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Drone Trio (Davis / Frith / Greenlief): Lantskap Logic (Clean Feed)

Recording in the Bay Area at the Mills College Chapel in Oakland, the Drone Trio of Fred Frith on electric guitar, Phillip Greenlief using extended techniques on alto & tenor saxophones, and Evelyn Davis on the Chapel's pipe organ, use the natural resonance of the chapel and their masterful skills as improvisors to evolve fervid and powerfully sonorous environments. ... Click to View


Flavio Zanuttini Opacipapa: Born Baby Born (Clean Feed)

Italian trumpeter Falvio Zanuttini (Arbe Garbe) leads his bassless trio with Piero Bittolo Bon on alto sax and Marco D'Orlando on drums through 8 Zanuttini compositions, exciting free jazz with a lyrical bent and a playful attitude, the unique orchestration driving the players into post-bop territory with great parallel interaction in the horns and swinging drums - impressive! ... Click to View


The Way Ahead (Roligheten / Alberts / Barno / Aleklint / Stahl / Hoyer / Ostvang): Bells, Ghosts And Other Saints (Clean Feed)

An incredibly informed and modern album of free jazz drawing on an Albert Ayler influence from the Norwegian and Swedish septet of Andre Roligheten on tenor saxophone, clarinet, Kristoffer Alberts on alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, Niklas Barno on trumpet, Mats Aleklint on trombone, Mattias Stahl on vibraphone, Ola Hoyer on double bass, and Tollef Ostvang on drums. ... Click to View


Francesco Cusa & The Assassins Meets Duccio Bertini: Black Poker (Clean Feed)

The Italian free improv quartet The Assassins (Francesco Cusa, drums; Giulio Stermieri, piano; Flavio Zanuttini, trumpet; Giovanni Benvenuti, sax) joins toget with the classical chamber string ensemble, Florence Art Quartet (Daniele Iannaccone, violin; Lorenzo Borneo violin; Agostino Mattioni, viola; Cristiano Sacchi, cello) in a wonderful hybrid of both approaches. ... Click to View


Zack Clarke: Mesophase (Clean Feed)

Mesophase: matter that is neither liquid or solid, sharing properties of both; pianist and electronic artistZack Clarke's inspired album shares properties of improvisation, experimental/ea and through-composed music, performed with fellow NY-ers Chris Irvine (cello), Charlotte Greve (winds), Nick Dunston (double bass), and Leonid Galaganov ( percussion, waterphone & shakuhachi). ... Click to View


Frantz Loriot / Christian Wolfarth: The Call [VINYL] (Shhpuma)

Two unconventional and experimenting improvisers--French-Japanese violist Frantz Loriot and Swiss percussionist Christian Wolfarth--in a deceptive album of acoustic improvisation that elusively takes on electric qualities in the hands of these two innovators, seducing the listener through unusual twists and turns of perfectly paced interactions. ... Click to View


Ricardo Toscano Quartet : Feat. Joao Pedro Coelho, Romeu Tristao & Joao Lopes Pereira (Clean Feed)

Saxophonist Ricardo Toscano's Quartet with Joao Pedro Coelho on piano, Romeu Tristao on bass, and Joao Lopes Pereira on drums, a great example of modern Portuguese mainstream jazz that pays homage to the masters of bop and the Blue Note era, in a lyrical album of Toscano original compositions, alongside a rendering of Herbie Hancock's "The Sorcerer". ... Click to View


Hamar Trio (Holm / Faustino / Morao): Yesterday Is Here (Clean Feed)

Drawing from two live performances, one at Salao Brazil in Coimbra, the other at SMUP Parede in Portugal, from the trio of Norwegian multi-reedist Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (Ballrog), and Portuguese double bassist Hernani Faustino (Red Trio) and drummer/percussionist Nuno Morao (The Selva), for four spontaneous improvisations of great depth and mastery. ... Click to View


Antonio Raia : Asylum (Clean Feed)

Naples tenor saxophonist Antonio Raia's album of solo saxophone improvisations employs a mix of traditional and unusual techniques in 12 concise pieces that fragment "scraps" of melody into a diverse ruminating streams, recorded at the city's Filangeri Asylum by sound artist Renato Fiorito, using ten microphones to capture the unique qualities of the space. ... Click to View


