Archive for January, 2009

A very belated best of 2007 albums list.

Posted in music with tags , , , , , , , on January 13, 2009 by Tanner

So here’s a long out of date End of 2007 best of list that I had written for a near-dead message board a while back, and rather than have it languish unread in that particular pock-marked end of the web I thought I would inaugerate this blog with it, so it can be unread here as well.  Soon to come is more music reviews (probably a best of 08, but this time more timely) and whatever else I can think of. Take care. Thanks for reading. Tanner.

Mattin and Tim Barnes “Achbal Al Atlas”
Little Enjoyer/Game Boy Records

Ah, that fucked up noise and drum rattle… The first track of “Achbal Al Atlas” starts out with nothing but a slanting buzz and endless kick drum gearing up for a great, big, slithering deathadder rebellion. Nowhere to be found is the boring and rote histrionics often expelled out of the crusty-asshole of the noise genre, instead you receive nuanced but crushed sounds filtered through cheap electronic murk courtesy of Mattin along with pernicious but loving textures by drummer, Tim Barnes (also a Sonic Youth collaborator if that’s your thing). Deft knee drops of silence are interspersed throughout only for the noise to come screaming back and level you with high end… It’s hard to even recognize where Barnes comes into this thing, his sounds so muddled in the electronic howlllllls, prodded into abstracted and granulated noise. Tense, provocative and good noise: don’t worry about any nihilistic pablum found so often in the noise genre–this is oddly joyful. Listen with lovers.

Jurg Frey “String Quartets”
Edition Wandelweiser Records

I can’t explain this record in pure musical terms– I don’t have the vocabulary or knowledge of theory. Who knows what the hell Frey is on about, or what his over arching themes are, what his modus operandi is. Certainly I don’t; oddly, perhaps, I think it would probably lessen the quality of the music if I did. I think this one works on purely musical terms, thank God, something the Wandelweiser chin-fiddlers don’t often seem to be known for — more high on concept, low on musical relevency, I suppose.  One thing I can tell you is that it’s a beautiful composition, basking in the sound of the string’s ephemeral tonalities. The first track is a simple repeated note motif, changing slightly over an extended period, from bowed to plucked strings,  reminding me slightly of Morton Feldman’s work sans the disorienting rhythmic patterns often found in his work. Feldman is the composer I’ve heard Frey most compared to on this album, but I think it’s a little unfair, and seems to be interested in a different atmosophere altogether.  The last track is a pianissimo exploration of texture, the sound of strings and friction– dry and droning– again a repetitive note motif, so small, so present and alive like cicadas shedding their shells. Again, does the theory matter when the results are so wonderful to listen to?

Sachiko M “Salon de Sachiko”
Improvised Music From Japan

Modern art music. Purposeful failed pop. Sachiko M extracts the essence of lush Euro electronics and tortures it into stuttering and disfigured pops, whirs and bleats. Gone are the stately sine waves of yore, replaced with a mutated back ground disco beat – arrhythmic, atonal, acetic. I’m still wrapping my head around it. It’s so different, yet it still commands that stubborn static quality that characterized much of her work in the past. It filters your space, living in the background and influencing the air around you. Apparently it was made with that intention, not necessarily “ambient” music as much as a music you live with – a silent but impressive roommate that helps you discover new vistas to your sadly straight jacketed soul (fortunately it won’t make you attend keggers or wear a Hawaiin floral shirt). I like it but it may be slightly obdurate… like a sonic stone. So let it sit.

Deathspell Omega “Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum”
Evangelium Diaboli Records/Souther Lord

Probably my favorite record of the year if forced to choose– So mind-bendingly complex and brutal it’s ridiculous. Although, let it be known, I could care less for such complexity if it’s only an excuse for mastubatory fret mangling, and Deathspell Omega certainly leaps over that trap. Honestly, I’m amazed consistently with Deathspell Omega. I’m confused consistently, as well. I muddle through the lyrics: “The idea of Salvation comes, I believe, from one whom suffering breaks apart. He who masters it, on the contrary, needs to be broken, to proceed on the path towards the rupture.” Fascinating and bleak and punishing, I’m reminded that music of this nature is needed in our world, fundamental is their exploration of the evisceration of the soul. Deathspell Omega are the grand purveyors of this struggle with the dark. They take it very seriously. I bet they are great at parties, a goblet in one hand, a copy of Bataille’s “The Eye” in the other—Satan has got to have the best jokes.

