and difference, with no lack of vibrant forward-thinking gestures in the realm of “absolute music”. The bar of compositional grace and rigor is exceptionally high on this disc, and nowhere does the listener feel the weight of self-seriousness. The marked experimentalism of Jessie Cox and Lester St. Louis’s pieces engage a heightened and meticulous listening process, that dissolves aqueously into the playful melodicism of Anais Maviel and Charles Overton that evoke the internal lives of decisions, memories and family histories. The disc is punctuated by a Jonathan Finlayson piece that seems to almost float off into the distance, an exercise in objectivity through the process of translating a personal melodic language from the trumpet into string writing. Each piece seems to breathe and expand beyond its duration, and the collection as a whole carries itself as a powerful antidote to our inclinations to return to business as usual. - Frank Meadows for DMG
ELLIOTT SHARP // BRNO CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA - Plastovy Hrad (Infrequent Seams 20; USA) Quintessential Downtown composer, instrumentalist and multi-bandleader, Elliott Sharp, is a restless sonic explorer who keeps challenging himself (and us) by working in a wide variety of genres, styles or musical areas not so easily defined. This disc features three compositions, each for a very different ensemble or situation. The only common thread is that a bass clarinet is featured in each piece. The first piece, “Plastovy Hrad”, is the title piece and it is performed by the BRNO Contemporary Orchestra from the Czech Republic. The piece was inspired by the writing of Franz Kafka and poetry of Egon Bondy. The music is dark, quite haunting, often mesmerizing with a cymbalom (Czech instrument) at the center, along with some the bass clarinet as one of the leading figures. It would seem that Mr. Sharp’s composing keeps getting better, more dynamic and well thought out. “Turing Test” is a mini-opera featuring the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart with Gareth Davies on bass clarinet. Mr. Davies has worked with Mr. Sharp on previous occasions and is an excellent bass clarinetist. The Neue Vocalsolisten are a vocal sextet and work quite well with Gareth Davies at the center. The complex layers of voices are constantly shifting, moving in musical fragments with shrewd harmonies. Mr. Davies’ bass clarinet is featured throughout, taking the lead, weaving his lines around and with the ever-changing vocals, sometimes animalistic and often without words, just expressive sounds. Most impressive! The third piece, “Oumuamua”, is performed by Elliott Sharp on bass clarinet with electronics. This piece was named after a recently discovered asteroid, which is considered by some to be an alien spaceship. The bass clarinet is heavily processed in real time and it is fascinating to listen to as the sounds are manipulated in a variety of odd ways. Once again, Elliott Sharp shows his diverse palette by placing a bass clarinet in three very different situations, each one successful in its own way. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
CHRIS COCHRANE / STUART POPEJOY - Geologic Time (Infrequent Seams 16; USA) Featuring Chris Cochrane on electric guitar and Stuart Popejoy on electric bass. Longtime Downtown guitarist & occasional singer, Chris Cochrane, has remained enigmatic and impossible to pigeonhole throughout his long music career. He has played in numerous Downtown bands like No Safety, Curlew and for Eszter Balint, as well as having a few of his own records as a leader (just 3 in 30 years). Still, a style or distinct sound would be difficult to describe. Mr. Cochrane has a current band called Collapsible Shoulder, which I have yet to hear. This band does include bassist Stuart Popejoy, a young Downtown musician who played an amazing duet here with Chris Pitsiokos last Sunday (5/5/19). Mr. Popejoy has played in both metal projects and improv situations. This duo disc was recorded live in different locations in NYC in 2014 & 2015. “Eemian” kicks things off with a howling drone of controlled feedback or layered distortion, expanding & contracting as it flows. The chiming guitar starts to ring like demonic church bells in the second half of this piece. On “Tractored Out”, there are several layers warped guitars & bass, all howling, humming or throbbing together. It is hard to tell what is be played on “Date Night with the Kids”, is that static or layers of distortion or strings being rubbed with an object..?!? The sound is somewhat disorienting, most effective nonetheless. What makes this disc special is the way the guitar and bass are being used to create diverse sounds that effect us yet there is very little recognizable music or melody involved. What is that??? Whale sounds? industrial sounds? Alien, mutant music of some sort..? The entire CD does evoke quite a bit of feelings, vibes and (minds’ eye) scenery. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
