Archive for the music Category

Things this year pt. 1

Posted in music on December 4, 2013 by Tanner

Let’s take turns throwing composition’s rotting head around: it’s getting a bit smelly, a bit squishy in the handling, but it still holds shape nicely in the air. It still can bite once and a while on the landing. Lambkin and Lescalleet. Lambkin and Lescalleet. I might signal my inclinations too often, too readily, but I’m prepared to get obscure here, where no one’s watching but the vultures. Because they speak a language I think I can understand, but only obliquely, as if seeing it from the side, bounced from a mirror and reading backwards– I understand the language, but I can’t understand the syntax. As much as Photographs establishes itself as a dialogue between two musicians, it strikes me more immediately as a dialogue between two friends, two comrades in arms against nothing in particular. They brandish weapons made of their daily lives; obsessions; observations; misunderstandings; dull jokes in the back of a car; music they heard years ago somewhere, someplace. To describe music as personal — and I write personal with a caveat that all music is obviously personal if not as outwardly inward in construction–or direct, while alternately obscure is to sink into a writerly purposelessness. You can hear it all at a click of a button. There is no freedom in description of event. There is no pleasure here for me to write it.

lambkin lescalleet photographs

Pisaro’s Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds succeeds almost in despite of its title. I’m not against meaning, or provocation, or research. I’m just bored with titles. Let’s not digress (I am bored with meaning). There’s nothing boring about this thing he and Greg Stuart have coaxed out…this anfractuous thing, nuanced in slippery collisions, but on closer inspection pocked with innumerable scars. I find myself shuffling in the inside of a jar, alone in a suffocating glare. Let’s not forget: Crotales and sine tones– so dull sounding on paper, as lifeless as a scorpion in a paper weight and just as triumphantly despicable. It kinda makes words sound as silly as they appear, when you hear music that defies them so, and makes mockery of just what, if anything, you can say about sound.

closed categories

I try to keep in mind my limitations when I listen to music; personal baggage makes things far more interesting. Metal confirms these limitations, and badgers my inner atavism, my dependence on fear and loathing. Nihilism writ large on a canvas of oily skin. This is not reality. It just is what I choose it to be. Grave Upheaval latches on to this program: as listless, hopeless, and revolted as a 13 year mustache in ill-fitting clothes. It trudges along in its murky furrow, borrowing against itself, waiting to collapse into muck and heaps of stones. I find nothing funny about it. It is within itself, and as full of truth as one can find in a culture of sure nothingness. A slow death, hunched against great weight. This does not howl at the moon. It does not scream romantic odes to starry wisdom. It does not bleed under moonlight. It is fucking death metal. Decrepit. Scared. Unbelieving. There is no future. There is no light. There is just this. It’s scabrous. And it’s full of mutiny.

Death by Beuger

Posted in music with tags , , , on January 29, 2012 by Tanner

I’ve stopped listening to music while I run; I find it too easy to lose perspective; music flits against concentration that’s hard-earned, heard in the creak of lungs, and felt in the lactic acid in calves. I’ve been taking it easy this last month – the amount I run is inversely proportional to the amount of snow that falls, and in Ashland it snows a lot. But I squeaked out a little over five miles yesterday anyway. I ran through part of the Chequamegon bay forest, where an atv trail carves a straight line northwest into Superior. In the summer you can count the tiny, dried-up snapping turtles that die dusty and alone, their heads lolling to either side as you prod them with your toe. I cut across a field, horses lolling by their troughs, and out onto the shore of Lake Superior, where I pushed past Ashland’s superfund site where a mass of oil timbers are cocooned and malignant in the clay-rich soil. One could almost forget there was anything wrong, a thick layer of snow covering the black sands that mark its tomb. The snow can’t hide the massive ore dock that sits crumbing and monolithic in the distance. And it can’t hide the power plant and its mountains of cheap wood pulp they burn to create the steam that ends up belching out over the lake, massive turbines humming. But this is Ashland, completely ill at ease with itself, profiting gleefully from natural splendor while doing it’s damndest to fuck it all up.

