Saying: "Why, why, why...
Why are we sleeping?"
"Why, why, why...
Why are we sleeping?"
My head is a nightclub with glasses and wine
The customers dancing or just making time
While Daevid is cursing,
the customers scream
Now everyone's shouting, "Get out of my dream!"
Saying: "Why, why, why...
Why are we sleeping?"
It begins with a blessing, it ends with a curse
Making life easy by making it worse
"My mask is my master", the trumpeter weeps
But his voice is so weak, as he speaks from his sleep
Saying: "Why, why, why...
Why are we sleeping?"
In the fall of 1968, a local guitarist from my hometown (Linden, NJ) named Gary O came up to me in the hallways of McManus Junior High and asked if I was a big fans of the Mothers of Invention. I said, “Oh yes”, they were my favorite band at the time. He asked if I had heard of Soft Machine, which I hadn’t and suggested that I would probably dig them as well. Later that month, I found a new of of Soft Machine’s ‘Volume One’ and played it over & over. I wasn’t so sure about it at first but it soon became my favorite record of that period. I didn’t know hat to quite make of since the instrumentation was organ (Mike Ratledge), el bass & low vocals (Kevin Ayers) and drums & high vocals (Robert Wyatt). No lead guitar?!?! Very odd for this period since almost every rock band had a lead guitarist. Their music combined art-rock, weird-psych, avant-jazz influences and Pataphyiscal (dada-esque) philosophy. The above song was written and sung by Kevin Ayers and closes out the second side of their debut album. Lyrically, Soft Machine were in a class of their own, strange, self-referential whimsical lyrics that often poked fun at the seriousness of life. Think about the opening lines: “It begins with a blessing and ends with a curse, making life easy by making it worse…” The words to this song still haunt me to this day. The chorus of “Why, why, why… why are we sleeping?” is chanted over & over & over and again it gives us something to ponder. What was most interesting about Soft Machine is that their personnel changed and each record, seven numbered and four with titles, hence the band was a work in progress and were never just one thing. Their first eight records are for me & Ras Moshe, all essential, the later ones rather disappointing. Soft Machine split up in 1975, the only original member, Mike Ratledge, was uninspired and not composing very much. In 2003, four ex-members got back together and called themselves Soft Works, later they became Soft Machine Legacy and more recently just Soft Machine. They toured under their original named a few years ago and played 5 amazing sets at the Palladium in NYC. I caught four, introduced one set and all were amazing! They are still together, although the personnel has changed once again as it always does. If you’ve never heard them go back to ‘Volume One’ and work your way forward. All of their number albums & ‘Bundles’ are classics of prog/jazz/rock whatever. It is time to wake up from our long sleep…. - MC BruceLee
BERLIN > NEW YORK AT ROULETTE:
THE JAZZWERKSTATT FESTIVAL
WILL TAKE PLACE NEXT WEEK ON Wed April 20th & Thursday, April 21st
THE JAZZWERKSTATT ORCHESTRA Plays the Music of KURT WEILL
MICHAEL MOORE / GREG COHEN TRIO
DEREK PLAYS ERIC
KURT SCHWITTERS’ “Die Ursonate”
Next week in Downtown Brooklyn, us lucky Serious Music Fans will get a are opportunity to hear more than a dozen Berlin-based musicians get together to play for a two festival of Creative Music at its very best! I hung out with Silke E & Nicolas N at The Stone last night, good friends and musicians whose music I truly admire. Both are members of Potsa Lotsa, an incredible New Music Ensemble with 5 great discs out on the Leo & Intakt labels. I just reviewed their new one (see below) and it is one of the best I’ve heard in recent memory. There are a number of great musicians playing whose names I can’t mention… I know a number of you know, respect and dig the music of European elders like Evan Parker, Peter Brotzmann, Alex Von Schlippenbach, etc., so please support the next generations of Euro/New & Free Music Pioneers. Mark my words, Creative Music is Our International Language, join forces with other like-minded Spirit Seekers and listen closely! The rewards are waiting. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
THE DMG 31st ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION & IN-STORE SERIES Continues with:
Saturday, April 16th:
STEPHEN GAUCI - tenor sax / KEISUKE MATSUNO - guitar / JEREMY CARSLSTEDT - drums
Sets at 6:30 & 7:15
Tuesday, April 19th:
6:30: THOMAS HEBERER / JOE FONDA / JOEY HURT - Trumpet / Contrabass / Drums!
7:30: NICK DUNSTON / JOAN SUE / ISABEL CRESPO PARDO / HENRY FRASER - Two Voices / Two Basses!
Sunday, May 1st: DMG 31st Anniversary Celebration!
Featuring GARY LUCAS / ELLIOTT SHARP / JOEL HARRISON- Solo Guitar Sets, Book Signings & Jam!
This is will be an invite only celebration for 15 lucky folks and will be filmed for a future on-line broadcast.
This Week’s Amazing Discs Begin with Another JOHN ZORN All-Star Session:
JOHN ZORN // SIMULACRUM with JOHN MEDESKI / MATT HOLLENBERG / KENNY GROHOWSKI BILL FRISELL - Spinoza (Tzadik 8388; USA) “Spinoza is Zorn's latest creation for the searing jazz-metal trio Simulacrum—perhaps the most extreme organ trio ever. Inspired by the life and thought of one of the world's greatest philosophers he has composed two extended concerti: one for guitar genius Bill Frisell and another featuring himself on saxophone. The musical mosaic flows seamlessly from one world to another, touching upon heavy metal, jazz, minimalism, atonality, noise, ambient moods, funk, and so much more. A musical vision as radical as the philosophy of Spinoza himself, this is one of Zorn's greatest recent works—an essential and exhilarating project as powerful as it is sensitive. Cinema for the ears!”
Intro: My pal Darren B recently asked if the world needed yet another live Soft Machine release. As a big Soft Machine fan-addict, I replied, “of course we do!” The below 2 CD/1 DVD set of an unreleased concert is essential listening for progressive fans world wide. When Soft Machine ‘Third’ (2 LP set released in 1970), the original trio (Hugh Hopper replacing Kevin Ayers on Vol Two) had expanded with a horn section borrowed from the Keith Tippett Group. The horn section toured and recorded on some of the songs on ’Third’. All of the horn players left after that tour except for Elton Dean (alto sax & saxello), who stayed with them for ‘Four’ and ‘Five’. The other horns were replaced by the mysterious Lyn Dobson, who played soprano, tenor, flute & harmonica. Mr. Dobson was only in the Softs for a few months and did no studio recordings with them. Two of the three discs here capture sets from March & January of 1970 plus we can actually see the entire set on the third disc, a DVD well worth checking out. Video footage of Soft Machine live is pretty rare so let’s thanks Steve at Cuneiform for doing this extra-special package. A must for serious listeners!