Deathspell

Jennifer Gentle “The Midnight Room”
Sub Pop

This wonderful Italian band has been reduced once again to its single constant member, Marco Fasolo, who wrote, performed and produced this record. It’s far bleaker than the previous “Valende,” but it’s just as psychedelic and dream-like, Syd Barrett’s ghost as heavy on this as any of the other work. The opening track, “Twin Ghosts,” is as beautiful as anything Fasolo has written. It’s definitely a grower. I didn’t like it terribly the first time I heard it ( just like the new Dead Meadow record) but have grown to adore its peculiarities – the plodding rhythmic conventions, the staccato string plucks and death carnival dreaminess. I unconsciously find myself drifting through a dark ball room, eyes glittering, feet steaming away into haze, Felleni-esque women casting glances in my direction. . .

Keith Rowe “The Room”
Erstwhile Records

Bitter and expansive meshing of electronics and guitar scrunch and flutter, Rowe’s music is so contemplative and perfect in its disparate elements it’s almost a shame. Each dab of sound is like a perfect accent to a sublime meal. A shattering beep in the middle of lush electronic haze is like the returning prodigal son. Each moment is an exploration of possibility. While appearing flat and obstinate at first glance, it reveals itself to be almost fourth dimensional in its layering than originally perceived, not simply leading you from one point to the next, but creating a spatial construction, a music of angles and environment… Lovingly produced: Rowe’s abstraction is so fully realized and his oeuvre so satisfying at this point that one could make the mistake in thinking anything else he makes in the future would be superfulous, like an exclamation point in a haiku. But everything points to more great work yet to be made. The Room is a powerful statment. Vital and essential to anyone interested in electro acoustic music.

 
Angharad Davies and Tisha Mukarji “Endspace”
Another Timbre

Ah these hidden words. How hard it is to try and describe the indescribable, but we try anyway, stumbling on our words, knowing the absurdity of the task. . . Davies plays violin, Mukarji plays the inside of a piano—each musician works with sounds derived from extended techniques.These abstracted and often percussive explorations combine equal amounts of prodding movement with timeless languor. The music often sounds suspended in air, moving about the room like dust particles, ghosts, or mechanical birds. My oft said word– beautiful — is more than apt here. This is music that stays with you.

David Tudor “Music For Piano”
Edition RZ

Interpretations of Cage, Feldman and others by the master of classical piano, David Tudor. This two disc set includes the massive, fucked-up mountain of brutality that is Tudor’s interpretation of Cage’s “Variations II,” which I never heard before and am now unsure how I could possibly have not… A good description from the booklet: “Variations II is made up of eleven transparent pages, six of which contain a straight line and five of which each contain a point. . . . By placing (or throwing) the pages on top of one another, a point-line pattern is created which then must be interpreted.” How this interpretation goes is left entirely to Tudor. So like a insane, bratty punk noise terrorist hidden in a classical, studious, puckered-asshole’s body, Tudor devised an amplified piano that he outfitted with contact mikes and various bric-a-brac he attached to the strings. Needless to say it sounds like a motherfucker (when played loud that is). Incredibly dense and dynamic, this thing will scare the shit out of the children playing stickball in your neighborhood (Do they still play stickball? Did they ever?). Other pieces are much more civilized but less interesting – heady, abstracted and very percussive, reminding me of the quote usually attached to Cecil Taylor describing his playing as sounding like “88 tuned drums.” I haven’t given much time to the majority of Cage or Tudor finding it far too cerebral and/or disjointed for pleasurable listening, but I appreciate the ideas very much and often find when the two things intersect — ideas and musicality — a sublime truce is made. None the less, it’s is a great compilation for those interested in Tudor or Cage and some of the pieces are real stunners; so open ended the ideas and such is Tudor’s exquisite taste and mixture of subtlety and brute force that it makes you wonder how you had lived so long without these works in your life. To have them all in one place is a real boon. According to the “experts,” Tudor was the premier interpreter of Cage in the 50s to 60s and one of the most prodigiously talented pianists in classical music until he largely gave up the sport of contemplating the keys for his own electronic compositions in the ‘70s. Edition RZ is a killer label, coalescing a wide variety of archival performances of such composers and players as Tudor, Xenakis, Luigi Nono, and Giacinto Scelsi while putting out new performances of contemporary classical composers like Christina Kubisch and Klaus Lang.

