The Squid's Ear
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Sean Conly : Hard Knocks (Clean Feed)

The history of bassist Sean Conly's collaborations and releases shows a strong love of the jazz tradition and a perceptive writing style that references that tradition, heard here in free and lyrical original Conly compositions performed in the studio in a trio setting with fellow New York musicians Satoshi Takeishi on drums and Michael Attias on alto saxophone. ... Click to View


Caterina Palazzi Sudoku Killer: Asperger (Clean Feed)

A wicked hybrid of jazz, avant rock and cinematic elements, bassist Caterina Palazzi's quintet Sudoku Killer takes on the music of Disney in a suite where each track is dedicated to an antagonist from movies like "Snow White" or "Sleeping Beauty", performed with Giacomo Ancillotto (guitar), Maurizio Chiavaro (drums), Sergio Pomante (sax) and Antonio Raia (sax). ... Click to View


Alberto: Pinton Noi Siamo: Opus Facere (Clean Feed)

Multi-reedist and wind player Alberto Pinton's quartet Noi Siamo ("We Are") with Niklas Barno on trumpet, Torbjorn Zetterberg on bass and Konrad Agnas on drums, are caught at the Swedish Glenn Miller Cafe in Stockholm for this exciting album of knowledgable and passionate free jazz, a dynamic concert referencing Eric Dolphy, Freddy Hubbard, and Ornette Coleman. ... Click to View


Jemeel Moondoc Quartet: The Astral Revelations (RogueArt)

Saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc takes his masterful NY quartet of pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist Hilliard Green, and drummer Newman Taylor Baker to perform live at Bimhuis in Amsterdam in 2016, capturing four remarkable improvisations of Moondoc compositions including an extended rendering of "Cosmic Nickelodeon", the band balancing lyricism with intensely creative playing. ... Click to View


North Of North (Pateras / Tinkler / Veltheim): North Of North (Offcompass)

The first release on pianist Anthony Pateras' new label OffCompass intended to explore a more diverse set of projects is from the North Of North trio of Anthony Pateras on piano, Scott Tinkler no trumpet, Erkki Veltheim on electric violin, using improvisation, Carnatic music, 20th and 21st century compositional strategies, mathematical theories and open forms of jazz. ... Click to View


Will Guthrie : 6 Days into 8 [CASSETTE] (Careful Catalog)

The sixth set performed during an 8-day tour of Japan in 2018 by Australian drummer / percussionist Will Guthrie (Ames Room, The Sommes Ensemble) took place at 0g in Osaka, captured here as a 32 minute set of vigorous playing tempered with introspective passages, using powerful technique and unorthodox approaches to his kit; cathartic and captivating. ... Click to View


Karl Berger: In A Moment - Music For Piano And Strings (Tzadik)

Pianist and vibraphonist Karl Berger is also a professor of composition, having won numerous awards and commissions for his work, here presenting the final part of a trilogy written Tzadik, a beautiful 14-part suite for piano and string realized with Berger himself at the keys in a septet of well known NY performers including Ken Filiano, Tomas Ulrich, Jason Kao Hwang. ... Click to View


Dave Holland Feat. Evan Parker / Craig Taborn / Ches Smith: Uncharted Territories [2 CDs] (Dare2 Records)

Reuniting late bassist Dave Holland with saxophonist Evan Parker, a longtime friend from their early days in London, and joined by Craig Taborn on piano and electronics, and Ches Smith on percussion, as the group performs as a quartet and also in a variety of permutations of duo and trio configurations, for a set of rich and informed dialogs of masterful skill. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : Fuck Chuck (Chadula)

An unsual album even by Chadbourne's standards, this reissue and remaster of material recorded in the 80s and 90s from his cassette series brings recordings from his noise group Chuck with Murray Reams and David Nikias together with recordings with Ut Gret (Joee Conroy and David Stilley) to create a hybrid of live experimental improv and found sounds. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : Lets Get Weird But Comfortable (Chadula)

Named for an audience comment that their music was "weird but comfortable", guitarist Eugene Chadbourne's band with Jeb Bishop on trombone, Jorrit Dijkstra on saxophone, Nate McBride on bass, and Curt Newton on bass are caught live in Boston covering the music of Thelonius Monk, Misha Mengelberg, Steve Lacy, Duke Ellington, Doc Chad, Willie Nelson and The James Gang. ... Click to View


Omelette: Live At The JazzLab (FMR)

