Archive for November, 2010

if you’re not crying, you’re an asshole.

Posted in music with tags , , , on November 23, 2010 by Tanner

Taku Unami/Annette Krebs Motubachii Erstwhile

When I was younger I would sometimes experience moments of altered consciousness, hypnagogic states and lucid dreaming, that would come at unexpected moments. Much of this stuff I still can‘t entirely explain the significance of. One experience in particular stands out: I was eighteen and visiting my parent’s house, who were not home at the time. I laid down on their couch and closed my eyes; after a few moments I started hearing things: scrapes and bangs; furniture being moved across floor; voices that sounded muffled, and that I could almost understand; laughter. I was not asleep as I could move my hands, although with severly limited dexterity (mana +10, magick +5 btw), and was acutely aware of my surroundings. I realized, without knowing exactly when, that I could see through my eyelids, and the living room’s stereo was lit up with LED-like glyphs that shifted in nearly non-perceptible ways. I was alarmed at first, experiencing a sort paralysis when I tried to pull myself out of the state, but then plunging back as though being dragged through a stream or torrent of water. Eventually I started to let myself go along with what was happening and stop being afraid. I realized later that it felt as though I was living through the life of that room in a course of a half and hour; in a way, how we perceive the linearity of events had collapsed on itself like an accordion, squeezed and then shattered into fragments. And I was listening in to the various fractured times and splintered events. I don’t want to drift off into some sort of acid-charred faux-Leary cosmic consciousness bullshit here, but it was an interesting experience.

When I listen to Motubachii, in a way, it reminds me of this experience. Annette Krebs and Taku Unami (neither credited with specific instruments) have created an album of seemingly disconnected sounds–sliding doors closing; guitar and banjo plucks; washes of traffic grind that resemble white noise; television soundtracks; disembodied voices; a child laughing; handclaps and layered them into a disconcerting but lovely whole. All of it approaches a similar imperceptibility as that event of shared time I experienced on my parent‘s couch.

There’s a bevy of strange occurrences on this thing, but when I say strange there’s still element of familiarity, of knowingness in all that is heard. Nothing seems out of place. Nothing is created for the strict novelty or peculiarity of the sound or placement. Everything seems in a natural order. Even though, very often, these sounds are not allowed to resonate fully and are strictly controlled and placed. Repetition is very apparent (as others I’m sure have noted the first track is the same as the last), and very often an out of tune chord, on what I assume is Krebs’ guitar, suddenly fades out, and is followed by a loud bang, a box being dropped on the floor or a door being slammed. I assume Unami is in control of this area non-instrumental sounds, although who knows. And good lord, an album like this makes assumptions seem so very assumptive, so it’s hard to judge. But I’ve found that Unami’s previous work often seems interested in the idea that any sound is musical — that there’s no real difference between a slammed door or the creak of a chair to the blurt of a horn or the pluck of a string. In fact, the emotional resonance of these mundane sounds seems almost more amplified in this context, more easily understood and empathized with than someone caterwauling through their saxophone or grinding out a power chord in hopes it instills their particular feeling at that moment. Let’s face it, we all know that Nuclear Holocausto’s unintelligible grunts are not about a desire for chocolate peanut butter ice cream, or that Brotzmann’s dry heave plunge on the tenor is not about Britney Speares’ navel (although…). There’s a beautiful ambiguity of emotion to a slammed door, loaded and strangely universal. Any sound, whether intended by the artist or not, accompanies some sort of baggage, and these unmusical events in this context seem to have more universal but singular meaning than some fucked up kid telling me that, hey, he‘s really pissed off.

But certainly there’s something amiss if you can’t find something musical in the so referred (by me) unmusical thwacks, slides and claps. They are juxtaposed so wonderfully, whether by accident or design, that nothing slips out of whack, achieving a union of the so right and so wrong, I’m reminded of tasting a Durian fruit for the first time in Vietnam — this ripening garbage mixed with cantaloupe, the texture like tapioca or string cheese depending on the moment — what a viscerally evocative fruit, one that can only be likened to, not fully explained. The aural palette of Motubachii, as unusual as it first appears, is actually not terribly varied in milieu. And in this sense, the collapsing of time, the repetition of events, of similar sounds seem so right in all it‘s outward randomness. According to the liners, Motubachii was recorded in five different cities– Hamburg, Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, and Kaditzsch — but I hesitate to say a travelogue is apt. I find that if anything, it sounds like the majority of it was probably pulled together from all those cities; field recordings, instrumental passages, and whatever else woven into one composition of seven tracks, creating this hazy, unified piece that seems to recreate different times, feelings, mundane happenings, which doesn‘t seem terribly singular to any of those cities. Is what they experienced on the road simply the sliding of a mini van’s door, the television in the hotel room, the dragging of music cases across the floor? Is the near random blurt of electrified string and the thwack of a banjo a snippet of a tune up, a practice, a performance? It could be anywhere in the world with but a few changes. And to return to the circular nature of the album mentioned earlier, there’s an odd feeling of endlessness, that perhaps there is a commonality of experience of just living. Or I suppose, more cynically, that the last track literally mirroring the first could be a put on for all of us who don’t pay enough attention, and are happy with … outness. Irregularity. Eh. I doubt that. The results are too worked out, worried over. This is the creation of timelessness. It never ends.

But Unami and Krebs sidestep nostalgia. They play around it by using these truncated instrumental sounds with supposedly unmusical events. As much as one can attach a significance to a stacatto clap in an arid room this doesn’t lend itself to wallowing in some remembrance. And similar to my lucid dream when I was younger, I was not left with the feeling of being taught anything. It seems so much music can be pedantic:

Feel this, now.

Oh shit, that just happened!

Understand what we did there?

Miss that allusion? Here it is again!

If you’re not crying, you’re an asshole.

But there’s something to be said for ambiguity. For not knowing exactly what’s happening or why. I find some of the greatest joys with art I don’t fully comprehend. It feels as though there are things that are unknowable and unfound. That mystery exists is a wonderful thing. And for the sake of closure, I still don’t know exactly what happened to me that day when I was eighteen. But it left me confused, and utterly enthralled. Something Motubachii does, as well. How rare is that?

erstwhile records



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 18, 2010 by Tanner

Rhodri Davies/John Butcher Carliol Ftarri

Tender threads mingle in conspiracy. . . Is there any guess work here? It’s almost as though the music of Carliol was formed by some sort of morphic resonance — the placid tones and wavering frequencies following furrows to chaotic attractors, as each disparate sounding is following some entirely natural but unexpected path. These are obviously players with delicate but ferric control. It’s readily apparent, even if you’re not familiar with John Butcher’s extended sax explorations or Rhodri Davies’ harp and ebows. Since their previous recorded duo, Vortices and Angels (on Emanem), they have clearly progressed to something else, something far beyond that recording‘s relatively standard (but quite nice) celestial improv.

Davies and Butcher have developed such oblique yet entreatingly apt constructions on Carliol, that it’s not particularly useful to think of their previous work. I much prefer to the let the naked sibilant coils of saxophone and electric harp to coalesce and reach equilibrium without prior reference. But hell, is that even possible? Is it even desirable to listen without prior reference? References colored this release for me initially. At first, I found it not necessarily bland, but easily acquired, rationalized, squared away in some lineage I find less and less important. But I realized that if initially you might gather nothing but sheen and history, with time it lets you in, reveals more than was first apparent. I need that from music. This music.

I don’t care about the oddity of some of these individual sounds anymore; the extended technique, the scraping resonances of the controlled mistake are in themselves not interesting. What I want is connection to what is created, however obscure. Carliol offers you something. Even if it’s just a pebble you finally notice in your shoe after walking around on it all day. The music expires then expands. Nothing lasts forever here. But it’s not the sound of impatience when, on “ouse poppy,” Davies’ tones waver, split, and are driven into different paths by Butcher’s taps on the keys of his sax. It’s the sound of exploring impermanence and the precious, like when one traces the lines, marks, valleys of a loved one’s face, or chases the creases in the cringe of a joint. On “Garth Heads,” Butcher’s notes ascend over lingering ebowed tones from Davies and you feel something give, an understanding reached, enough of this struggle to coexist, let’s just dance for a while. There’s no rush.

Sure you could mention the beauty of so many of these elements, but I’m not sure if that’s what this is all about. Here. Sitting. Listening to the punctuating mechanisms (Butcher’s “motors”?) light up the space on “Scrog;” metallic teeth chattering like small, synthetic animals in the corner of your room, under that heap of clothes — don’t move it, son, they’ll bite.

It’s balance in Carliol that is key; this is not a duel. One can see that from the mixture of Welsh and English of their song titles, as well. But if anything, you are the third member, finding your own place within it. Often, that quality seems to be missing in recorded music– that place for the listener. The listener who often, like some consollation prom date, gets lost in being talked at, yelled over and ignored. No, Cariol is not like that. It seems to allow, urge… and conspire. It’s a refreshing to take part in once and a while.

If interested buy it at: Erstwhile

Two from Seijiro Murayama

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2010 by Tanner

Seijiro Murayama/Soundworm Space and Place Ftarri
Seijiro Murayama/Eric La Casa Supersedure Hibari

Paris-based, Japanese percussionist Seijiro Murayama has a long discography of releases beginning with his stellar early full-kit abuse in improv thrash legends Fushitsusha and Absolut Null Punkt. If anything Murayama’s early work seemed to bleed an inchoate energy and power, and the results could be as stunning as they were formidable. More recently, Murayama has been working with a far smaller set up, often described as a single snare + objects, and has been collaborating with the likes of Jean-Luc Guionnet, Mattin, Masafumi Ezaki and Kazushige Kinoshita. These two albums, Supersedure with Eric Lacasa and Space and Place with Soundworm (wtf?), were released last year and document this more minimalist conception, but are no less powerful in their restraint.

Space and Place, released on the excellent Japanese label Ftarri (an off shoot of Improvised Music from Japan), is a limited release that probes the seemingly limitless sonics of the snare drum — from delirious ringing to scraping dinge — and Murayama conjures endless vistas of sound with what seems to be the simplest of means. The list of excellent improvised/extended technique percussionists is long: Le Quan Ninh, Burkhard Beins, Ingar Zach, Sean Meehan and Eddie Prevost spring to mind, and what characterizes the best work of these musicians is their impeccable attention to both detail and placement, making the most use out of the sound, letting the listener do some of the work. Muryama certainly has this quality. There’s a explorative sense to all of these tracks, a love for the sound that emerges almost immediately, but there is also an attention to power of space and timing — this isn’t a free jazz solo. And Murayama can’t take all of the credit here. Soundworm, credited with sound engineering and suggestions, seems to take raw solo recordings of Murayama in rural France and Japan and amplify certain aural peculiarities while subtracting others. What at first may sound like a simple scratching of the snare ad infinitum reveals a variety of sonic gradations, allowing for a stunning shifting mass. The tracks recorded in Japan seem to shift mercurially across the sound field; a bowled symbal in the right channel will suddenly cut out only to emerge in the left, revealing a different tinge and flavor. This leaves the listener in a precarious position, never sure where the right footing is and there‘s always that element of surprise, where ones expectations are shirked. Field recordings of birds, airplanes, voices will emerge than disappear often as soon as one starts to integrate them with Murayama‘s playing. One must assume Soundworm (wtf is up with that name?) has most of the control over these seemingly random elements. But there’s something absolutely beguiling over these additions and sudden cut-outs. Microphone placement seems to be key here, as one may hear the sound of a drumstick being rubbed over the taunt skin of the snare from almost inside drum itself then suddenly from far away as though across the yard, leaving a blurred and frustrated skein. The back cover shows a musical chart they used for the third track but it doesn’t make any more sense to me than a fragment of Aramaic. I’m not sure if it really matters in this context, as it’s an amazing listen without the structural intent. I’m not an adherent to headphone listening, but they do reveal the various gradations, segregations, explorations of microphone placement, filtering and room noise in an amazing way. The last track conjures a subtle and evocative drone of ringing cymbals and buzzing snare that reverberates through the inner ear; at around the 9:00 mark what appears to be Murayama’s disembodied howl rises over a shimmering din, lending it a ghostly, visceral intensity and culminating in a protracted slow burn. This is an album to revel in the pure sound of things, of all the unknown objects and semi-familiar environments. I would search this one out.

French audio mangler Eric La Casa has a good history in improvisation as well as more the more compositional area of sound art. He’s worked with Jean Luc Guinnet in projects including Afflux, as well as with Akio Suzuki and Philip Samartzis to name a few. And he serves as a similar foil to Murayama on Supersedure as Soundworm did on Space and Place, but the results are far more astringent and often land on the side of punishing in comparison. Supersedure may, in fact, be a more exciting listen than Space and Place, just possibly not one to play while trying to escape the overblown shitstorm of modern life. La Casa is credited with “microphones and field recordings” and everything about this one is more up front. He pulls out segments of cars lurching past, honking trucks, crowds, sirens and alarms and affixes them to recordings of Murayama’s snare cracks and rubs. Soundworm seems to showcase Murayama’s playing far more in Sound and Place, emphasizing linear compositions albeit from constantly shifting angles; whereas La Casa is a more aggressive partner, often blowing out Murayama’s textures with a well placed siren or drunken soccer reveler and creating compositions out disparate elements. Don’t get me wrong, these sounds are not blatant cartoon sound library rips, and how the competing recordings come together is apt, cohesive and complimentary. The first track has one of the more fascinating beginnings I’ve heard lately — a smack on the snare, repeated disjointedly, then slathered with aqueous plumbing, hisses and whines at once surgically removed from context and then reconstituted into something else familiar but alien. It’s a feeling that is fostered almost the entire album, this familiarity and alarm– scuffed atmospherics, rain on the tarp of your tent, windshield wipers across your windshield as a drum is rubbed and prodded. No sound is sacred here, indeed. And as I listen to it, I’m reminded of the possibilities of music where inventiveness and aesthetics mingle in such great ways. No, it’s not perfect. There’s only so many field recordings of cars, subterranean vaults, jack hammering industrial detritus, and people’s screams one can listen to, integrate, and use. It lends itself to exhaustion and collapse, which one may argue could be part of the point. In this way Murayama is the antidote–his rubbed surfaces, hesitant strikes, percussive burrows are tremendously musical and integrate so seamlessly. In track 3 there’s a movement where Murayama’s clattering rolls fit almost perfectly with the sound of machinery clanking and whirring, almost to a point where one could miss his input if not paying close enough attention. Ultimately, I would rather be overwhelmed than moved to boredom and sloth. And Supersedure can certainly be overwhelming. But it’s powerful, inventive and wonderful stuff.

Both of these albums deserved wider attention when they came out last year; hopefully they won’t be confined to the electro-acoustic ghetto entirely. It’s been some of the best stuff I’ve heard in a while.

Order from:

One from Cathnor

Posted in Uncategorized on November 11, 2010 by Tanner

Patrick Farmer/Dominic Lash Bestiaries Cathnor

First, I have to mention the beautiful sleeve drawings by the UK artist/musician, Sarah Hughes, on this album. The splatters of ink and cryptic, spindly lines that occupy the front and back covers fit the music by UK based musicians Dominic Lash (bass) and Patrick Farmer (percussion) in its wooden scrabble, and it mirrors the sneaking imperceptibility of the music. And this is the music of wood cracking, splintering, expanding in heat and humidity. Bestiaries is seemingly as much a document of sound escaping from inanimate things as it is two fine musicians coaxing these sounds from stubborn instruments. Farmer and Lash are remarkable in both restraint and ingenuity, and the music seems so unforced that you forget that there are human hands behind it. It‘s a fascinating quality, conjuring both peace and forgetfulness, langor and timelessness. Remarkably this music strikes as almost entirely non-visual — I have none of the images that sometimes arise of the musicians playing here, hammering their instruments with extended virtoustic intent; I have no desire to even know how they are creating these dry heaves, tiny croaks of earthy dissonances. It’s as though the sound has always been there trapped inside itself, and it is now only being let out and shaped, pruned, cordoned off into form. Bestiaries is immediately rich and textural, nearly always quietly exploring arid atmospheres, but with moments of thrumming wetness — a plucked bass string, a percussive pop amidst the slide. Never before has both the papery dryness, and the resonant oaken lunge of the instruments been so apparent. There‘s no map here, no guide to lead you through the thicket of entwined branches. Momentarily one may hear a striking, brilliant coherence; but it is not a sign post, but more a movement in the dark you can almost…just… identify. If there is a structure it is unknown. And it seems unneeded on our part to know, as though it would be almost a wrong doing to what has been created. It’s best to let Bestiaries unfold on its own and not try to follow too closely. It seems far more enjoyable to just listen; as though you were under a tree at dusk and the wind has picked up and is shaking branches and limbs you cannot see, not unpleasantly. In the weeds a creature moves. Excellent album.

Somewhere over the mountain.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 by Tanner

Getting back from a wake– never the most … well, never the most of anything. Mostly just wreckage and pain– friends and family trying to get to grips, trying desperately to configure some sort of meaning out of the fact that she was gone and that this somehow all made sense. And of course, it doesn’t.

I was listening Ofermod when I found ou that they were going to pull the plug. And I thought to myself– as the lyrics purported of death, pain and ritualistic REALNESS, and the black metal screams were pouring forth in that earnest orthodox proselytizing way — that these pussies didn’t know shit about death. Here was a woman who wanted live, who was pulling her life back around inch by painful inch, and these little corpse-painted fucks were screaming about death as though it was some sort of cleansing elixer, as though there was some bullshit esoteric kvlt-ness to not being here, not seeing your family or friends, never seeing the sun rise or hear the creek sing ever again. I don’t care what magical system, what ritualistic knee-sucking cult you belong to– you’re still fucking alive to sing about it.

I always question why I listen to metal that pretends to worship death, destruction, and atavism. I understand the ideas and how they relate to personal liberation; I understand their questioning of the darkness and straight jackets so many of us find ourselves in. But maybe they’re just fucked. It doesn’t seem to make any sense to anyone who lives right now with any amount of self-awareness or empathy.

The fatal mistake was that I ever even considered the lyrics. I usually don’t. I don’t give a shit what Autopsy sings about. I don’t care what Carcass blurts on about. But they don’t take themselves seriously, either. This black metal bullshit… this ridiculous self-serious shit. I wish they would take a page out of Dissection’s play book and just off themselves so they can take their place on the left hand of satan or whatever bullshit they consume so easily, but unfortunately that wouldn’t make my friend come back to life. As much as I want it to. And it pisses me off that these assholes are still here, enjoying the life they claim to hate when she had so much more she wanted to do.

Anyway, more writing and what have you to come. Well, I don’t know.