I’ve always thought of a lot of what I write about on this thing as a kind of urban music, more comfortable in a city’s crush of humanity than out here, if not in the middle of nowhere, than right next to it. Part of this comes from the fact that most of it is made in cities like Tokyo or New York or Vienna or Seoul and seems to reflect a certain acetic neurosis, an idle abstraction. It feels so caught up in itself that it finds itself alone in a crowd, humming. Maybe another reason I don’t listen to music while I run anymore– I don’t quite feel like shutting off like I did when I lived in cities. I didn’t feel the need to escape into shape and form, into the Big Idea. I get tired of the Big Ideas. I like a little room to breathe.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been listening to Antoine Beuger’s un lieu pour Être deux a lot lately. Usually on low volume, allowing it to brush up against my spine—Ben Owens’ field recordings sinking into Ashland’s own small downtown discourse; while Barry Chabala’s guitar in its minute detail startling me, as mysterious in its motivations as the pigeons across the street that suddenly, inexplicably rise off the tar roof to swarm and dip in perfect unison. That is not to say Beuger isn’t about big ideas. That’s obviously not true, but I haven’t the first fucking clue what they are. And I have little interest in finding out. I prefer to listen to this composition as if it allows me to make my own meaning from it. Sorry, dudes.

The subtleness and use of space brands it Wandelweiser– but it’s not the stereotypical minimal anemia. Light tones, integrations of familiar field recordings, guitar plucks are all reminiscent of some Michael Pisaro’s increasingly impressive work, but there is an airier quality here. It’s unforced and refreshingly easy to find some path through its space. I’m used to that feeling with so much of the music that comes from this area of composition, but it’s so rarely captivating; it’s so rarely as generous. What I take from the little of Beuger’s work that I’ve heard (as well as Pisaro’s) is the attention to mundane, to the subtle inflection the music can cast spatially and temporally on everyday life. The sounds create a shading effect to reality, a reinterpretation of normality. Not to say it’s some tired psychedelic journey through Visnu’s asshole (leave that to Keenan or something), but it seeps into one’s space. I’m reminded of Sachiko’s Bar Sachiko, which has a similar effect, albeit much harsher and more angular (unheralded classic if you ask me). However, what’s apparent is its universality, as at home in this small town as Berlin or Hanoi or Chicago.

I understand that music should be independent of place, but we all know it can’t be. Where we are colors our understanding of music as much as our mood at the time. And some things do just work better in an environment suited for it – as much as I dig Blasphemy or Beherit, it makes far less sense wandering out in the woods than it does wandering around downtown Chicago looking for a place to take a piss. But this album seems to shirk these aspects, centering itself in a universality of life. It’s as if the “synthesized tones” simply filter and compliment a day watching those pigeons dip and sway; it’s as if the guitar twinge is a simply a punctuation, exclamation on a sip of coffee at the café. And while one could say that’s all well and good for you, but where’s the music? Thankfully, it’s remarkably musical. It just allows room for the audience. And most music doesn’t do that. Thankfully, there are musicians around like Chabala and Owen who seem to tune into just that, and keep a concise but open interpretation to the score. Letting it breathe for us.

This would be an interesting album to go running to now that I think about it. I’d probably end up sitting in a snow bank, watching the sky, pontificating on the consensus reality of soap on the rope, freezing to death. Death by Beuger. But there’s probably worse ways to go.

You should probably buy this from the excellent http://cfyre.co/rds/ copy for your records

Rama

Posted in music with tags , , on September 28, 2011 by Tanner

Drumm’s Imperial Distortion is as good a late night album as any. A few fingers of bourbon sitting on my window sill and the gentle warble of the New Age coming across my living room as I look out to where Lake Superior should be on this starless night. And the black chasm the big lake becomes at night begets all manner of dark ruminations, starry wisdoms better left unsaid. Music as open ended as Imperial Distortion fits that Lovecraftian weird, stewing in the stagnancy of small towns at night, that almost palpable pressure of the atmosphere weighing down on your head, the stars burning holes into all that cumulonimbus, water hanging in the air. Drumm’s music pushes right on through, alien intelligent.