Antonio Raia : Asylum [VINYL] (Clean Feed)

Naples tenor saxophonist Antonio Raia's album of solo saxophone improvisations employs a mix of traditional and unusual techniques in 12 concise pieces that fragment "scraps" of melody into a diverse ruminating streams, recorded at the city's Filangeri Asylum by sound artist Renato Fiorito, using ten microphones to capture the unique qualities of the space. ... Click to View


Chicago Edge Ensemble (Phillips / Drake / Williams / Bishop / Pablan): Insidious Anthem (Trost Records)

Drawing together some of Chicago's finest improvisers--leader Dan Phillips on guitar, Mars Williams on saxophones, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Krzysztof Pabian on double bass, and Hamid Drake on drums--for their second album, a balance set of creative jazz tunes with solid compositions that lend themsevles to exultant soloing, unusual sonic moments, and great collective playing. ... Click to View


Simon Nabatov String Trio: Situations (Leo)

As much a composed work as a work of improvisation, pianist and composer Simon Nabatov's String Trio with Garteh Lubbe on viola and Ben Davis perform six Nabatov compositions, chamber jazz works that express in both buyouantly intricate and languourosly beautiful abstraction, each piece leaving room for each player to improvise and express themselves. ... Click to View


Heath Watts / M.J. Williams / Nancy Owens / Blue Armstrong : Sensoria (Leo)

Saxophonist Heath Watts' 3rd Leo release is an album of free improvisation with three Montana jazz mavens--Blue Armstrong on double bass, MJ Williams on trombone, piano & melodica, and Nancy Owens on violin--in nine recordings of sophisticated and intelligent interaction that naturally evolves new directions of irrepressibly enjoyable and diverse conversation. ... Click to View


Ikui Doki (Bernado / Mayot / Rinaudo): Ikui Doki (Ayler)

Winners of the Jazz Migration and tour JMF 2018, the chamber jazz trio of Sophie Bernado (bassoon), Hugues Mayot (saxophone & clarinet) and Rafaelle Rinaudo (harp & effects) share their passion for creative music that embraces composition and improvisation, springboarding off composers like Debussy while transferring warmth and vision into free jazz; magnificent. ... Click to View


Szilard Mezei Tul A Tiszan Innen Ensemble: Citromfa [2CDS] (FMR)

Violist Szilard Mezei's Serbian jazz-folk group Tul a Tiszan Innen Ensemble is a twelve-piece band that functions as a small orchestra playing a range from complex to spacious compositions and arrangements from Mezei, using themes from Hungarian folk songs from Vojvodina to create expansive compositions over which the adept members of his ensemble improvise. ... Click to View


Les Surruralists (Bull / Normand / Grossman / Jacques / Berirau): La Way Qu'a Do (Tour de Bras)

Slyly crossing modern improv and EAI approaches in a surreal take on early bottleneck, banjo and slide blues styles from the Quebec quintet of Arthur Bull on harmonica, voice, guitar, electronics, Eric Normand on banjo, voice, bass, Ben Grossman on "old wheel", Anne-Francoise Jacques on engines, and Gabriel Rochette on trombone; sincere and eccentric. ... Click to View


Plant (Jim Denley / Eric Normand): II (Tour de Bras)

Separated by 1,000 KMs and speaking a different language, the collaboration of Quebec bassist Eric Normand and Australian saxophonist Jim Denley, both dedicated experimenters, share a common aesthetic in free improvisation as they release their third album: five dialogs using reeds, electric bass, drums, objects and tools to create unusual sonic conversations. ... Click to View


Weasel Walter : Curses (Ugexplode)

Drummer/percussionist and electronic artist Weasel Walter's solo album presents 99 tracks that represent 4 large movements of "detailed abstract madness", titled "Curse Against Humanity", "Casting Destruction", "Ode To The Death Of Enemies", and "Cursed in Eternity", each a vicious and intensely captivating set of elusive movement in accord and discord; fascinating. ... Click to View


Sabu Toyozumi / Rick Countryman / Simon Tan: Preludes And Prepositions (ChapChap Records)