SOFT MACHINE with MIKE RATLEDGE / ELTON DEAN / LYN DOBSON / HUGH HOPPER / ROBERT WYATT - Facelift - France & Holland (Cuneiform 495/496/497; USA) "A love affair with France preserved on film - shot with tangible cinematic flair at Paris' photogenic Theatre De La Musique in March 1970, this superb quality live footage of the Softs at their freewheeling peak was originally broadcast on French Television... Like the sounds fashioned onstage by Messrs Wyatt, Hopper, Ratledge, Dean and Dobson the visual style here is both highly fluid and refreshingly free of the stylistic cliches all too familiar from countless lookalikes in concert films... With the Softs flying high sans safety net and previewing material from their upcoming album Third, the audience in raptures, Robert Wyatt looking like the younger brother of Brian Jones and the sight of Orangina bottles decorating the top of the amps, this is a hugely evocative period piece made all the more vivid by the warm hues of the colour film stock. They sure don't make 'em like this any more." – Grahame Bent, Record Collector “From their beginnings as a psychedelic rock band in 1966, sharing stages with Pink Floyd and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, to being one of the originators of electric jazz/rock by early 1969, Britain’s Soft Machine were restlessly creative. ‘Facelift France and Holland’ captures them at a pivotal moment in the first quarter of 1970 as a short-lived quintet, just before they recorded and released their breakthrough album Third. As broadcast on the French TV programme Pop 2, the film of Soft Machine’s concert at Paris’ Théâtre de la Musique, which constitutes the main course of the present release, stands as an exceptional document of the band at, arguably, its artistic peak. It is the earliest footage of the band to be commercially released and also the only video footage known to exist of the quintet line-up that was active from January to March 1970. The broadcast contains the only professionally-recorded performance of “Out-Bloody- Rageous” with Lyn Dobson on second sax and it also is the only professionally-recorded alternative performance by the quintet of “Facelift” (the original appearing as the opening track on Third). Facelift France and Holland marks the first official release of the entire show in both audio and video format. Footage of the concert was previously released in 2008 on DVD, but we have gone through and worked from the original as well as alternative footage to improve video quality as well as remove or lessen soundtrack issues including fake applause and hard edits. In addition to the March, 1970 material presented here on CD and DVD in splendid stereo sound and looking better than it ever has before, Disc 3 presents a previously unreleased soundboard performance at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw from January 17, 1970. Every Soft Machine fan needs this.”
2 CD DVD $27
TONY OXLEY with BARRY GUY / HOWARD RILEY / PAUL RUTHERFORD / PHIL WACHSMANN / DAVE HOLDSWORTH / LARRY STABBINS / HUGH METCALFE / STEFAN HOELKER - Unreleased 1974 - 2016 (Discus 131 CD; UK) Featuring Tony Oxley on drums, electronics, violin & odd sounds, Barry Guy on acoustic & electric basses, Dave Holdsworth on trumpet, Howard Riley on piano, Paul Rutherford on trombone, Hugh Meltcalfe on guitar & cymbals, Larry Stabbins on saxes, Phil Wachsmann on violin & Stefan Hoelkar on acoustic percussion. I’ve long dug the playing & composing & directing of British jazz drum pioneer Tony Oxley. Starting with his work on John McLaughlin’s debut, ‘Extrapolation’ (1968), the Howard Riley Trio and his own quintet (two brilliant records on Columbia UK in 1970/1971), through his work with Derek Bailey and Cecil Taylor, he has remained at the cutting edge of avant jazz drumming, experimental percussion & electronics. As far as being a leader, his recordings are few & far between. Recently the Confront and Discus labels have released several historic dates of unreleased treasures.
This disc consists of three dates, two from 1974 (both different quintets) and a duo set from 2016. Starting off with three pieces by the first quintet: Oxley, Guy, Holdsworth, Riley & Wachsmann. If you’ve listened to enough of older style British improv, you know that the Brits have their own way of playing ‘Free Music’, also known as ‘insect music’. Quintet 1 features inside-the piano explorations, eerie electronics, that distinctive drums &/or percussion sound and the unique sound of brass that was invented by the likes of Paul Rutherford, Radu Malfatti or the Bauer Brothers. There is a certain brass sound which sounds as if the notes are being played backwards (via tapes), which can be heard on the short tracks on Hugh Hopper’s ‘1984’ album. Those sounds are especially effective and hypnotic with both Mr. Rutherford (trombone) and Mr. Holdsworth (on trumpet), providing those sounds. Quintet 2 features: Oxley, Metcalfe, Riley, Stabbins & Wachsmann. Violinist Phil Wachsmann is a longtime sonic explorer of what some listeners call “insect music”, referring to those short, bent-note interactions that UK improvisers seem to favor. Wachmann’s playing is at the center of “Frame”, an extraordinary 15 minute epic of cosmic, improv weirdness which features some intense playing from Weekend saxist Larry Stabbins. The final piece, “Combination”, is a duo of Mr. Oxley on electronics and Stefan Hoelker on acoustic percussion. Mr. Hoelker is the only musician here with whom I had heard little about although he has worked with Mr. Oxley previously for an orchestra album. Mr. Oxley has been working with electronics and amplified percussion for many years, going back to 1971. Both Mr. Oxley and Mr. Hoelker are sonic pioneers and it is hard to tell them apart at times except for the occasional recognizable sounds of cymbals. Although this piece was recorded more than forty years after the previous piece, Mr. Oxley’s distinctive sound and approach is similar, evolving on certain levels. It is Tony Oxley’s sound which is at the center of each of these pieces, all of which are captivating to the serious listeners amongst us. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
JULIE TIPPETTS & MARTIN ARCHER with ANTON HUNTER / CHARLOTTE KEEFFE / GEORGE MURRAY / COREY MWAMBA / SETH BENNETT / PETER FAIRCLOUGH / et al - Illusion (Discus 131; UK) Featuring Julie Tippetts on vocals, lyrics & arrangments, Martin Archer on saxes, keyboards, clarinet & direction, Charlotte Keeffe on trumpet, Anton Hunter on el. guitar & loops, George Murray on trombone, Seth Bennett on bass, Corey Mwamba on vibes and Peter Fairclough on drums. I’ve long been fascinated by the singing, stage presence and ever-evolving creative spirit of UK vocalist, Julie Tippetts, formerly known as Julie Driscoll. Her several records with Brian Auger & the Trinity from the late sixties, are all stone cold classic of pop/jazz/rock/prog at its best, especially their last record, ’Street Noise’, her last with the band until their reunion record a few years later. From the late sixties onwards, Ms. Tippetts played in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (one of the founders of British Free Jazz) and married master pianist Keith Tippett, their lives and music journey forever linked. In the early seventies Ms. Tippetts recorded two jazz/prog/rock records, ’1969’ and ’Sunset Glow’, both superb. Aside from that Ms. Tippett, has mostly been a member of several of Keith Tippetts’ projects (Centipede, Tapestry, etc.) as well as in a duo/trio with Keith called Couple in Spirit, whose first album was produced by Robert Fripp and which remains one of Manny Lunch & myself’s favorite discs of all. Both Keith & Julie recorded infrequently over the past couple of decades, both taught as well. Saxist, keyboardist & (Discus) label founder, Martin Archer, wisely sought out Ms. Tippetts to do a series of collaborations over the past decade or so, getting her to sing and write lyrics, bringing her back full circle to the way she sang a half century ago. Although Ms. Tippetts & Mr. Archer recorded several great discs together, they never played live until they were invited to play at the Victo / FIMAV Fest in Quebec a few years ago. I caught that set and was completely knocked out by Ms. Tippetts’ voice and they playing of the great ensemble that Mr. Archer had put together especially for that occasion. This is the seventh collaboration that Mr. Archer has done with Ms. Tippett and most of them are also 2 CD sets. Obviously they work hard on each of these impressive discs.
Each of the two discs here has a name, ‘Circle of Whispers’ and ‘Illusion Suite’. Martin Archer fans should recognize several of the members from varied ensembles/project that he has organized for his Disc label, which recently passed the 100 mark of discs. Unlike the sextet that Mr. Archer brought to the FIMAV Fest, he has added strings, drones, loops, field recordings to the his ever-expanding ensemble. Starting with “Chances”, we hear Ms. Tippetts singing lead and overdubbing several other voices, all immensely enchanting over the great electric ensemble that Archer has assembled. Each member of the ensemble: el. guitar, trombone, saxes, keyboards, electronics, bass & drums are well chosen and play together in a most magical, enchanting way. “Less’ has layers of subtle beats, samples & electronics bubbling underneath Ms. Tippetts’ sorceress voice, giving the song a most dreamy sound. There are way too many great moments and special ingredient involved here to mention them all but I will mention a few: some superb flugel/trumpet by Charlotte Keeffe, nimble, sly guitar by Anton Hunter, succulent trombone by George Murray, pulsating vibes by Corey Mwamba… Mostly it is the superb arrangements and production by Martin Archer and ever seductive, engaging vocals by the legendary Julie Tippetts.