I’m not looking for the next big Miasma tonight. Imperial Distortion sounds just right. Not nearly as static as I‘ve heard it described, a track like Snow moves around my apartment like an undulating poisonous cloud punctuated with random colored lights. At turns ominous, but frankly far more comforting than all that it would imply — high school science experiments with alchemical references, Kelly LeBrock in the shower and you with your jean shorts still on.

The bullshit about Drumm and his “black metal noise” makes me queasy. Conflating admiration with influence. Why is it so much harder to just let the music speak for itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love Carcass, but they ain’t Vivaldi, even if they steal from Four Seasons. And who wants Carcass to be Vivaldi anyway? As if that validates their onslaught. As if their onslaught needs to be validated. And who wants Drumm to be some corpse painted asshole, moaning about the moonlight cascading onto the icy plains of some forefather‘s foreskin? Isn’t this authentic enough? Isn’t this boring or brilliant… or more simply itself enough? But if one wants to go down that road, if there is some tortured darkness to Drumm’s music, I think it’s found far more on these long shifting drones of Imperial Distortion and Imperial Horizon than any of the noise terror he’s so admired for. SHM, Impish Tyrant the rest brim, spit out like sparks from the fire. They’re detrital, layered, subsuming. But Imperial Horizon leaves you behind. It’s down right nihilistic at times, a track like Guillain-Barre taps into a slim coursing eternal line, beginning and ending without a glimmer of recognition, of heeding our calls. Antiseptic glow. Beautiful in its way (and working wonders on the insides of my nasal cavities), but ultimately unknowable. And beauty being so hard to qualify. Like the end of Romantic Sores, all floating indifference but oh so pretty.

I can’t complain. I should go to sleep now, and conjure some personal demons to make myself feel more like myself. But it’s nice to have a piece of music that colors the space for a little while. In this sleepy town. Because I know this is all just words. And probably says more about me than the music. But that’s nice. That’s good. Perception is a fucking tricky thing. Sleep tight.

Perspectives are like assholes…

Posted in music with tags , , on June 8, 2011 by Tanner

Syndromes Temporary Perspectives Organized Music From Thessaloniki

I’ve been sitting on Syndromes’ (made up of Kostis Kilymis) Temporary Perspectives album on his own Organized Music from Thessaloniki label, playing it often, but waiting for it to fully take hold, to open itself to some wider digression of thought than, “Well, jeez, this sure does sound real nice.” And while my subsequent thoughts haven’t strayed too far from this initial estimation the thing has flowered a bit.

At the very least I think I’ve figured out the best way to play it — loudly with few distractions, allowing the first high tensile sine tones of the first track, “Less Surface Noise,” to crack the enamel of your teeth all the while high mass distortions, pops and crackles begin to swell and reverberate through your sticky subcutaneous tissues, forming eddies against your stomach lining. This album can often sound like all the mistakes your body has made fighting against time, a piano wire cutting through a mass of twisting visceral chunks committed to audio, as meshed in the down and dirty of an infected audio cochlear nerve as any funereal death metal pig squeal. And while the stuttering electronic hoo ha, buzzing filters of found sound, and deft placement of space/silence hook it up to the EAI IV, Temporary Perspectives seems far more constructed than anything improvised. It also sounds far more bodily oriented and dare I say organic than the antiseptic glow of so much of that nebulous genre. It spits and stumbles, cutting out entirely in places only to lurch back into frame again in shadow, in scuffling feet, fastened into a disorienting mass. This can seem overly worried over, as though Kilymis wasn’t sure exactly where to stop in places, adding a slight tinge of over seasoning. But when it has moments of such spectacular nuance it’s hard to get too bent out of shape.