Three extended free improvisations recorded in 2017 in Cubao Quezon City from the trio of Rick Countryman on alto saxophone, Simon Tan on acoustic bass, and Japense first generation free improviser Sabu Toyozumi on drums & Erhu (a 2-stringed Chinese instrument), as the trio take their listeners on a marathon session of inspired and playing. ... Click to View


Derek Bailey / Vertrek Ensemble ‎: Departures (Volatile Records)

After only their first album as a duo, the Edmonton, Canada duo Vertrek Ensemble of Vadim Budman on electric and acoustic guitar & cornet and Ron de Jong on percussion, travelled to London in 1998 to record a session with legendary free improviser Derek Bailey, this album of open-minded, uniquely voiced and beautifully captured improvisation the result. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman / Matthew Shipp: Oneness [3 CDs] (Leo)

A significant release culminating the partnership of saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp, a distillation of their work after 8 duo recordings and dozens of collaborative albums, this 3 CD presents their work together in nearly telepathic terms: sympathetic and intimate without irascibility, a beautiful and introspective reflection of a shared ethic. ... Click to View


Aine O'Dwyer / Graham Lambkin: Green Ways [2 CDs] (erstwhile)

A unique sound document originally envisioned as a sound map of Ireland, collecting and composing with live recordings from performances in Doon, Dungarvan, Plaistow, Shoreditch, Singo & Stratford, using song, sound, spoken word, extraneous, ambient recordings and abstract and unidentifiable elements, making for an absolutely fascinating and somewhat bizarre album; recommended. ... Click to View


Dustin Carlson (w/ Mitchell / Gentile / Hopkins / Morgan / Trudel / Gouker): Air Ceremony (Out Of Your Head Records)

A strong album of modern creative jazz from New York guitarist Dustin Carlson, in a septet with Matt Mitchell on synth, Kate Gentile on drums, Adam Hopkins on bass, Nathaniel Morgan on alto saxophone, Eric Trudel on baritone saxophone, Danny Gouker on trumpet, sophisticated, intricate, lyrical and compelling compositions driving the enthusiasm and exuberance of their "ceremony"! ... Click to View


Jurg Frey : 120 Pieces of Sound (elsewhere)

Two distinct works by Swiss composer and bass clarinetist Jurg Frey: the 1st, recorded in Connecticut, a quintet composition from 2009 for bass clarinet, cello, violin, keyboard and electric guitar, Frey's harmonies creating an open instrumentation for the clarinet and cello; the second a 1997 composition for multitimbral field recordings and bass clarinet. ... Click to View


Clara de Asis : Without (elsewhere)

French composer and guitarist Clara De Asis composed the extended soundwork "Without" for the duo of Erik Carlson (violin) and Greg Stuart (percussion), defining a precise framework for the position and duration of each sound section and silence, with outlines for texture, volume, use of tone or noise, and percussive materials, but leaving space for many of the performers' choices. ... Click to View


Stefan Thut : about (elsewhere)

Composer & cellist Stefan Thut performs his composition with Ryoko Akama (electronics), Stephen Chase (guitar), Eleanor Cully (piano), Patrick Farmer (metal percussion), and lo wie (tingsha), where half of the group allow single percussive, ringing or electronic sounds to decay, as the other half play high register pitches, in between walking "about" and uttering monosyllabic words. ... Click to View


Insect-ions (Pascal Landry / Mick Barr): out.over.forever (Tour de Bras)

Acoustic guitar intermeshes with electric guitar as Canadian guitarist Pascal Landry and New York guitarist Mick Barr, both of whom play in heavy rock and free improvisation settings, meet in Queens, NY to record this intense album of free playing using a diverse set of approaches, intertwining their strings in an insectile swarm of notes and timbres. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne / Vertek Ensemble: Dimsum, Dodgers, And Dangerous Nights (Volatile Records)

Documenting the meeting of guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, also singing on "If I Were a Bell", with the Edmonton, CA-based Vertrek Ensemble of Ron de Jong on percussion and Vadim Budman on guitars and trumpet, in a city Chadbourne lived in 25 years prior, as he returns for a serious and well recorded album of informed free improv, plus one solo Chad track from a concert during his visit. ... Click to View


John Zorn: In A Convex Mirror (Tzadik)