Australia's performing trio Omelette of Jordan Murray on trombone, Ronny Fereller on drums, and Luke Howard on piano follow up their 2014 album on Jazzhead with this live album, the trio joined by Chilean percussionist working in Melbourne Javier Fredes, for a lyrical and rhythmically rich live performance at Melbourne's JazzLab in 2017. ... Click to View


Implicate Order, The : At Seixal (Clean Feed)

The very first album from Portugal's impressive Clean Feed Records is this live album at Auditorio do Forum Cultural do Seixal from the trio of Steve Swell on trombone, Ken Filiano on bass and Lou Grassi on drums, joined by Paulo Curado on alto sax and Rodrigo Amado on baritone sax, a significant concert merging free players from two nations with profound influence on jazz music. ... Click to View


Magnus Granberg : Es Schwindelt Mir, Es Brennt Mein Eingweide (Another Timbre)

An hour-long work for an ensemble of six musicians by Swedish composer Magnus Granberg performed by Anna Lindal on baroque violin, d incise on vibraphonen electronics, Cyril Bondi on percussion, Anna Kaisa Meklin on viola da gamba, Christoph Schiller on spinet, and Magnus Granberg himself on prepared piano, transforming material from a song by Franz Schubert. ... Click to View


John Cage: Two2 (Another Timbre)

One of a handful of John Cage's number pieces, this work for two pianists follows the forms of Renga poetry, composed with 36 lines of music, each containing 5 measures, and each line having 31 events occuring in the sequence 5-7-5-7-7, with the pianists allowed their own tempo but waiting to synchronize each measure, as performed by Mark Knoop and Philip Thomas. ... Click to View


Bondi / Martel / Schiller: tse (Another Timbre)

With backgrounds in both improvisation and compositional music, the new trio of Cyril Bondi on harmonium, Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba, and Christoph Schiller on spinet, agreed on a sequence of pitches for this 5 part improvisational work, allowing space for the players to explore pitch and melody within a contemplative and pensive framework. ... Click to View


Angles 3: Parede (Clean Feed)

Martin Kuchen's Angles band changes shape constantly, originally a trio and expanding as large as Angles 10, but this album, recorded live at SMUP, Parede, Portugal in 2016, returns the band to the original trio of Kuchen on sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on double bass, and Kjell Nordeson on drums & percussion, reworking Angles compositions to their essence. ... Click to View


Honest John w/ Ab Baars: Treem (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian quintet Honest John of Ole Henrik Moe on violin, Kim Johannesen on guitar & banjo, Ola Hoyer on double bass, Erik Nylander on drums & drum machine, on Klaus Ellerhusen sax and clarinet, are joined by multi-reedist and shakuhachi player Ab Baars at Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria to capture this quirky, controlled, and incredibly knowledgeable concert. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos / CP Unit: Silver Bullet In The Autumn Of Your Years (Clean Feed)

Pushing the envelope in genre-smashing collective improvisation, Brooklyn-based sax and synth player Chris Pitsiokos and his CP Unit with 2 electric bassists--Tim Dahl and Henry Fraser--2 drummers--Jason Nazary and Connor Baker--and guitarist Sam Lisabeth, take a twisted path through improv, rock, and electronics that always shows a fierce allegiance to free jazz. ... Click to View


Scott Clark: Tonow (Clean Feed)

Drummer Scott Clark continues to explore his Native American roots in this album dedicated to the protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, each heartfelt piece titled for aspects of those demonstrations, performed with bassist Cameron Ralston, trumpeter Bob Miller, saxophonist Jason Scott, guitarist Alan Parker, and extended with Chicago guitarist Tobin Summerfield. ... Click to View


Lynn Cassiers: Imaginary Band (Clean Feed)

Composer, vocalist and electronics artist Lynn Cassiers' new septet with Sylvain Debaisieux (soprano and tenor saxophone), Ananta Roossens (violin), Niels Van Heertum (euphonium), Erik Vermeulen (piano), Manolo Cabras (double bass) and Marek Patrman (drums) in their adventurous debut album blending improv, pop aesthetics, electronics, dreamlike voice, and solid playing. ... Click to View


AMM: An Unintended Legacy [3 CDs] (Matchless)