 Klause Lang “einfalte.stille”
Edition RZ

Like Tudor and Frey, I’m woefully inadequate in explicating exactly what musical ideas Lang is working with here. Although, I find with music such as this, it’s not particularly important – the visceral power of this music is easily translatable to the unschooled and it trascends the stodgy in creation of something real and, yes, beautiful. Lang works here with voices and percussion creating a dreamlike endlessness. Time seems to bend and the world becomes meditative. Deceptively simple, this album is a rare antidote to city sickness. After a day of infinite rumination over the seemingly endless war, torture and domination of modern life and the knowledge that you form only a miniscule silhouette in front of its crushing wave– be comfortable that you can still come home on a wintery afternoon, put this into the player, sit in a favorite chair with a fine bourbon, and simply rest. . . Rest.

 
Evan Parker, John Edwards, Chris Corsano “A Glancing Blow”
Clean Feed Records

Serpentine sax howling, inchoate bass rumbling, and propulsive drum battery from a unlikely trio. Well, unlikely, as I don’t remember a time in recent years either Parker or Edwards have played with an American other than Joe Mcphee or Peter Evans. Certainly there is a large divide between the English and European improvisers and the American Free Jazzers. Although to call Corsano a free jazzer would be unfair, as he’s probably just as active in that noise/improv hybrid so popular among the unwashed and bearded. Count me among the unwashed and bearded– he’s pretty great. I’m not on the Corsano train entirely; I think there are other just as great bald-headed percussionists out there, Paal Nielson Love springing immediately to mind. But with Corsano there is a great and yes, seemingly American, straight forward energy to his playing. Add this energy with the seemingly endless creativity and other non percussive playing (some kind of reed instrument in there somewhere?) you get something really worth hearing. So one shouldn’t be surprised to think it’s a wooly out-world freak jam that is in order when you jab him into the middle of the controlled but chaotic world of Evan Parker and John Edwards. And yeah, “A glancing Blow” is almost up to that adjective laden sentence. There is a totally different vibe here with Parker and Edwards than on their other stuff… something not found with their other trio with Mark Sanders (who I like, as well, but doesn’t seem to spur Parker on like this) or the large groups and ad-hoc ensembles. I’m not sure if Parker ever really changes his style of playing as much as slightly alters his attack, and in this case it’s at once more wild and compact fusing a more free jazz style with a strange, woozy almost-psych improvisation. And this is very different stuff than the total fucked and fried free jazz found in Corsano’s work in his duo with Paul Flaherty or in the group Cold Bleak Heat. It’s more contemplative than the knock-down curb-stomping that goes on in some of that stuff. It’s a comfortable balance of meditation and murder. But I’m probably stating the case too much. The music is just good enough and, more importantly, fucked up enough for me to find it interesting when so much trio music with standard instrumentation leaves me cold.

Graham Lambkin “Salmon Run”
Kye Records

Shadow Ring member, Lambkin, has fashioned one of the most beguiling and stunning records of the year. I haven’t fully digested this one either. Found classical samples melded with field recordings, laughter, wistful punctuating sonic glances on a public radio station. What an enormously fascinating audio document; unlike any of those simple sound art/concrete/field recording albums, this seems to be a cohesive work, a peek at a world of some possibly demented listener’s world. It’s not an album of music as much as it’s an album of a man listening to music, walking outside, laughing to himself over an email or a Sunday funny… church bells, a sigh. This can be unsettling at points, beautiful at others.

Graham Lambkin's Salmon Run

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