It doesn’t get any better than this. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
2 CD Set $16
BILL COLE’S UNTEMPERED ENSEMBLE with JOSEPH DALEY / WARREN SMITH / TAYLOR HO BYNUM / RAS MOSHE / et al - Margaret and Kate (BC 08; USA) The Untempered Ensemble features Bill Cole on Asian double reeds & didgeridoo, Joseph Daley on tuba & baritone horn, Ras Moshe Burnette on soprano & tenor saxes & flute, Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, flugelhorn, double-belled cornet, conch shell & mutes, Althea Sully Cole on kora, Mali Obosawin on acoustic bass and Warren Smith on drums & percussion. Double-reed virtuoso, composer and bandleader, Bill Cole, is longtime Spirit Jazz master, who plays at the Vision Festival on occasion and quietly releases discs on his own label. His music has a way of casting a spell on anyone who listens closely, when the cosmic forces are revealed. This is the 11th disc by Mr. Cole’s Untempered Ensemble and each one that’s I’ve heard has always touched me. This disc was recorded live in Hanover, New Hampshire in October of 2021. Mr. Cole composed the music here with orchestrations by tuba great Joseph Daley. This disc is dedicated to Mr. Cole’s cousin Margaret Chisley who passed away at 109 in January of 2021 and was a lifelong inspiration for Mr. Cole and his family.
The titles for all but one piece come from Yoruba (of Nigeria) proverbs. Master percussionist, Warren Smith, plays suspense-filled tympani(s) when the first piece, “Family” begins. It sounds like the dawn of mankind with several drones coalescing: didgeridoo, conch shell, flute and brass all hovering together. All members of the Untempered Ensemble are vibrating together as one force, with Mr. Cole’s enchanting double reed floating on top. On “Help Me During the Rainy Season…”, Mr. Cole has several layers calmly buzzing together: tenor sax, cornet, baritone horn, kora, bass and drums with that cosmic double-reed on top. Although the music is free (spirit music), there is a deep connection going on here. What holds this together and provides one of the main magic ingredients is/are a handful of lush, transcendent themes that the entire ensemble play together as they they float/flow from one space/sonic environment to the next one. Today (4/13/22) it is cool & sunny here and it feels like the first day of Spring. This lovely, organic music fits with the inspiring sunlight & coll breeze coming in my kitchen window. Sometimes, it just feels great to be alive and that is what this disc reminds me of most of all. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
* POTSA LOTSA XL & YOUJIN SUNG with SILKE EBERHARD / NIKOLAUS NEUSER / GERHARD GSCHLOBL / JOHANNES FINK / et al - Gaya (Trouble in the East REC 026; Germany) Potsa Lotsa (XL version) was founded by Swiss alto saxist Silke Eberhard and their members include: Jurgen Kupke on clarinet, Patrick Braun on tenor sax & clarinet, Nikolaus Neuser on trumpet, Gerhard Gschlobl on trombone, Johannes Fink on cello, Taiko Sato on vibes, Antonis Anissegos on piano, Igor Spallati on bass, Kay Lubke on drums plus guest Youjin Sung on gayageum. For the past decade I’ve had my eye & ear on Swiss saxist/composer Silke Eberhard, currently living in Berlin. Ms. Eberhard has a marvelous trio with Jan Roder & Kay Lubke (several Cd’s on Intakt), has recorded a number od duos with Dave Burrell, Ulrich Gumpert & Aki Takase plus her own Potsa Lotsa ensemble, which has recorded four previous discs so far. Aside from ongoing band members like Gerhard Gschlobl, Nikolaus Neuser and Patrick Braun, I do recognize a few of the other musicians from other sideperson projects: Taiko Saito (with Satoko Fujii) and Johannes Fink (numerous discs on JazzWerkStatt). The guest here is Youjin Sung who plays gayaguem which is also known as kayagum, a traditional Korean plucked zither with (usually) 12 strings.
Ms. Eberhard all but one short piece here. Right from the beginning, the sound here is especially well-recorded and most enchanting. Ms. Sung’s gayageum is featured played an ongoing series of solos/dialogue over & with the rest of the ensemble. What makes this music special is the composing by Ms. Eberhard and the ensemble playing of the entire 11-piece unit. While Ms. Sung often plays what is written, the rest of the ensemble add lush, radiant harmonies. The music here is all acoustic and sounds superb, organic and refreshing with no effects to alter anyone’s sound. Another thing that makes this disc so great is the fact that nothing is overly complex or too difficult to listen to, nothing is really too “free”, still it is consistently fascinating nonetheless. There are a few unexpected twists going on here like when the band starts swinging for a section of the third track with a great tenor solo soaring on top. On the fourth piece, Ms. Eberhard has written some challenging twists & turns that the entire ensemble must play tightly together with Ms. Sung’s wonderful gayageum soloing masterfully on top. This label has very little distribution in the US outside of DMG so please don’t snooze too long. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
CD $15 [LTD edition of 100 copies]
* POTSA LOTSA will be playing at the JazzWerkStatt Fest at Roulette next Thursday, April 21st
GUNDA GOTTSCHALK / XU FENG XIA / PETER JACQUEMYN - in memoriam global village (el Negocito Records 069; Belgium) Featuring Gunda Gottschalk on violin, viola & voice, Xu Feng Xia on guzeng & voice and Peter Jacquemyn on contrabss & voice. I recall fondly when Gunda Gottschalk contacted me in the mid 1990’s to play a solo set at DMG. She was already a part of Peter Kowald’s workshop ensemble and came to play the gig with her mother in tow. Her set was great and I caught her again at the Victo in a group with Peter Kowald, as well as in duos with Xu Feng Xia & Peter Jacquemyn, as well as in a trio with Mr. Kowald or Joe Fonda on bass. I’ve also seen & heard German bassist, Peter Jacquemyn, who also once played at DMG in a duo with vocalist Anna Homler. This disc is dedicated to the late great bassist & free/spirit traveler Peter Kowald who passed away suddenly in NYC in 2002. Mr. Kowald called his workshop/ensemble Global Village and all three members of this trio were involved in it.