And “Part 2 (my voice),” is the most dynamic and powerful on Temporary Perspectives, a plunge through an elongated moment of dental morass: front row and center for a blasting out of infected pulp, smelling the burn of tooth enamel and soft palate salivary gush. Yes, yes, easy now, I don’t want to paint some post grad art student body hate picture here, as though it’s all dentist drill whirs and Michael Gira groaning pretty nothings about skin disease in your ear. In an enlightening interview by Tobias Fischer about Temporary Perspectives, Kilymis states,

The emphasis is on the auditory experience, being a listener and how we place ourselves inside the listening experience, how this affects our senses and ultimately, in some brief moments, how we perceive our surroundings.

Let’s not forget that these pieces are, as is written in the sleeve, “4 studies in human perception,” and if I fall too readily into the idea that this is all some play on the sound intersecting the body, the body through time, the drivel of random misfiring functions — what the hell does it say about me? Maybe it’s my own issue that the listening experience of Temporary Perspectives elicits an auditory Fantastic Voyage through the mucous membranes, of charting rapids along a bony shell. It seems to succeed in this challenge of the listeners perception and question its malleability, although one wonders if ones time is better spent musing on these questions as simply listening, as on, “Much Remains to be Broken,” it’s so easy to just stop and play in the angular planes of slow tones that work around the room, reflecting from walls, stopping dead against the carpet. A beautiful, er, study that seems to weave a delicate track through the inner ear, which makes sense when Kilymis continues in the interview,

The whole album has a linear progression – it is like a story, and each part of the story builds on the previous one. Its different parts are taking different angles – perspectives – in reading what is going on.

While I can see that this idea of a linear progression in an album as abstract as this one as an easy, and possibly cynical out from any real discussion, “Much remains to be broken,” does feel like a further of events through it’s eventual dissolution of tunneling muffled sounds, that again shift in emphasis, reinforcing the feeling that you are indeed following something. Just what that something is could be entirely left up to you. And while I can’t completely shake the feeling that this is indeed just another aspect of some sort of inner space, if not in the sounds of hormone cascade, then somewhere emotional and hermetic — it’s seems rather novel sitting here with some cheerios.

And less I put too much emphasis on the inward, Kilymis spackles the album with outside sounds of traffic, voices, echoed footfalls as if to let the outside in. But these seem to only reinforce further disorientation for the listener, of letting the “different parts,” take, “different angles.” But of course, this begins to seem troublesome after a while — this idea that it’s all some discourse on perspectives of listening. Because once you unload the language of “temporary perspectives,” and “studies in human perception” I wonder if that isn’t what most music is about already, these temporary perspectives. Aren’t all pieces of music or audio by definition studies in human perception? Few musicians seem to want to point this out as much as Kilymis, however, and it’s an interesting experience. Even if sometimes I think the overall effect can be far greater when you just let your mind run around in the sounds, and not be too taken with questions of how you are listening, or what it all means, or if you should be doing anything at all. Nothing is wrong with you, guys, just sit down and listen. As Temporary Perspectives is an often twisting, peculiar and fascinating album, one that has obviously been painstakingly shaped into an impressive whole. I can’t relegate it to some dark corner of my swollen shelves. It begs for further inspection and some drunken contemplation nights like these. And yes, it sure does sound real nice.

Organized Music From Thessaloniki

Insert bad pun or allusion here.

Posted in music with tags , , , , on February 6, 2011 by Tanner

Annette Krebs/Ernst Karel Falter 1-5 Cathnor

I was going to start this thing off saying how much I liked being proven wrong. And how in in being proven wrong I came to realize that ideas/world views should be malleable, and that I should always reevaluate, or at least be able to change my mind, while at the same time procreating with the Other in the joyful unknowing. But I realized that was total bullshit. I hate being wrong. I’ll defend the most inane arguments, the most sophomoric crap as long as I can say I was right at the end. I’ve had my nose broken because of the feelings of my eternal rightness in the face of that eternal wrongness. But I guess being wrong is character building, as well as face altering. While I won’t be as boldfaced as to say that Falter has added to my character or my Roman nose, I will say it’s given me pause, and made me reevaluate a few things.