FOREVER HOUSE with MEAGHAN BURKE / JAMES MOORE / JAMES ILGENFRITZ / PETER WISE - Eaves (Infrequent Seams 17; USA) Forever House is Meaghan Burke on cello & vocals, James Moore on guitar, James Ilgenfritz on bass and Peter Wise on drums. I know guitarist James Moore from his work with the Dither (Electric Guitar Quartet), as well as a duo CD on New World and a quartet called The Hands Free on New Amsterdam. Downtown bassist & Infrequent Seams label-head, James Ilgenfritz, plays a wide variety of bands: Hypercolor (Tzadik), Ghost Ensemble, Trio Caveat & Dealbreaker. I don’t recognize the names of Meagham Burke and Peter Wise from any previous project. It turns out that Forever House is a strong, spirited post-rock band, a tribal, rockin’ groove at center, kinda reminding me of PJ Harvey, who I really dig. Here’s a line I thought was pretty funny: “I went down to pawn off some epiphanies, They laughed and said I ought to try Tiffany’s”. This is well written rock music but not really prog with some surprising twists and turns. This is somewhere between punk attitude with progressive chops. James Moore’s crunchy electric guitar recall some NY Noisey bands from the eighties like Ritual Tension or Band of Susans. On “Saints”, Moore plays some soft bluesy slide guitar while the quartet chant together: “Come down, come down…”. I like the way Ms. Burke stretches her voice out and singing/speaking out those thought-provoking, honest, quietly disturbing lyrics. The bands melts into a long, intense, harrowing section on “Entitlement Face”, which I found both disturbing and breath-taking simultaneously.
ARCANE DEVICE - Ruins (No Rent NORENT043; USA) David Lee Myers’ debut for indie Philly label No Rent eschews the circuit-bent bleepery of his 2020/21 Pulsewidth communiqués for some post-industrial anti-ambient cinematography for the ear. Four tracks exceeding fifteen minutes in length allow plenty of room for Myers to work out a seemingly endless array of ideas, realized from his usual tapestry of sculpted feedback, Eurorack electronics, tapes, guitars, processing, and, as is his wont, reprocessing. All cheekiness aside, for anyone with even the slightest interest in contemporary electronic music and how longtime sonic alchemists like Myers achieve their flights of metaphysical fancy, the music of Arcane Device and its creator is required listening. Sounds wholly new, wholly unrecognized, dappling the stereofield in all sizes, shapes, colors, and configurations, make for audiological canvases the ear remains nearly too primitive to grasp. But we work with what we have, so allow your imagination free reign to derive endlessly rejuvenating pleasure from these fascinating works. With their nondescript track titles, Myers’ suggests you consider these pieces as abstract but metaphorically magnetic electronic tone studies, much like masters Dockstader, Xenakis, Mimaroglu, Schulze, et al. The curdling, decaying limpids of “Untitled 222” seethe like energy remnants of collapsed stars, as Myers warps time and space via his ingenious texture mapping of his trusty Eurorack modules; Robert Moog and Don Buchla would’ve been proud. “Untitled 151” inhabits the glacial spheres of its predecessor but the patina of the sounds go from a slow-moving pace to an insectile buzz of chirrups, clicks, and shimmery effect before descending into brillo-walled passages of abyssal depth graced by occasional pockmarks of light. “Untitled 111” is (non)ambient-music for sensory deprivation tanks, hallucinatory in its urgent, rippled mock arpeggios, positing travelogues deep within the gurgling bowels of its cavernous, electronic interiors. The enigmatic “Untitled 000” practically seethes with machinic atmosphere and psychotropic dread, as Myers lets his tones flutter on the silvery-tipped wings of great, flying beasts, while other nameless critters clatter, tumble, and contemplate their existence on the parched terrain below. The originality of sounds on display here never ceases to amaze, which, after all, is what the best electronic music seeks to attain. Kinda takes your breath away. - Darren Bergstein, DMG