The music here is most extraordinary, high-end ethnic string trio improv at its best. Ms. Feng Xia’s guzheng (Chinese plucked zither) has a rich sound, not unlike plucking the strings inside a piano or an acoustic harp. While the violin and contrabass are somewhat similar in sound and the way the strings are played (plucked, rubbed or bowed), the guzeng adds another dimension which is rich in timbre and tone. All three musicians here also vocalize at times adding other colors to the evolving rainbow of sounds, at times adding some exciting exclamations. There are moments when all three musicians play together, push each other, exchanging ideas and erupt into a joyous organic chaos. I recall several solo contrabass sets by Peter Kowald (once at DMG) in which he chanted those throat-singing sounds into his bass, the affect was quite hypnotic. This trio also moved into similar dark waters at times with some eerie sounds from all three players. There are moments here when thing erupt and the excitement grows more intense. Considering that this is an all acoustic trio of strings with sparse voices, one might think that this is closer to modern chamber music, which it is at times. Since these three musicians enjoying going further out, it is a wonderful to go along for the inner roller coaster ride. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
RORSCHACH with ERIK VERMEULEN / SEPPE GEBRUERS / ERIC THIELEMANS / MAREK PATRMAN - 31.07 / 01.08’17 (el Negocito Records 093; Belgium) Featuring Seppe Gebruers & Erik Vermeulen on pianos, Eric Thielmans & Marek Patrman on drums. These sessions were recorded in July & August of 2017, at Linster Studios in Luxemberg. The is certainly a unique combinations of instruments: 2 pianists and 2 drummers. each member of this quartet has traveled in similar circles: Mr. Vermeulen & Mr. Thielemans have both worked with Lynn Cassiers & Hugo Antunes (CDs on Clean Feed), Mr. Gebruers in a trio with Paul Lovens & Hugo Antunes and Mr. Thielmans with Jozef Dumoulin & Billy Hart). The el Negocito label recently released a disc featured two prepared pianos, hence they seem to be the perfect label for this equally unique quartet. I don’t think that this particular quartet had worked together before but they do sound superb together on this disc. There are several layers and/or waves coalescing together here, one piano playing at the high end & speeding up while the other piano slows down to some more quirky interaction. Sometimes one of the drummers plays tightly with one of the pianists, while the other pianist & drummer also play together. Other times all four players criss-cross, with varied interaction which keeps changing throughout. There are also times when things are stripped down and more sparse, the interplay still exciting and evolving. On the back of this disc, there are spaces left for the listener to add their own titles to each of the 7 pieces. An interesting idea worth considering. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
MASKED PICKLE with CLARA WEIL / OLIVIA SCEMAMA / TOM MALMENDIER - 7 (Relative Pitch Records 1137; USA) Masked Pickle is Clara Weil on vocals, Olivia Scemama on bass and Tom Malmendier on drums. This session was recorded in Match of 2019 in Belgium. We recently got in 8 new promo discs from the dedicated folks at Relative Pitch, each one to be released on upcoming Fridays in April and May. Even with the passing of Relative Pitch co-founder Mike Panico, Kevin Reilly continues to release challenging music by musicians he thoughtfully searches out. I hadn’t heard of any of the members of this trio before this disc arrived, but it turns out that their vocalist, Clara Weil, has worked & recorded with Fred Frith for Fred’s 3 CD set on Intakt (#320). Since this session was recorded in Belgium, I assume that this is where the trio is based. Right from the opening, Ms. Weir is spinning out array of odd sounds with her voice, similar in some ways to Makigami Koichi, Catherine Jauniaux or Sainko Namchylak. This is an astonishing trio, erupting intensely and pushing each other into several levels of hardcore improv exultation. Ms. Scemama is playing electric bass with the rhythm team throbbing hard like a post punk HC outfit, like the Ex, which this trio sounds like at times. Ms. Scemama also uses feedback, drones and scrapes to evoke a variety of effective sounds from her el. bass. This music is often way intense and at times even brutal, powerful, awesome. There are some sections here which are rather transcendent, breathy whispered vocals with static of a rubbed bass sounding like the crackling of a fire. There are also times when it difficult to figure out who is doing what like that dark throb on the 4th track. If you are a fan of post-punk or hardcore improv or free music without pigeon-holing boundaries, then this disc will provide you with the manna that you’ve been searching for. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
DESIR & FIORINI - Yo Anpil (el Negocito Records 085; Belgium) Featuring Renette Desir on vocals and Fabian Fiorini on Fazioli piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano. Belgian jazz and classical pianist, Fabian Fiorini, has several recordings with different collaborators like Frederic Rzewski, MikMaak, the Baba Sissoko Ensemble and Octurn, all pretty obscure except for Mr. Rzewski (member of MEV & great composer/pianist in his own right). I hadn’t heard of vocalist Renette Desir before now. The songs on this disc include covers of Duke Ellington & Max Roach/Oscar Brown, some traditional songs and some originals. Since the liner notes are in Belgium, I can’t tell what they say. The music, however, is superb. The songs remind me of Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht. Mr. Fiorini plays muted piano underneath Ms. Desir’s spirited vocals. The piano sounds like there is a ping pong ball occasionally bouncing inside, or is that some digital distortion?!? Ms. Desir has dark skin and is wearing an African dress on the back of the CD. She reminds me of Lotte Lenya but with more soul, less show-tune sound-wise. Ms. Desir has a wonderfully expressive voice and sounds a bit crazed at times, with several odd voices or characters at her disposal. Before I put this disc in my CD player, I wasn’t so sure that I would dig a duo of voice and piano. I was wrong and I find this disc to be oddly enchanting. Mr. Fiorini’s muted piano playing is also well utilized throughout and never used for odd effects. We never know when that next unexpected gem will show up. Here it is. - Bruce Lee Gallanter at DMG
MICHAEL PISARO-LIU // MUZZIX ENSEMBLE - Radiolarians (New World Records 80836-2; USA) Though richly varied, Michael Pisaro-Liu’s (b.1961) works are linked through their philosophical and ethical concern for the interaction between music and its sounding environment, their openness to the creative contributions of performers, and their capacity for making felt our belonging to and participation in a world of continuous and often surprising variation. Radiolorians (2018) finds Pisaro-Liu drawing inspiration from another gifted observer of this world-in-variation, the German zoologist, naturalist, and philosopher Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), who promoted and popularized evolutionary thought via extensive monographs and artful renderings of insects, animals, sea creatures, and embryos. For Radiolarians, Pisaro-Liu creates what he terms “transcriptions” of individual radiolaria species depicted in Haeckel’s drawings.
Radiolarians comprises fourteen compact pieces, each derived from a specific species of radiolaria and ranging in duration from one to nine minutes. Each piece features a mixture of harmonic, melodic, and noise elements corresponding roughly to the structures of each radiolaria, where pitched elements serve as tonal spines unfolding in time as well as spatially within the ensemble, and noise elements capture the twitches and undulations of the protozoic bodies contained therein.
Pisaro-Liu’s inventive transcriptions are brought to life in this sensitively performed and masterfully recorded actualization by the Muzzix ensemble, whose balance of technological and acoustic elements reincarnate the fragile balance of the crystalline and amoebic in audible form. Across a spacious fifty-three-minute performance, the radiolarians appear more or less serially as in Haeckel’s illustrations, providing the listener opportunity to experience in musical time the heterochronic reverberations and anticipations of recurring organizing forces, such as the stringing together of notes in languid melodies or the surge and retreat of waves. The ensemble’s heterogeneity and seamless blending of technological and traditional elements recapitulate anew the sense of enmeshed temporalities and a cross-cutting of the natural, cultural, and mechanical in Haeckel’s monographs.”
NEW FROM ROOM 40 RECORDS:
OLIVIA BLOCK - Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea (Room40 4170; Australia) “With Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea, Olivia Block charts out a deepening current of work that condenses her longer form approaches into a series of richly fluid vignettes. Each piece is led by a bass pattern, the same seven notes, which reappear throughout the album in different configurations. The tonal repetition creates an overall sense of reduction and amplification; an extreme realization of focus. Tracing waves of warped Mellotron melodies and harmonies, the album celebrates an unfolding of the acoustic horizon, and dwells in a perpetual release of revealed frequencies and pulsing of waves which merge together to unite, and then divide, in time. Easily her most articulate and considered work to date, Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea reads as the first chapter in a new book of sound to come.
From Olivia: "During the lockdown, unable to do anything in the world, I turned inward and adopted a regular practice of listening with intention, while on psychedelic mushrooms. The mushrooms helped me to listen somatically, pulling my ears towards low tonal patterns and the warped sounds of a broken Mellotron. I started playing in my studio, creating bass-driven pieces on my vintage Korg synth organ, using a very limited tonal palette. The pandemic seemed like a strange dream or a surrealistic science fiction story. I re-read the brilliant surrealistic science fiction novel, Ice, by Anna Kavan, which describes a frozen post-apocalypse. Mentally, I connected Kavan's ice-world with the isolation of the lockdown. I approached this album as the soundtrack to this speculative science fiction film. It's an attempt to translate my emotions about this surreal and strange historical moment into sound."