I didn’t like Falter at first. I wrote it off after a few listens, thinking it was yet another album made up of arbitrary sound choices, fused together in novel, if listless ways. It didn’t scream. It just stood in the corner, bugging my friends when they were trying to throw knives into my walls. I’m not sure when it happened, when I realized that there was more going on then I originally noticed. But by virtue that I still played it, still plugged away at what once seemed the dull, monochromatic shifting fields of the first track, “1,” it was different, more worthwhile than most of the electronic acoustic improvisational hullabaloo that I find out there. There was something that cohered, prickled up, like that arm you rolled over on while asleep, only for it to rouse you from slumber at 4am: and in your arm‘s bloodless obduracy, you realize that it seems to have a life of its own and, yikes, it doesn’t give a shit about you anymore.

Krebs’ work has always been interesting, from that first solo on Fringes, to the duos with Sugimoto to the last few years’ canonical (have we come so far where we relegate things that are so vibrant to these dustbins?) solo on Absinthe and the duos with Nakamura, Davies, Unami. There’s something that’s distinctly, wholly her own. And it’s not as though some of the sounds she creates– the steel wool against string, the field recordings, the sonic detritus — is entirely new, because it isn’t; but how she uses these sounds, the subtle force of sonic placement, and her intuition and confidence is singular. And that isn’t to say Karel sits out here, as his work with EKG will testify, he’s got his own tenacious musicality. But here, unlike EKG there’s none of his trumpet that easily distinguishes him, and instead works in washes and burrs of a warm analogue electronics, which creates depth and contours to Krebs deconstructed guitar and recordings. It’s a collaboration, sometimes difficult to distinguish who does what. I suppose that can be frustrating. That is unless you just let it occur.

And like most of these things in this area, where the music is at first so aggressively obscure, it’s a joy when these things begin to make their own sense and adhere to your own intuition. When the sense that there is more than just a squalor of buzz, but a general thought out, contemplated thrust to the sound, you realize that something is broached, an impasse reached. And while all of this could just sound like words, so many words, don’t hold that against Falter. Because while the sounds are not easy, and could be as old hat to many of as up on our Rowe and Nakamura as the writing majors are on their Chekov and Carver (don’t even get me started), they are beautifully delineated. The feeling on Falter, created by deft use of space, sub woofer sonics, gentle washes of detuned guitar strum and indiscernible electronic skree are foundational for something greater. There’s a feeling that is held and brought about throughout it all, a story arc, that holds even while being obscure. So often I get the feeling that sounds are played on improv records simply for immediate effect and then forgotten on the rush to the next novelty. Not so here. This holds mood. And becomes more than just a fascinating mystery, but actually satisfying in its own musicality, in the gentle streams of high pitched teeming in areas of “2” that slip over low grade crumble, movements in dark and light. Or the fleeting subterranean drips that are smothered in static, inaudible speech, sine tones that abut walls of bass tones like hanging vines in “3.”

Whereas so much music I find myself lulled to asleep by inaction, by the lack of work, this makes you struggle and form the connections that are not readily within reach. That’s why I assume some of us, however few, find interest, enthusiasm, joy in some of this. And while one can say that life is hard enough as is, that we don’t need challenges heaped upon us by our music, by our art– there is the unfortunate few that desire just that, and still find some form of drive, excitment in the difficult, the obtuse, the challenging. To be wrong once and a while. But I risk (when have I haven’t) climbing too far up my own ass here. The last thing I want anyone coming away from this is thinking we should all be amazed by our own taste. Fuck taste, just give me some honesty. And as far as I can tell Krebs and Karel are doing that. Don’t hold my plumbing of the shallow depths against them. It’s all I know.

Beautiful sleeve design from the always reliable Cathnor Records

Smelling the smoke.

Posted in music with tags , , , , , , , on February 1, 2011 by Tanner

Michael Pisaro/Taku Sugimoto 2 seconds / b minor / wave Erstwhile

In my apartment I can hear my neighbors walk across the floor, stub their feet on chairs, sing obscurely in the shower. I can hear the streaks of their hands against their walls. Against the ceiling. Against.