N28 [a/k/a DAVID LEE MYERS/ARCANE DEVICE] - N28 (Pulsewidth PW014; USA) The mysteriously named N28 is our beloved David Lee Myers (aka Arcane Device) operating undercover but delivering the same intense, polychromatic psychetronica he’s always known for. I have it under good authority (actually from Mr Myers himself) that this double disc entry, nicked the Noisewall Sessions 2020-2021, tips its hat to the noise crowd, as it were. Well, those of you looking for the harsh hashish of Merzbow, Incapacitants, Astro, Maurizio Bianchi, or any others of similar ilk will no doubt be disappointed. Myers’ does indeed keep a nice, raw, crusty edge to his sounds on this one (not too dissimilar to his early Arcane Device missives), but what these works truly reflect, and has been a constant fundamental of his recordings over the last few years, is an obvious obsession and deep love for modular electronics and the patchwork potpourri he embraces wholeheartedly. There’s a mischievousness lurking throughout every pulse, errant tone, and awry texture popping their heads up during the lengthy duration of these six tracks, all of them chockablock with a sci-fi sensibility and multidimensional construct. “N28b” especially dazzles, the bastard cousin of Louis and Bebe Barron’s Forbidden Planet soundtrack recontextualized for the modern era, tonal oddities trodding about the planetscape with acute menace, distress signals sent out into the cosmos only to get subsumed in torrents of background radiation, the cries of stranded explorers absorbed into oscillating waves of pitchstretched malevolence, INA-GRM by way of John Carpenter. “N28d” could be Tangerine Dream’s Zeit or one of Richard Pinhas’s phased phantasias wrung through the proverbial wringer, a mirrorball refracting melting galena, reverberating factory ambiance, and machineries of joy caught in the thralls of orgasmic ecstasy. If this is in fact yet another (new) side to Myers’s effervescent, ever-surprising personae, here’s hoping this is but the beginning. Beautifully packaged in a monoprint envelope with a resealable tied clasp, and proudly minimal in its design, allowing the rugged, exploratory sounds to speak for themselves. Pretty essential, and in a limited edition of 50, so move on this one quick before it becomes rarer than hen’s teeth. - Darren Bergstein, DMG
KEITH TIPPETT GROUP With ELTON DEAN / ROBERT WYATT / MARC CHARIG / GARY BOYLE / NICK EVANS / ROY BABBINGTON / JEFF CLYNE / PHIL HOWARD / BRYAN SPRING - Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening (Esoteric 2367; UK) Keith Tippett's name is probably familiar to those who are fans of '70s British jazz OR bands like King Crimson, the Soft Machine and Blossom Toes (all whom benefited from Tippett's ivory mastery on some of their greatest albums).This is a legendary all-time classic of '70s Avant-British Jazz, and a long time high-priced rarity on LP! Keith's (and his Group's: Elton Dean, Marc Charig and Nick Evans) 2nd album from 1971 is augmented by Robert Wyatt, Phil Howard (both members at different times in Soft Machine) and Bryan Spring on drums, Roy Babbington and Neville Whitehead on bass, Gary Boyle on guitar, and Tony Uta on percussion - on all tracks! Brilliantly structured and arranged compositions from Tippett , Evans, Dean  and the [mutated by Dean and Charig] Hugh Hopper/Soft Machine title tune allowed for plenty of free expression from the indivdual players and gave birth to a personalized new-jazz style that put Tippett in a class of his own. A tour de force, this energized treasure is one of our (Bruce and Manny's) favorite Euro-jazz recordings of all time and should be owned and known by avant-music freaks around the world. Esoteric remastered edition of this 1971 album, the second from this legendary British Jazz pianist. Tippett is one of the greatest and innovative figures in modern jazz. His work has also seen him cross into the world of Progressive rock, working with King Crimson and his own outfit Centipede. Dedicated To You, But You Weren't Listening took its name from the Soft Machine track of the same name and was the group's second album. Recorded for the legendary Vertigo label, the album featured such celebrated alumni as Elton Dean on alto saxophone, Marc Charig on cornet, Nick Evans on trombone, bass players Roy Babbington and Neville Whitehead, drummers Robert Wyatt, Phil Howard and Bryan Spring, along with the virtuosity of pianist Keith Tippett. A legendary work, Dedicated to You, But You Weren't Listening has been newly remastered from the original Vertigo master tapes and the booklet fully restores the original album artwork and includes a new essay.”