MIKE COOPER - Oceans Of Milk And Treacle (Room40 4176; Australia) "This is a soundtrack for an otherwise silent film. The title of the album, and of course the film, is borrowed from my late friend Fred Hardy's book The Religious Culture of India - Power, Love and Wisdom, considered to be one of the most important books on the subject. In this book Fred wrote... 'In 1835 the historian Macaulay investigated whether there was anything in the traditional Indian systems of learning and education that could be used in the training of native personnel. In fairness to Mr Macaulay, we must remember that those were days long before the writings of a Tolkien or a Mervyn Peake. He came to the devastating conclusion that people who believe in oceans of milk and treacle had nothing to offer to a modern system of education. A straightforward, realistic assessment in an age that believed in science and realism! The effects were far-reaching. Traditional Indian ways of looking at the world were written off as obsolete. India was provided with three universities (Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, founded in 1857) as the hothouses to nurture a custom-built, English-speaking Indian intelligentsia. A new age began for India, and two of its inevitable consequences were the demand for independence and the production of atomic bombs and satellites by the post-independent Bhārat.' . . . A Hydra is a genus of small, fresh-water organisms native to the temperate and tropical regions. Biologists are especially interested in Hydra because of their regenerative ability -- they do not appear to die of old age, or indeed to age at all. Some long time fellow musical travelers are called upon to lend a hand on this album. Saxophonists Geoff Hawkins and Aaron Hawkins. Geoff is on many of my earlier records and we have known each other for over 60 years. Aaron is one of his sons. Viv Corringham -- vocalist and 'deep listening' artist dedicated to walking, listening and singing all at the same time in her work which she calls Shadow Walks. Saxophonist Tim Hill, now established in the West Country of England where he organizes musical street theater events and several small ensembles playing free improvised and composed music. Lol Coxhill and Roger Turner, colleagues from The Recedents, an improvising music trio we had for 20 plus years, appear in a short extract from our five-CD box set Wishing You Were Here. Lol is unfortunately no longer with us. I was moved to embrace how the digital, virtual, acoustic and natural worlds intersect in making this edition."
STEVE RODEN - Oionos (Room40 4174; Australia) A note from Lawrence English: "I can't tell you the first time I heard, or heard about, the work of Steve Roden. In my mind he has always been there, inspiring and surprising in equal amounts. Steve's work is utterly personal, quietly provocative, and quite simply spellbinding. Operating between installation, collage, electronics, improvisation and fine art, Steve has carved out a profoundly individual and porous approach to his art practice . . . Steve Roden's work is a poetic recital of sound in time and a celebration of the wonders of sound unfolding, moment to moment, and accumulating in our collective memory. This edition celebrates him, and Oionos captures his acoustic methodologies in full. The accompanying book acts as a disparate map, charting out the many facets of Steve Roden. It includes artworks, images, documents, and texts from Steve, as well as an essay from his long-time collaborator Stephen Vitiello. The edition also features an interview conducted by Robert Takahashi Crouch."
Notes from Steve Roden: "Oionos was created for the exhibition The Grand Promenade, in Athens, Greece. The exhibition took place in various archaeological and historical sites in central Athens, creating a situation for contemporary site-specific works to be in dialogue with their historical surroundings. While it was not originally offered as a possible site, I pleaded with the curator to allow me to work with architect Dimitris Pikionis's Church of St. Dimitris Loumbardiardis, about a ten-minute walk from the main path of the Grand Promenade. Pikionis designed the original promenade which is still visible in several areas, but much of the area's original designs were altered during the 'restoration' before the 2004 Olympics . . . When I first saw the small church it totally took my breath away, and I immediately began to think about a work that could exist in resonance with it -- but not distract from it . . . The audio was built from field recordings and small 'poor' objects such as tin whistles, toy harmonicas, and the like. These 'instruments' suggested by the museum of musical instruments in Athens, where the proper instruments take up most of the museum, but there is a wonderful display case in the basement with musical toys, religious objects, and other sounding devices not considered musical instruments. I felt that these simple things related to Pikionis's ideas about architecture and craft, and his interests in indigenous culture in conjunction with intellectual and modern culture. I felt there could be a relationship."
BJ NILSEN - Irreal (Editions Mego 305; Austria) “Irreal definition is -- not real. "In order to imagine, a consciousness must be able to posit an object as irreal' -- nonexistent, absent -- Jean Paul Sartre Irreal is a selection of recordings from different situations encountered in Austria, Russia, South Korea and The Benelux. The range of sound is as wide as is the emotional impact which slides from the unnerving to the shimmering and gorgeous. Doors, bells, birds, wet snow falling from a tree, hacking of wood, water dripping in a cave are all exquisitely captured and molded into vast landscapes of sound. Human voices, string instruments, descending trains, oceans, winds, grass, trees. These diverse sonic elements are grafted around and upon each other to create a rich tapestry of sound. Electronic embellishments harness the whole to create a singular expressive canvas. The three-part suite concludes with the "Beyond pebbles, rubble and dust", a grand glacial work which serves as a masterclass in extraordinary transcendental drone. The sound of nature, the nature of sound and the effects these have on humans has been a primary focus of BJ Nilsen's investigation over the years. Irreal resounds with a level of sophisticated enquiry one would expect from one of the contemporary masters of the form. Includes 16-page booklet. All material by BJ Nilsen. Recorded and Mixed at Odd Phasing and Echoes, Amsterdam NL 2021. Source material from Austria, Russia, South Korea and The Benelux. Mastered by Stephan Mathieu. Photography Karl Lemieux. Design by Stephen O'Malley.”
KLARA LEWIS - Live in Montreal 2018 (Editions Mego 306; Austria) “Klara Lewis returns to Editions Mego with a surprising live set recorded in 2018. Expanding her exploratory vision into haunted realms of unheimlich sound, Live in Montreal 2018 consists of a single piece with three distinct discernible sections. The set opens with a crude rhythm churning away under a choral loop from which a diverse array of rhythm and noise appear and disappear. Despite its foreboding tone this sequence still retains a foot in the club, as damaged as that may be. A state of permanent collapse is a thread throughout. In this opening sequence an array of strange sonic elements is introduced, rise to the fore, threaten the fundamental discourse only to recede on the brink of destroying the work itself. It's this fascinating construct, this perpetual threat to the music itself that makes the listening experience so captivating. Midway the storm subsides laying bare a more static emotional framework rendered unrecognizable prior. Electronic phantoms swirl in a gentle fashion as ghostly voices come to the fold looping into an uneasy landscape shifting into a blurry utopian finale. Finding itself between decay and hope, Live in Montreal 2018 is another stunning addition to the consistently solid output from Klara Lewis. Digipak; edition of 300.”
BEN BERTRAND - Dokkaebi (Les Albums Claus 021CD; Belgium) “Ben Bertrand weaves transverse waves into otherworldly compositions. He embodies the singular motion of these melodic and harmonic forms in order to draft new sonic possibilities freed from the laws of the physical plane. Pulsating at the kernel of Ben Bertrand's musical universe are vivid dreams generating the fabric of these tapestries. Dokkaebi is deeply familiar yet refreshingly unknown, like a comforting whisper from your subconscious. It gently drifts into perception, glistening like the sun sparkling off a glacier gliding along the edge of your vision. Deep listening to these tonal sculptures is enriching. By opening oneself to their deliberate unfolding, you will discover new principles for sound organization far afield from common modes of operation. The gradual, rhythmic progression of his compositions are ever-shifting grains, which upon thoughtful contemplation, reveal astonishing worlds. Bertrand's music is constructed from blueprints drafted with honest intentions aspiring to bring humans closer to a sense of wonder. Ben Bertrand welcomes each listener to discover his music anew from their own perspectives. It is infinitely in time with your time. These are the ripples in the wake of successive revolutions of universal evolution. Dokkaebi is an example of musical expressions adapting to the contours of the human psyche through gentle reflection of multiplicity. They are sounds reshaping themselves to suit the contours of each individual's subconscious -- sonic entities projected simultaneously as molecular and holistic. Dokkaebi is an oceanic expression softly set in motion by honest aims that echo and grow. Ben Bertrand beckons you to listen up and look in. There is great reward in this generous flow. Dokkaebi is the third album by the Belgian composer and bass clarinet player. Ben Bertrand was accompanied by Christina Vantzou, Geoffrey Burton, Indré Jurgeleviciuté, Echo Collective (Margaret Hermant & Neil Leiter), and Otto Lindholm.”