Three pieces of "sonic voodoo" with John Zorn improvising on saxophone over the hypnotic Hatian influenced drumming of Ches Smith, while Downtown NY experimenter Ikue Mori provides swirls of sound and other aural additions, Zorn's incredible technique, lyrical skills and unusual twists and turns keeping the listener captivated over compelling and rich rhythm. ... Click to View


BROM (Lapshin / Ponomarev / Kurilo): Sunstroke (Trost Records)

Super heavy free jazz with a rock sensibility that also quotes and references the greats, including a track dedicated to Charles Mingus, from the Moscow trio of Dmitry Lapshin on double bass, Anton Ponomarev on saxophone, and Yaroslav Kurilo on drums, founded in 2008 but only now gaining global acknowledgement of their informed and ferocious brand of improv. ... Click to View


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  Goth Pop, The Ocean and Radio Shack  

The Unique Sensibilities of Marianne Nowottny


By Florence Wetzel 2003-06-20

Marianne Nowottny's name doesn't sound like you might expect: she pronounces it "Mah-ri-AH-na," not "Maryann. " The same could be said for her music, which critics in publications as disparate as The New York Times, The Wire and Tiger Beat have praised and attempted to describe. Magnet said that Nowottny's music is "like if Andr Breton wrote Harlequin romances." The writer meant this as a compliment, and it's as good a description as any, but Nowottny doesn't fit into a box; there's no easy recipe for her music.

Marianne Nowottony
[Photo Courtesy: Abaton Book Company]
For those unfamiliar with Nowottny's music, her new Camera Obscura release Illusions of the Sun is a good place to start. It's the 20 year old's seventh release (not counting several dozen live cdrs, videos and limited edition singles). The CD has seven audio tracks as well as a twelve-minute, three-song video. Six of the tracks were recorded at the WNYC-FM studios in New York City in 2001, another at CBGB's Gallery in 2002, and the multimedia portion was filmed at Signal 66 in Washington, D.C. in 2000. In all the tracks, Nowottny sings her original lyrics and accompanies herself on harmonium, piano, and Radio Shack keyboards.

Part of Nowottny's uniqueness is due to her ability - and courage - to allow her voice to explore its full range, from primal growl to operatic soprano to lilting pop. Combined with this wide spectrum of sound is her unusual phrasing: she stretches and compacts words in ways that make the listener hear anew. Repeated listening to Illusions of the Sun - with and without the provided lyrics as a guide - reveals deeper pleasures; as one becomes accustomedto Nowottny's unique phrasing, the unfamiliar becomes familiar, and one can even identify known elements.

"I always listen to music, and in my songs I can hear little parts that come from different pop songs," she said. "The hooks are twisted, tortured, bent, and then fit into my own songs somehow."And it's not just pop that surfaces in her music: listeners hear elements of Frank Zappa, Brian Eno, Diamanda Galas, Nico, and Sun Ra.

Other such luminaries count themselves among her fans.

"When I first heard Marianne's singing I was floored by the timelessness of her sound, simultaneously ancient and in the future," said guitarist Elliott Sharp, who has performed and recorded with the young songwriter. "It's tapped into the same strain that one hears in country blues, in Transylvanian gypsy music, and in fado."

But Nowottny did not grow up hearing these musicians and styles; her songs just came out that way. And the songs on Illusions of the Sun are also remarkable for their lyrics. Nowottny has been writing poetry for years, and her lyrics are highly original, as well as emotive and thought-provoking. In "Grey City" (recorded August 2001, but eerily reflecting the events of the next month), Nowottny writes, "I make believe just to relieve/the shrapnel sewn to my sleeve." Most of her songs concern romance and the many permutations of lost, found, and disappointed love. Reflecting on these songs, Nowottny said "For years I did self-indulgent, ultra-personal teen angst stuff. If I do sit and contemplate this music now, it makes me feel weird." Teen angst it may be, but funneled through Nowottny's sensibility it's heartfelt ("He's probably dead now/He's probably dead someway somehow") and sometimes mischievous ("Paisley or paramecium/Love or lust?"). It's music you can listen to while crying your heart out on your bed or concentrate on for its own reward.