DOMINIQUE ANDRE - Evasion (Born Bad Records 140CD; France) “Dominique André is in his studio-apartment, a converted maid's room on Avenue Junot in Paris. In front of his Revox tape recorder, which can record two tracks separately, is a motley collection of instruments: a children's organ, a cooking pot, a guitar, a frying pan and various other everyday objects to be rubbed, banged together and gently beaten. On either side of the recorder, an upright piano, a stack of film sound effects records and a vinyl turntable sit waiting . . . In a glorious career as a production designer, came collaborations, sometimes friendships, with Claude Sautet, Pierre Granier-Deferre, Samuel Fuller, Georges Lautner, Andrzej Zulawski, Gérard Oury, Philippe de Brocca or Francis Veber. Dominique is the one who finds solutions, the one who makes everything look easy, the one who adapts to the craziest requests, the most demanding constraints . . . Dominique André received a commission from France Musique, created a film soundtrack and published a single vinyl record (reissued here) that went unnoticed having been released as "library music". Despite all this, his daily passion remains confidential, personal, even intimate, out of modesty, but above all out of indulgence, like when, hiding by yourself at the back of the cupboard, you stick your finger into the jar of jam and know that sharing goes on elsewhere. On either side of the Revox potentiometer rotation curve, the tape no longer knowing which timeline to turn to, his family listens, admiring and incredulous at so many self-taught adventures, such amateur brilliance. And his other grandmother, a virtuoso pianist who accompanied the first black jazz orchestras in France, as well as his son, first violin in the Paris Orchestra, both marvelous, uncomprehending. In doing so, they offer a possible definition of true experimental beauty, which is somewhat misunderstood, and timeless. Finally, a last door opens, and in the next room, for a long time now, the experiments continue, always amateur, always enlightened. And the forms, the colors, developed in parallel in Dominique André's painting, cannot be described in the present narrative, which has to be brief, because only then will its form be relevant.”
ABDEL HADI HALO & THE EL GUSTO ORCHESTRA OF ALGIERS - Abdel Hadi Halo & The El Gusto Orchestra of Algiers (Honest Jon’s Records 032CD; UK) ”Chaabi ("of the people") has its roots in the Andalusian music of Moorish Spain, spreading to North Africa with exiled Jewish and Moorish communities; but it really took off in the music schools, parties and bars of occupied, post-WWII Algiers, where its Andalusian, Middle Eastern and North African lineage fused with the Mediterranean soundtrack of that era -- chanson, jazz, snatches of tango, a little boogie-woogie. A chaabi band combines traditional instruments such as the quanoun (or zither), mandole, oud, gambar (a stringed turtle shell), bendir and derbouka (types of drum); together with the piano, flute, banjo (brought to Algiers by American GIs), violin (played upright on the lap to save space in crowded venues), accordion and bongos. With subject matter ranging from God to pretty girls, the songs often touch on taboo issues. For this recording, the Abdel Hadi Halo & The El Gusto Orchestra of Algiers includes four singers -- joined in chorus by the voices of the entire orchestra and five-man banjo, percussion and violin sections. The scale and organization are thrilling; the music is swirling and improvisatory, surging from the haunted to the bluesy, the devotional to the knees-up. This album was recorded on the tilting fifth floor of the Conservatoire d'Algiers, in a room overlooking the sea on one side, and the Casbah on the other: the orchestra was recorded live in full flight -- all together, in continuous takes.”
AKI ONDA WITH CHARMAINE LEE AND ZACH ROWDEN - A Letter from Souls of The Dead (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art 001BK; USA) “The soundtrack for Aki Onda's the first major solo exhibition A Letter from Souls of The Dead at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) from July 10-September 4, 2021.Commissioned by PICA and curated by Kristan Kennedy, artistic director and curator of visual art, this exhibition features collections of found objects such as bells, surplus electronics, photographs, and old-fashioned slide projections. The soundtrack for this exhibition was composed by Onda in collaboration with New Yorked-based vocalist Charmaine Lee and New Haven-based musician Zach Rowden.”
BOOK 7” Flexi - $26
FRED NEIL - Other Side of This Life (4 Men with Beards 233LP; USA) "Other Side of This Life is the final album from American folk music legend Fred Neil, released in 1971 before his long self-imposed retirement from music to focus on dolphin conservation in his home state of Florida. Featuring a side of live recordings of some of his most lasting and well known compositions (including 'The Dolphins' and 'Everybody's Talkin'') as well as a side of studio sessions featuring Les McCann and Gram Parsons, Other Side of This Life may not be Neil's most memorable album but it's still head and shoulders above most other singer-songwriter material of the era." On 180 gram vinyl.
KONSTRUKT Featuring THURSTON MOORE - Turkish Belly (Karl Records 084LP; Germany) ”The latest entry in the ongoing series of exciting collaborations sees the Turkish free form ensemble Konstrukt live on stage with Thurston Moore. #5 in a continuing series of Konstrukt collaborations on KarlRecords is a live document of the concert by the Turkish freeform group with Thurston Moore. Konstrukt, the Istanbul based free jazz/freeform group founded and led by Umut Çağlar and Korhan Futaci, are known for their openness to and interest in collaborations --and regularly meet up and perform with new partners that range from Joe McPhee, William Parker, Akira Sakata, Marshall Allen, Evan Parker, Alexander Hawkins, Ken Vandermark or Otomo Yoshihide. This latest release sees the quartet join forces with one of the indie rock icons: Thurston Moore, who besides his decade-long main band Sonic Youth always found time and inspiration for solo projects and collaborations of different kinds. Turkish Belly, recorded live at SalonIKSV in Istanbul in February of 2020, is as adventurous and daring as one will expect from such a pairing and a highly rewarding experience for the fans of Konstrukt and those of Moore alike.”
MALCOLM JIYANE AND TREE-O - Umdali (Mushroom Hour Half Hour M3H 009LP; South Africa) “Operating from the fringes of the South African jazz scene, the enigmatic yet charismatic trombonist and pianist Malcolm Jiyane delivers a major contribution to the canon -- one shaped around dedications to key figures in his personal and professional life. Several years ago, Jiyane was dealing with the death of a band member, the birth of a daughter and the passing of his beloved mentor Johnny Mekoa, founder of the Music Academy of Gauteng, which Jiyane attended from a young age. These life-altering events give shape to the music's emotional register and its thematic concerns. In Black Music, his book of essays and critiques, Amiri Baraka makes the point that jazz musicians, be it in the construction of solos or in other aspects of composition, always draw on the works of their contemporaries or elders. How much outsiders pick up on that is really dependent on how au fait they are with the music. In this album, Jiyane finds comfort in this well-trodden path. Two songs make for great examples. "Umkhumbi kaMa", a jazz-funk track celebrating the creative force as inhabited by women, the motif to Herbie Hancock's "Ostinato (Suite for Angela)" is a clear reference, connecting in one swift move, not only the musical traditions of the Black Atlantic but also the struggles and triumphs of women across space and time. On the same note, the free-form "Solomon, Tsietsi & Khotso", conjured in the same jam session that yielded SPAZA's Uprize! (M3H 007LP), appears here in a more fleshed out form as "Senzo seNkosi"; a tender dedication to Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O bass player Senzo Nxumalo. Jiyane's path to the realization of his debut album as frontman is more than merely one individual's breakthrough. Workshopped and recorded within two days in Johannesburg, UMDALI, not unlike Miles Davis's landmark Kind of Blue, stretches our idea of what it means to improvise within the context of jazz.”