MAMADOU DIABATE - Seengwa (Delicious Tunes Records 2502CD: Germany) “Seengwa is a tribute to the already almost forgotten musical traditions of the Sambla people of the region of the same name in Burkina Faso. The Sambla belong to the very rare peoples worldwide who have developed a language with the xylophone (the Sambla call it Balafon). It represents the tonal language of the Sambla translated into music and serves as a "substitute language". Musicians who do not understand this language cannot master this instrument. Mamadou Diabate connects it with the "here and now" through collaborations with top-class musicians from Europe and his homeland. The renowned Austrian jazz saxophonist Wolfgang Puschnig is just one of the six musicians who complete Mamadou Diabate's six-piece "Percussion Mania". In the piece "Duniya Banaba" the Balafon language is translated into French for the first time by poetry slammer Malika La Slamazone from Burkina Faso. Seengwa takes listeners on a rhythm journey -- from tradition to modernity. Mamadou Diabate and Yacouba Konate provide the keynote for this with their two balafons as lead instruments and lead into African spheres through djembe and calabash, enriched with wonderful melodies and polyphonic singing of two vocalists, strings, piano and kora as well as electric and bass guitars. Mamadou Diabate's extraordinary creativity is a never-ending stream of musical creativity that keeps the special cultural and musical traditions of his homeland alive.”
EARTHEN SEA - Ghost Poems (Kranky 234CD; USA) "Jacob Long's third Earthen Sea outing for Kranky, Ghost Poems, further refines his fragile, fractured palette into fluttering arrythmias of dust, percussion, and yearning. Composed during the first wave of lockdowns in New York, the pieces took shape patiently from samples of piano, texture, and domestic sounds (sink splashing, room tone, clinking objects), filtered through live FX to imbue them with an intuitive, immaterial feel. Wisps of melody splinter, shimmer, and refract, like light on water; pulses accrue and dissipate, as if mapping shifting sands. Throughout, there's a sense of matter made animate, of absences felt. Long cites notions of 'the studio as a dub instrument' and the melancholy of '7th chords on a fake Rhodes patch' as central elements in his process, transforming raw materials into rare thresholds of symbiosis and hypnosis. This is music for night skies in hollowed-out cities, for views across rivers towards unknown shores: restless, placeless, and profound."
ARCHIVAL & HISTORIC RECORDINGS:
ABDULLAH IBRAHIM with CARLOS WARD / RICKY FORD / CHARLES DAVIS / DAVID WILLIAMS / BEN RILEY - Water From An Ancient Well (enja 9222; Germany) Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim has celebrated his South African heritage in music ever since being forced to emigrate from his homeland in the early '60s. Considering that this CD was recorded in Cape Town, South Africa in 1997 and that apartheid is a thing of the past, it is not surprising that Ibrahim's music is even happier than usual. The 15 songs, all originals by the pianist, are played in a continuous performance, including some old favorites ("The Wedding" and "The Mountain") plus a few newer tunes; "Someday Soon Sweet Samba" and "African Street Parade" are particularly joyous and rousing. Ibrahim is joined by bassist Marcus McLaurine, drummer George Gray and (on three numbers) trumpeter Feya Faku, whose entry on the seventh song is somewhat jarring. Overall, this is one of Abdullah Ibrahim's best all-around sets.” - Last.FM.music
STOMU YAMASH'TA & THE HORIZON - Sunrise From West Sea (WeWantSounds 059CD; UK) “Wewantsounds present a first time reissue of Sunrise From West Sea, Stomu Yamash'ta's cult LP originally released in 1971. A deep, cosmic, at time ambient performance recorded live and featuring two other Japanese legends: Takehisa Kosugi from the Taj-Mahal Travellers and jazz pianist Masahiko Satoh. The line-up also included Hideakira Sakurai on electric shamisen. Stomu Yamash'ta has been hailed as one of the best percussionists in the world by John Cage. Yamash'ta and Satoh recorded the landmark album Metempsychosis for Nippon Columbia in 1971. 1971 was also the year Yamash'ta released his highly-acclaimed Red Buddha solo album which was released in Europe and in the US. Inspired by the Metempsychosis experience Yamash'ta set to recreate the flowing energy of the album in a live setting with a smaller line-up. Recorded live at Yamaha Hall in Tokyo on April 18, 1971, just a few days after the end of the Red Buddha recording sessions, the all-night concert was recorded in front of an invite-only audience consisting of friends and musicians. Yamash'ta enrolled Satoh on keyboards together Taj Mahal Travellers leader Takehisa Kosugi, whom he'd met through his mentor, Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Hideakira Sakurai on electric shamisen was also added the lineup. Edited down to fit two sides of an album that will become Sunrise From West Sea, the performance is both hypnotic and ethereal. It starts with Kosugi's distinctive electric violin and develops into a deep, spiritual free form conversation between the four musicians, giving them all the space they need to freely improvise and interact with each other, mixing electronics, percussion, electric organ, and shamizen without ever clashing. The interaction alternates between quiet, tranquil Eastern meditations and more paced parts, fuelled by Yamash'ta's extraordinary percussion playing. Later known for his involvement in soundtracks for Robert Altman's 1972 film Images -- collaborating with John Williams -- and Nic Roeg's 1976 classic The Man Who Fell To Earth, and also for his foray into fusion with his group Go, Yamash'ta never reached the creativity heard in Sunrise From West Sea again. The album was recorded during one of the most fertile periods in Japan where such groups as Les Rallizes Denudes and Taj Mahal Travellers and jazz musicians like Masahiko Satoh and Yamash'ta were revolutionizing the Japanese music scene. Includes new introduction by Paul Bowler. Remastered from the master tapes.”
OREN AMBARCHI - Sagittarian Domain (Black Truffle 087; Australia) “Tenth anniversary reissue of this rhythmically churning one-man-band monster of an album, recorded in a single inspired studio session and originally released in 2012 on Editions Mego.
From the original Editions Mego press release: "For anyone who still associates Oren Ambarchi exclusively with the clipped, bass-heavy tones of solo electric guitar works such as 'Suspension', this rhythmically churning one-man-band monster of an album-length piece might seem to come out of nowhere. However, listeners who have followed the breadth of his work for the last few years (solo and in projects with collaborators from Jim O'Rourke to Stephen O'Malley and Keith Rowe to Keiji Haino) will have noted how Ambarchi has allowed increasingly clear traces of his enthusiasms as a music listener (for classic rock, minimal techno and '70s fusion, among other areas) to surface in his performances and recordings, all the time filtering them through his signature long-form structures and psychoacoustic sonics. Recorded in a single inspired studio session, Sagittarian Domain displaces Ambarchi's trademark guitar sound from the center of the mix, its presence felt only as an occasional ghostly reverberated shimmer. Endlessly pulsating guitar and bass lines sit alongside electronic percussion and thundering motorik drumming (familiar from his work with Keiji Haino) at the core of the piece, locking into a voodoo groove like Faust covering a '70s cop show theme. The work is founded on hypnotic almost-repetition, the accents of the drum hits and interlocking bass and guitar lines shifting almost imperceptibly back and forwards over the beat as they undergo gradual transformations of timbre. Cut-up and phase-shifted strings enter around the half-way mark like an abstracted memory of the eastern-tinged fusion of the Mahavishnu Orchestra's classic Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1975), before returning for an extended, stark yet affecting come-down coda, equal parts Gavin Bryars and Purple Rain. While Sagittarian Domain contains traces of a diversity of influences, it mines all of them to uncover something that is clearly an extension of Ambarchi's own investigations up to this point, exhibiting the same care for micro-detail and surrender to the physicality of sound that are present in all of his work, extending them in new ways to repetition, pulse and rhythm."