Illusions of the Sun is Nowottny's first release on the Australian label Camera Obscura. Her previous work came out on the Abaton Book Company imprint, a label located in Jersey City and run by Mark Dagley of former Boston art band Girls, and his wife, playwright Lauri Bortz. It's fortunate to have talent, and it's equally fortunate to have people nurture and present your work in a way that preserves your integrity. Since meeting Nowottny in Newton, NJ in 1998, Dagley and Bartz have been her friends and champions, and they have produced a generous catalogue of Nowottny material, including her first release Afraid of Me (1999), Manmade Girl (2001), and SHELL! (2000), Nowottny's duet with her friend Donna Bailey. There's also limited editions of CDs, MP3s, and vinyl, as well as over fifty performance videos. Nowottny, Dagley, and Bortz also share a playful sense of humor, which is evident in Abaton's wide array of Marianne merchandise, which includes Marianne pick-up sticks, a teddy bear called Bearianne Nowottny, and - why not? - Breath of Marianne, which is exactly that, a bottle of her breath.

Nowottny's open-hearted creativity expresses itself in many mediums: music, poetry, painting, sculpture, clothing design, and modeling. It's refreshing to encounter such a genuinely artistic spirit, and as The New Jersey Herald astutely observed, "She may have such a solid following because [her music] is so original and somehow may strike a chord in others, nudging them not to be afraid of themselves, of their innate originality."

The songwriter's gifts flowered in soil that might seem particularly unsuitable for artists: suburban-rural southern New Jersey. "There's strange people down in southern New Jersey; they really took my mind for a spin," she said. "I believed in the goth thing, and there were a lot of goth hicks where I was. I thought the rest of the world was like this too." But no matter the company, Nowottny found solace and beauty in the Jersey Shore landscape. "It's really scenic where I grew up; I lived in a little house by a lake, and there were nice places to be by myself in nature. I went to the ocean every day, and I still dream of it." The unique combination of goth, spinning minds, the Atlantic ocean, and Radio Shack became part of Nowottny's development, fodder for creative expression.

Although Nowottny has received a great deal of attention since a very young age, she is remarkably levelheaded, with a healthy dose of skepticism. "When I was 16 the weird fetish was to call me a teen rocker. I didn't buy into it, and it pissed me off because I thought I was all grown up: 'I'm a woman, leave me alone!' And the main thing people said about me was 'This is really great, but too bad no one cares.' And that contradicts itself. It was sad to me, but I understand it as well - I wasn't making music to make money."

She is inspired by contemporary artists who have found a larger audience without compromising their unusual sound. "The group Einstuerzende Neubauten has a big fan base, and their symbol is everywhere," she said. "And Coldplay has ambient dark songs that are becoming hits."

She has been presenting her music at various East Coast venues since 1999. Currently she's studying at William Patterson University in Wayne, NJ; college as well as a part-time job have curbed her performing schedule, but come fall she will probably be playing out again. In the meantime, she continues creating and absorbing music. "I think about music and songs a lot in my car, and I even have a tape recorder there," she said. "I'm listening to a lot of pop engineer constructed R&B hits, bubblegum gangster music like Missy Elliott, who's amazing. Ashanti's music inspires me - I love the downbeat, and it's a happy-go-lucky, sophisticated, city-woman kind of music. I'm also listening to Fleetwood Mac from the Rumours period - I like the song 'Dreams' a lot."

There's no telling how Nowottny's external and internal influences will reflect in her future music, but however it translates, music lovers - and music connoisseurs - will surely reap the benefits.

Currently she's on the margins of mainstream music, but Nowottny recognizes that with different instrumentation and presentation she could attract a wider audience. It's an opportunity that interests her, but doesn't necessarily drive her, she said. "Music is taking a turn in evolution, but it can't appeal to a mass audience when it's lacking the basic recipe of beats and bass. My dad is tone deaf, but if a song has beats and bass, he'll listen to it. What would change is me, putting my music into something that more people can listen to."

But then, she added, "people who listen to pop music don't give a shit about art."



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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Flavio Zanuttini Opacipapa:
Born Baby Born
(Clean Feed)



The Way Ahead
(Roligheten /
Alberts /
Barno /
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Hoyer /
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Bells, Ghosts
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Drone Trio
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Jose Lencastre
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Francesco Massaro:
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Mary Halvorson /
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Mars Williams presents:
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