I’m tired, exhausted to the point of sinking, sinking through the floor, communing with basement cockroaches. I don’t sing their praises enough do I? Antennae conducting darkened symphonies for cobwebs, for shadows, for ice skates forgotten in boxes. I wonder how it is so easy for this album by Sugimoto and Pisaro to slip through the cracks of my exhaustion, as though some assuagement, perhaps — or a confidant. Maybe it’s better to describe the thing? It seems a fool’s game.

I suppose I could wax on about how the album was made — how these two compatible musicians recorded their parts individually, thousands of miles away — and how each track, 2 seconds, b minor, and wave were developed around the ideas of pulse, key, and wave respectively. And I could put some precedence to this form of recording, mentioning Yoshida and Nakamura’s Soba to Bara and Mimeo’s Sight. But it doesn’t really make any more sense of the music. It doesn’t make any sense to the feeling of it as I lay down in the middle of my floor and close my eyes, and make patterns in the carpet with my fingers. And I suppose I should explain the pleasing congruency of the potentials realized here. And then on to praise, congratulating the pair on 2 seconds, whose handclaps, sine tones, block thwacks create a ceaseless slow energy, a mixture of mundane and the unreal. But that seems too easy.

Because really, I’m tired enough to be slothful. And I do apologize for that, for the feelings b minor conjures as Sugimoto’s ambivalent, beautiful chords meander with but never over Pisaro‘s wilting, plaintive guitar. Because who cares about any of these platitudes ? Who cares that I can weave in and out of things here, and let the sound settle inside this place, where my neighbors seem to live, a floor up, a wall across. Coffee grounds between floorboards. And how these guitars sound like lost correspondence, of two voices entwined across one ocean, speaking alone in their living rooms, in their own heads, reading the same letter in different languages.

Questions one could ask about why, what, how, seem useless, knee jerk, assumptive. Is it always so important to ask questions? Wouldn’t be okay to simply sun on the beach of “Wave,” to bask in the recorded crash and tumult of ocean breaking on shore, to tan in Sugimoto’s amp hum? Here, allowing myself a chance to listen seems more important than the how and why right now. To doze. Could it be that they are as exhausted as I am? Hums floating through the room. Swelled tones bruising up under silent skin. It seems like a moment stretched, and caught for a time. Then let go.

And if I’m just mistaken in all this, braising in morbid self-reflection, I’d still like to be here right now. As it’s a quite a beautiful place to be. If just for a time.

My neighbor lights a cigarrette. And I smell the smoke.

For more information, background and ordering: erstwhile

Cafe Oto I

Posted in music with tags , , , , on January 17, 2011 by Tanner

Not Cafe Oto I, but close enough.

Cafe Oto I Radu Malfatti and Dominic Lash b-boim

It’s not as though I’m an expert on Radu Malfatti’s work. Let’s get that out of the way first. But I have heard a fair amount. I’ve heard the earlier free jazz, the blurt fart blurt of the duos with Harry Miller, Louis Moholo and Gunter Christmann, and the various orchestras. It’s great stuff if you dig that kind of thing, as there was an energy he could so easily manifest and spurt out into the air, conjuring phrases that spun and connected in fierce connections. He was, is obviously an enormous technician on his trombone, which, admittedly, means fuck all to me at this point. And frankly, I heard all that busy, “gabby” stuff, as Malfatti would call it, after exploring his more recent improv work, like his excellent duo with Klaus Filip, his group with Thomas Lehn and Phil Durrant, Dach or his duos with Mattin. So it stands as sort of stark relief in comparison to the hyper minimal put-put of the stuff from the early 90s onward. The Dach album on Erstwhile is still one of my favorite albums from this area of music, for reasons hard to explain, but easily felt. It was a perfect example of the outside seeping in, as much about the room as the instruments that only occasionally, softly emerged. It was minimalist, but a lush kind of minimalist, as though produced in a laden air, in a room you could feel. As Malfatti gradually seemed to leave improv (although thankfully not entirely) behind to concentrate on composition I generally lost touch with his work. His minimalist conception, like Taku Sugimoto’s work in the last 10 years, at first seemed like a one trick pony, an escape hatch from his previous free jazz work that led only to another corner, at first interesting, but ultimately reactionary, one note, and self-satisfied. It all has been assiduously documented by Malfatti’s own label b-boim and the Austrian Wandelweiser label. I’ve heard a few, and they mostly haven’t connected with me. The gulf between the art and the conception yawned too great. There was also this fear, partly gathered from interviews or articles, of being talked down to by his music, that in essence, this rejection of some of the things I enjoyed in music–the give and take, the split second decision making, the gabbiness–was some sort of bullshit philistinism on my part. Of course, like anything where one takes an artist’s choice as some sort of commentary on one’s proclivities, it says more about me than about Malfatti. And to judge something as large and impressive in scope that as Malfatti’s body of work in this area the last few years is silly, ignorant… folly.

So with all that said, I picked up Café Oto I on b-boim, performed by the UK contrabassist, Dominic Lash, with sine waves by Malfatti, with interest as well as trepidation. Of his large catalogue, mostly unheard by me, it seemed immediately the most interesting in instrumentation. I‘ve always had a visceral reaction to the contrabass. Something in the low groan appeals to me, the resonance. Composed for Lash, who was also on the excellent Bestiaries on Cathnor, Cafe Oto I was originally premiered at, you guessed it, Cafe Oto in London (see Richard Pinnell’s write up at the Watchful Ear), so it seemed like an place to approach this area of Malfatti’s work again . And nearly from the first emergence of the sine waves coupled with a low bowed bass note from Lash I was drawn in.

There is just something so right about the congruencies that emerge from the dry silence of that room in Oxford where it was recorded (although it makes you wish for a more resonant recording). There’s a twinning and pulling apart of sounds that emerge, either one tone ending before the other or one repeating over a sustained tone that feels like slow movements of large swathes of shade. A surprising element is that despite it’s limited timbre palette — the contrabass only sounds four deep notes throughout, the sine waves barely change pitch– it’s really not that minimal, at least as far as silence to sound. The bass repeats itself in varying rhythms and sustains, the sine waves pick up or sink away at intervals, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. And while Lash’s disciplined playing nearly always stays at the same beautiful, sustained rumble and volume threshold, the sine waves can either be immediately present or barely there, allowing you to forget or mistake them as background hum only the suddenly realize their presence when they drop away.

And at first blush it seems so simple– maybe it is. I, probably more than anyone, have the tendency to look too deeply into things, trying to find connections that may or may not be there. And refreshingly, I’m not really moved so much to ask the questions as to why this rather than that here… I’m not compelled to contemplate how the repetition of sounds creates a sort of timelessness or how it could foster varying degrees, tints of memory. And while one could level these thoughts on this recording, I’m simply not terribly concerned about any of it when I’m actually listening to Café Oto I. I find it instead to be more moving on a visceral level. Café Oto I, like a lot of good albums in this area, seems to sift and bend your environment when you‘re unwary. It can easily function as a sort of room noise, something to simply moves nearly shapelessly in the corner of your ear. It only comes alive when you let it actively engage with you; although, there’s something to be said about simply wandering around, going about your day, drinking coffee, leafing through a magazine when it’s playing. It lends an interesting resonance and import to mundane things. And I could use that more than ever now, drinking beer for lunch, crumbs in my beard.

It ends as soon as it starts. Its brevity, clocking in at little more than a half hour, is both refreshing and confounding. I could easily listen to so much more, but it’s always nice to be left wanting when it comes to music like this. It’s evocative while remaining subtle. And it’s a subtlety that doesn’t need to be explained as such. I feel slightly silly trying to explain it, as it needs no explanation, and instead sits as itself. Always itself.

I’m glad I took the chance on this one.

Available from (I think): erstwhile distro