THE MONOCHROME SET - Allhallowtide (Tapete Records 500CD; Germany) “Having amassed a formidable catalogue of releases on a number of key labels over five decades, including Rough Trade, Dindisc, and Cherry Red, The Monochrome Set release their new studio album on Tapete Records -- the bands home for the last eight years and five albums. The indie pop veterans have been hard to pin down over this time. Their instantly recognizable sound and darkly hilarious lyrics have always set them apart. Bid's cerebral Brit wit spikiness and debonair tones melded to infectious melodies and deft songcraft of a cinematic and literary quality has been quietly influential over a diverse set of artists since their inception and throughout different stages of their career so they can count the likes of Graham Coxon, Iggy Pop, Alex Kapranos, Neil Hannon, Johnny Marr, and Jarvis Cocker as fans. Bid is joined in The Monochrome Set by fellow original Andy Warren on bass, Mike Urban on drums and newest recruit Athen Ayren on keyboards. For the album recording Alice Healey provides backing vocals with Karen Yarnell on percussion and Jon Clayton, additional instrumentation. The album was recorded at One Cat Studio in London, engineered by Jon Clayton and produced by Jon Clayton and Bid.”
THE PERFECT TRIP - Covers the Greats (Jetsa Mang Records TPT 023; USA) “The Perfect Trip's third album covers 13 songs of musical acts from the past 100 years. A sound that is parbaked in a "sitting on a cornflake" type psychedelia with light and poppy, kaleidoscopic melodies. It grabs from other types of psychedelia, from other decades, too; in the most non-committal sense. There's more than the typical rock band set-up: harpsichord, sitar, recordings of bombs splattering populations of varying sizes, and orchestral strings, just to name a few. Each track poses a different level of both sobriety and/or intoxication; at times they embrace fairly precise chamber parts sounding like a teenage David Ackles after a huff of Elmers, and at other times they yearn to be wide-open and free-flowing, in a similar jamboree spirit to Beach Boys' Party! If you imagine a house band for The Prisoner, gleefully playing off in the distance as Patrick McGoohan spends his hours scheming an escape from the huge white balloon, you might be halfway there. Tune in to The Perfect Trip covering the greats, featuring the Jane Doe Orchestra. All of the songs covered were released on the 23rd day of the month.”
BACK IN STOCK:
ORFEO 5 - The Long View (Discus 115CD; UK) “Not interstellar space—more like inter-psychic space. Orfeo 5 are that rare breed: they can easily entertain twin states of mind simultaneously, daring you to inhabit their non-hermetic multiple dimensions in one fell swoop. Surely not ‘jazz’ or ‘electronica’ in the purist sense, experimental in nature but with a devastatingly personal touch, the players are essentially a duo of Keith Jafrate (wordsmith, saxophonist, vocalist, and electronicist) and Shaun Blezard (chief electronics manipulator), their presence on Martin Archer’s uncategorizable Discus Music only serving to highlight the label’s able-bodied identity and singular vitality. What makes this, the group’s second outing, more poignant are the vocalizings/spoken word cadences of the late Ali Rigg, who passed away during the interim of her original 2007-08 contributions and this recording’s 2021 birth. Rigg’s impassioned articulations of Jafrate’s stream of consciousness poems are as eruptive within the music’s very sinew as are his sleek, irising saxophone lines, which can scream in ecclesiastic penance ala Shepp or Coltrane, or smooth the brow like the polished silken strides of a Michael Brecker. For his part, Blezard provides the proverbial icing on the cake, his contributions alternating between being openly demonstrative and subtly nourishing. On the tour de force that is “Countless Pedestrian Agonies”, Blezard’s electronic gales and splattered software detritus pitch Rigg’s singsong spoken verbiage into strange abyssal voids, emotionally rescued by Jafrate’s own immolating particulates and baleful sax lines that flow like cooling mercury, coating Rigg’s words in protective, velvety silver. The ethereal quality throughout this recording, bathed in reflective pools of expansive echo, suggests hauntological dioramas erected within their own respective ghost boxes, but just when things become too ‘ambient’, the Lewis Carroll phantasia-derived “The Frog Who Fell in the Waterbutt”, with its rubbery IDMatic chug and sparkly-speckled synthetic interludes, upsets the apple cart thanks to the oddball swim of its own uncharacteristic, topographic tale. Equal parts gleeful whimsy and variegated myth, this disc’s discrete imagistic charms alter your expectations like an aural bath in absinthe, comprised of epic soundtracks for the mind that color it as one of the more hallucinatory experiences you’re likely to imbibe this year.” - Darren Bergstein, DMG
MASAYUKI TAKAYANAGI / NEW DIRECTION - Station '70: Call in Question / Live Independence (Black Editions 013-057; USA) “In August 1969, Masayuki Takayanagi formed his first New Direction group and embarked on an unparalleled musical journey that over the final 22 years of his life would define him as an uncompromising artist who would forge a visionary new musical language. Comprised of himself on acoustic and electric guitar and joined by Motoharu Yoshizawa on bass and Yoshisaburo "Sabu" Toyozumi on drums, Takayanagi's group created a new unconstrained form of music; It expanded on the most radical, fiery elements of American and European free jazz, while refracting them through an avant-garde prism. Harmonic and melodic development were rejected in favor of feedback and complete spontaneity. With New Direction, Takayanagi had achieved a "decisive break" from the past and created his own revolutionary musical language -- a ferocious, often violent sound that paradoxically took both musical movement and stillness to their extremes. Takayanagi's New Direction soon recorded one of the landmark albums of free jazz and the avant-garde, Independence: Tread on Sure Ground (1970). It was Takayanagi's first album as a group leader and nothing short of groundbreaking. As profound as its release was, it was not until 25 years later that a wider audience would finally able to hear Takayanagi's vision with the group in its most explosive and unmitigated realization; Japan's P.S.F. records released two CDs, Call in Question (1994) and Live Independence (1995) which featured unearthed, previously unheard 1970 recordings made by the group at the legendary Shibuya Tokyo venue, Station '70. The recordings were revelatory; They presented nascent, jarring versions of Takayanagi's "Gradually Projection" and "Mass Projection" modalities in uncut, unvarnished long form. Joined on some tracks by renowned saxophonist Mototeru Takagi, the performances are intensely physical and visceral. Yoshizawa, Toyozumi as well as Takagi would, in their own right, go on to join Takayanagi as iconic players in the world of Japanese free jazz and avant-garde. It is these performances, in a crucial moment of societal and cultural upheaval, that would help lay the groundwork for the rich world of free improvisation, free jazz and, to a large degree, underground music in Japan for decades to come.”
3 LP Box Set $60
MASAYUKI TAKAYANAGI NEW DIRECTION UNIT - Eclipse (Black Editions 014LP; Earth) “Masayuki Takayanagi was one of the truly iconoclastic musicians to emerge from Japan, or anywhere else, in the 20th Century. Though he won acclaim in the 1950s and '60s as a master of the electric guitar and jazz improvisation, Takayanagi was a restless spirit, deeply engaged with the era's new movements in contemporary art, music, literature, and philosophy. His work, beginning in the late 1960s placed him on the leading edge of these developments; he began expanding on the most radical elements of American and European free jazz, infusing them with the raw feedback and dissonance of electronic and avant-garde music. With his various New Direction groups, Takayanagi broke free of traditional structures and developed a new theory of music that embraced an aggressive and unrelenting style of playing that has remained almost completely unparalleled in its ferocity. Of all the albums to be released during Takayanagi's lifetime, 1975's Eclipse was perhaps the most enigmatic and sought after. Released in an edition of only 100, it almost immediately disappeared and became a holy grail for Japanese connoisseurs of adventurous music, and rightly so. It's first side contained a two-part realization of Takayanagi's "Gradually Projection" modality -- a searching interplay between instruments -- slowly emerging from a sparse open field and building with the tension of a looming thunder storm. The second side contains an epic performance of a "Mass Projection", a high energy, densely layered barrage of sound that in its 25 minutes, never once slackens its intensity. It would be another 31 years before this key album in Takayangi's oeuvre would finally have a (slightly) wider audience through a CD release by Japan's P.S.F. Records.”