A beautiful 3-CD set with a hardcover book presenting 3 full concerts from 2015 & 2016 of the AMM trio configuration of John Tilbury (piano), Keith Rowe (guitar) and Eddie Prevost (percussion). The 70 page book, dedicated to saxophonist Lou Gare, includes an AMM discography, plus photos, and essays by Paige Mitchell and Allen Fisher; Keith Rowe; Eddie Prevost; and Seymour Wright. ... Click to View


Mary Halvorson : Code Girl [2 CDs] (Firehouse 12 Records)

Always open to new approaches, NY guitarist Mary Halvorson takes her trio with drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek, adds trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and, in a twist of the thumbscrew, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, for a mix of song and instrumental pieces that balance jazz and rock sensibilities with lyricism, intricate lines, and creative spirit. ... Click to View


Mary Halvorson : Code Girl [VINYL] (Firehouse 12 Records)

Always open to new approaches, NY guitarist Mary Halvorson takes her trio with drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek, adds trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and, in a twist of the thumbscrew, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, for a mix of song and instrumental pieces that balance jazz and rock sensibilities with lyricism, intricate lines, and creative spirit. ... Click to View


The Thing (Gustafsson / Haker Flaten / Nilssen-Love + McPhee): Again (The Thing Records)

The Thing "again" as Gustafsson on saxophones, Haker Flaten on electric and acoustic bass, and Nilssen-Love on drums & percussion present 3 extended blues-based, Ayler-inflected free jazz pieces, with Gustafsson's powerfully emotional playing over Haker-Flaten and Nilssen-Love's powerful polyrhythmic foundations; Joe McPhee joins for one track taking on a Frank Lowe piece. ... Click to View


The Thing (Gustafsson / Haker Flaten / Nilssen-Love + McPhee): Again [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing "again" as Gustafsson on saxophones, Haker Flaten on electric and acoustic bass, and Nilssen-Love on drums & percussion present 3 extended blues-based, Ayler-inflected free jazz pieces, with Gustafsson's powerfully emotional playing over Haker-Flaten and Nilssen-Love's powerful polyrhythmic foundations; Joe McPhee joins for one track taking on a Frank Lowe piece. ... Click to View


Moholo-Moholo's, Louis Five Blokes: Uplift The People (Ogun)

Drummer Moholo-Moholo, a member of Blue Notes, Elton Dean's Ninesene, Foxes Fox, London Improvisers Orchestra, a sideman for Brotzmann, Keith Tippets sideman and drummer and most importantly, band leader in a rich, lyrical and spiritual album recorded live at Cafe Oto in 2017 with Alexander Hawkins (piano), John Edwards (bass), Shabaka Hutchings (sax) and Jason Yard (sax). ... Click to View


Daniel Carter / William Parker / Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light (Live At Tufts University) (Aum Fidelity)

A long-form 3-part work of collective improvisation from 3 masterful New York free jazz legends--Daniel Carter on flute, trumpet, clarinet, and saxophones, William Parker on bass, and Matthew Shipp on piano--performing live at Tufts University in 2017 in a beautifully thoughtful and lyrical concert presented after a screening of the '59 film "The Cry of Jazz". ... Click to View


Ceramic Dog (Ribot / Ches Smith / Shahzad Ismaily): Y R U Still Here? [VINYL] (Northern Spy)

In the Downtown NY tradition of blurring rock and improvisation, the trio of Marc Ribot on guitar and voice, Shahzad Ismaily on bass, Moog, percussion and voice, and Ches Smith on drums, percussion and electronics, answer their own question 'why are you still here' through 11 genre-crossing songs of turmoil and inquisitiveness, perfect for the polarities of the time. ... Click to View


The Ex: 27 Passports (Ex Records)

After several years of Brass Unbound, Getatchew Mekuria, festivals and countless side projects, The Ex return to The Ex, a 4-piece led by the trio of guitars from Andy Moor, Terrie Hessels and Arnold de Boer driven by drummer Katherina Bornefeld, de Boer acerbic and insightful on this seriously great rock record; plus a 36-page photo book from Andy Moor. ... Click to View


The Ex: 27 Passports [VINYL] (Ex Records)

After several years of Brass Unbound, Getatchew Mekuria, festivals and countless side projects, The Ex return to The Ex, a 4-piece led by the trio of guitars from Andy Moor, Terrie Hessels and Arnold de Boer driven by drummer Katherina Bornefeld, de Boer acerbic and insightful on this seriously great rock record; plus a 36-page photo book from Andy Moor. ... Click to View


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The Squid's Ear
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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 André 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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