ALISON KNOWLES - Sounds from the Book of Bean (Recital 085; USA) The first vinyl LP release from Fluxus pioneer Alison Knowles (b. 1933). Sounds from the Book of Bean is an assemblage of noises and texts related to "The Book of Bean" (1982), Knowles' eight-foot tall walk-in book constructed at Franklin Furnace in New York. This recording, the sounds of making the big book, was continually played back inside of the installation. Echoes of Yoshi Wada hammering together the circular spine of the book, other collaborators mixing ink, feeding a horse, the flowing waters of the Hudson Valley... all superimposed with texts and poems read by Knowles and her daughter Jessica Higgins. On the second side of the album, the piece "Essential Divisions" features Knowles performing with red, black, and white beans. Recorded in Annea Lockwood's underground studio, Knowles sounds the beans in glass, ceramics, wood, as well as in her mouth. Further bean histories and sound poems are recited, concluding with "Popular Bean Soup" -- an ancient recipe translated by George Brecht. Knowles' big books are, as she describes them, transvironments: a transformationally experienced environment. The phenomenological nature of her book is distilled aurally in the case of this record. As Knowles describes the end of her book, "the reader leaves via a ladder or out the window and through a muslin panel printed with contradictory wisdom concerning beans and dreaming... one can begin again either by going on or turning back." Originally published as a cassette in 1982 on the New Wilderness Audiographics label, this remastered edition has been transferred from original tapes. An expansive 20-page booklet is included, holding graphics and writings from Alison Knowles, George Quasha, and Charlie Morrow. Recorded by Alison Knowles, 1980. Produced by Alison Knowles, Sean McCann, and Charlie Morrow. Design by Alison Knowles, cover image courtesy George Quasha. Jessica Higgins also adds voice to tracks 1, 3, 4, 5.
ATTENTION ALL CREATIVE MUSICIANS OUT THERE, Around the world.
If you have a link for some music that you are working on and want to share it with the folks who read the DMG Newsletter, please send the link to DMG at DMG@Downtownmusicgallery.com.
December program at ZÜRCHER Gallery, NY :
Saturday December 4, 8 PM : DAVID ROTHENBERG & DOUGLAS EWART!
Sunday December 5 at 7.30 PM : AN AYLER CHRISTMAS with MARS WILLIAMS / JAIMIE BRANCH / STEVE SWELL / AVA MENDOZA / FRED LONBERG-HOLM / HILLIARD GREENE / CHAD TAYLOR!
Wednesday December 8, 8 PM : DARIUS JONES - Solo
Thursday December 16, 8 PM : TYSHAWN SOREY & ADAM RUDOLPH
Monday December 20, 8 PM PETR KOTIK presents .. (TBD)
All Gigs are $20
THE Zürcher Gallery is located at:
33 Bleecker Street, New York NY 10012
Tel: 212-777-0790 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Proof of full vaccination, photo ID and face masks are required
The Independent Promoters Alliance Presents:
THE TOM RAINEY TRIO with INGRID LAUBROCK & MARY HALVORSON!
Thursday, December 30th at 7:30pm - $20
At DiMenna Center for the Performing Arts
450 West 57th St. in Manhattan, NYC
Proof of full vaccination, photo ID and face masks are required
This one is from CHRIS CUTLER, original member of Henry Cow, Art Bears, News from Babel, respected author and founder of Recommended Records. This is Chris’ wonderful podcast and I urge you all to give it a listen… https://rwm.macba.cat/en/research/probes-30
Guitarist and DMG-pal HENRY KAISER has a monthly Video Solo Series on Cuneiform’s Youtube page:
My good friend & guitar master GARY LUCAS is playing half hour sets at his apartment in the West village every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday at 3pm EST on Facebook. Different songs & improvisations on each episode.
Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/gary.lucas.5836/