KEIJI HAINO / JIM O'ROURKE / OREN AMBARCHI - Each side has a depth of 5 seconds A polka dot pattern in horizontal array A flickering that moves vertically (Black Truffle 074; Australia) “The trio of Keiji Haino, Jim O'Rourke, and Oren Ambarchi return to Black Truffle with their tenth release, recorded live in Tokyo in February, 2017. While many of the trio's recent works have seen them focusing primarily on their core guitar/bass/drums power trio format, on Each side has a depth of 5 seconds A polka dot pattern in horizontal array A flickering that moves vertically these three multi-instrumentalists strike into new territory, utilizing an almost entirely electronic set-up, with Haino on electronics, drum machine and suona (a Chinese double-reed horn), O'Rourke on synth, and Ambarchi on pedal steel and electronics. Dedicated to the memory of legendary Tokyo underground figure Hideo Ikeezumi, founder of PSF Records and the Modern Music shop and a long-term collaborator with Haino, the LP, (recorded the night Ikeezumi passed away), begins in a somber, meditative space of rippling, burbling electronics and distant jets of white noise. Though much of the "Introduction" that occupies the record's first side is spacious and at times almost hushed, the performance is full of unexpected twists and turns, momentary events, and fleeting impressions. The trio conjures up a free-flowing surge of sound in which individual contributions are often difficult to distinguish, calling up echoes of vintage live-electronic sizzle like It's Viaje or the cavernous expanse of David Behrman's Wave Train. The LP's second side opens in a similarly reflective realm, before Haino's suona enters, taking the music in a more austere, hieratic direction, as the reed's piercing tones are accompanied by O'Rourke's uneasy, sliding synth figures and Ambarchi's shimmering Leslie cabinet tones. On the side's second piece, Haino's signature hand-played drum machine takes center-stage, at first sounding out massive, isolated strikes, before eventually building to a tumbling, Milford Graves-esque wall of thunder. As O'Rourke's synth squelches and stutters and Ambarchi's heavily effected pedal steel somehow begins to sound like a kind of hellish blues harmonica, this passage offers up one of the most electrifying and bizarre moments in the trio's catalogue to date. Containing some of the most abstract music the trio have waxed since their very first collaboration over a decade ago, this new missive from underground experimental music's preeminent power trio shows them restless and risk-taking, clearly enjoying their remarkable improvisational chemistry while also continuing to push themselves into new directions. Gatefold sleeve with artwork and design by Lasse Marhaug; inner sleeve with live pics by Ujin Matsuo.”
DAVID BEHRMAN - ViewFinder / Hide & Seek (Black Truffle 082; Australia)
Black Truffle announce ViewFinder / Hide & Seek, a new release from acclaimed American experimental composer David Behrman, presenting recordings made in collaboration with Jon Gibson and Werner Durand between 1989 and 2020. Last heard from on Black Truffle as part of the collaborative art song/live electronics madness of She's More Wild (BT 059LP), these recordings find Behrman continuing the pioneering work in interactive electronics that have established him as one of the major living experimental composers. Side A presents excerpts from two live realizations of "Unforeseen Events" (1989), the fourth in a series of pieces focusing on the interactions between instrumental performers and responsive software. Like the classic earlier works in the series, On the Other Ocean (1977), Interspecies Smalltalk (1984) and Leapday Night (1986), "Unforeseen Events" is an "unfinished composition" in which a computer system listens for and responds to specific pitch cues from an instrumentalist. Performed by the composer on electronics and Werner Durand on soprano saxophone in Berlin in 1989, the first realization immediately ushers the listener into an environment of long soprano notes, lush, sustained synth harmonies, randomized percussive interjections and distantly burbling arpeggiated patterns. The 1999 realization recorded in New York with Jon Gibson on soprano shows how much room for the instrumentalist to affect the course of the music exists in Behrman's interactive pieces, in which, as he notes, "performers have options rather than instructions". Beginning in a roughly similar area to the version with Durand, this later recording eventually becomes substantially more active, as polyrhythmically layered arpeggios and percussive patterns respond to fast chromatic lines and dynamic phrases from the saxophone, moving Gibson in turn to respond with cycling figures and moments of extended technique that touch on the soprano languages pioneered by players like Steve Lacy and Evan Parker. On the B side, you are treated to a new collaborative work from Behrman and Werner Durand, building on the 2002 installation work "ViewFinder", in which a camera detecting physical motion triggered changes to electronic sound. The piece presented here is a long-distance studio construction, recorded by Behrman in the Hudson Valley and Durand in Berlin, offering up an expansive duet between Behrman's lush, gliding synth tones and the alien, untempered tones of Durand's invented and adapted wind instruments. Gatefold sleeve; art by Terri Hanlon; archival photographs and new liner notes from Behrman and Durand. “
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.
Saturday, April 16th at Scholes St. Studio
RAS MOSHE MUSIC NOW!
7pm: RAS MOSHE / CHRIS FORBES / DAVE MILLER
8pm; RAS MOSHE / CHRIS PAYTON McDONALD / DAFNA NAPHTALI / PHILIP SIROIS
Scholes St. Studio is located at
375 Lorimer St in Brooklyn, NYC
GIG ANNOUNCEMENT FROM OUR FRIEND & LONGTIME DMG MANAGER CHUCK BETTIS
Tuesday, April 19th at 8pm:
At TV Eye, 1647 Weirfield St. in Ridgewood, Queens
INDEPENDENT PROMOTERS ALLIANCE Presents:
JOHN BLUM / ROB BROWN / LOU GRASSI!
@ Michiko Studios, Stage 2
149 West 46th Street
Saturday, April 23 7:00
Proof of vax required by venue
Stage 2 is on 3rd floor
Building is not elevator-equipped
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…
Guitarist and DMG-pal HENRY KAISER has a monthly Video Solo Series on Cuneiform’s Youtube page:
1990 video from WETLANDS in here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wfs5OuBfNxs
My good friend & guitar master GARY LUCAS is playing half hour sets at his apartment in the West village every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday at 10:30pm Tues, Thurs and Sat on Facebook. Different songs & improvisations on each episode. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/gary.lucas.5836/
This clip just arrived in my email from British Sax Colossus PAUL DUNMALL:
THIS COMES FROM OUR FRIEND, WEST COAST VIOLIN GODDESS JENNY SCHEINMAN:
Damn Skippy @ The Ivy Room, Albany, CA - April 20 & 21, 8pm - Damn Skippy is the latest collaborative incarnation of an ever mutating west coast guitar groove band stemming from TJ Kirk, The Scott Amendola Band, and my own first album ‘Live At Yoshi’s.' It promises to be sweaty and ridiculous. Will Bernard (guitar), John Schott (guitar), Todd Sickafoose (bass) and Scott Amendola (drums).
House Of Faern @ Dresher Ensemble Studio, Oakland, CA - April 24, 4pm - These musicians saved my soul during the shutdown. We played jazz into nature and now come bearing the fruit. Beth Schenck (alto saxophone), Matt Wrobel (guitar), John Wood (piano) and Todd Sickafoose (bass).
'FOCUS' with The Eureka Symphony @ The Arkley Center, Eureka, CA - May 20 & 21, 8pm
My symphonic debut! ‘Focus’ is a seven part fairy tale for string orchestra and improvising soloist, written by Eddie Sauter, and made famous by Stan Getz in the early 1960s.
'Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait' mini west-coast tour! June 1 @ Stanford University, 7:30pm
June 3 @ Pepperdine University, 8pm -‘ Kannapolis' is the movie live music show that I have been touring for the last 7 years. It is about community, resilience, and human connection. It seems to only grow more relevant as the years go by - a miracle piece! Footage shot by Mr Waters in Piedmont during the latter half of the Great Depression, re-edited and directed by feature film maker Finn Taylor, commissioned by Aaron Greenwald for Duke Performances, and performed by yours truly with Robbie Fulks (guitar/vocals) and Robbie Gjersoe (guitar/vocals).
This comes from Hungarian Clarinetist Extrordinaire, LAJOS DUDAS: