The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Georg Graewe Quintet:
Amsterdam, October 1998 (Random Acoustics)

Recorded in concert at Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum in 1998, legendary pianist Georg Graewe's Quartet with Frank Gratkowski on alto saxophone & clarinet, Kent Kessler on double bass, and Hamid Drake on drums present a tour-de-force of passion, technique and creative drive in an epic 53 minute improvisation from high energy to reflective stretches; superb! ... Click to View


Georg Graewe:
Stills And Stories (Random Acoustics)

German pianist and Euro Free Jazz stalwart Georg Graewe in his first solo release in more than a decade, a remarkable set of succinct compositions balancing astonishing technical skills with beautifully expressive playing, presented in several series of "stills" and "stories". ... Click to View


Frederick Galiay (Viard / Sebastien / Boudart / Galiay):
Time Elleipsis (Ayler)

Dramatic, darkly thrilling with moments of sheer beauty, from French electric bassist Frederick Galiay and his Camaeleo Vulgaris ensemble, a sextet performing Galiay's compositions in a potent mix of electric guitar, electrified baritone sax, synthesizer, and two drummer/percussionists, recorded after a dozen live concerts honing the material to this riveting studio version. ... Click to View


Francois Carrier / Tomek Gadecki / Matcin Bozek / Michel Lambert:
Wide (FMR)

A burning album of collective free jazz from Canadian compatriots Francois Carrier on alto saxophone and Michel Lamber on drums, on a spring tour of Europe, performing at Polands MOZG in Byrgoszcz, hope of the MOZG Festival, with Polish tenor saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki amd bassist Mracin Bozen, also on French Horn, in an exhilarating set of three extended improvisations. ... Click to View


Thollem / Parker / Cline:
Gowanus Sessions II [VINYL] (ESP)

Free collective improvisation with an electronic edge from the trio of Nels Cline, double bassist William Parker and pianist Thollem McDonas, following up on their 2012 "Gowanus Session I" recorded in the same studio space, here expanding on the 1st session's shorter works with two large and evolving improvisations that balance reflective moments with intensive playing. ... Click to View


Werner Dafeldecker :
Parallel Darks [VINYL] (Room40)

Viennese-born, Berlin-based electro-acoustic composer Werner Dafeldecker (Polwechsel, Fennesz, &c) creates an intense and beautiful musique concrete and acousmatic journey in two parts, examining "perspective, extreme subjectivity and the specters that haunt our auditory worlds" through mysterious sound and enveloping sonic construction, a profound and riveting work. ... Click to View


Skeleton Crew (Frith / Cora):
Learn to Talk [VINYL] (ReR Vinyl)

Reissuing the first of two albums from the NY collaboration of guitarist Fred Frith and cellist Tom Cora, both providing vocals, percussion, violin, & bass, in a classic example of Downtown NY genre-merging of improvisation and rock with a vicious edge, in smart songs and even smarter instrumental sections, an insanely inventive and intelligent album as vital now as it was then. ... Click to View


Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.:
Minstrel In The Galaxy [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (RIOT SEASON)

... Click to View


Leap Of Faith:
Cosmic Distance Ladder (Evil Clown)

The core trio of the Leap of Faith Orchestra comprising multi-reedist & wind player David Peck, also on percussive devices, with Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic and voice, and Yuri Zbitnoff on drums & percussions, with special guests Kat Dobbins on trombone and Bob Moores on trumpet & flugelhorn, in an evolving set of strong harmonic, percussive & lyrical interaction. ... Click to View


Gen Montgomery Ken:
Endogeny [CASSETTE] (Tribe Tapes)

Sound and Visual artist Gen Ken Montgomery released this album on cassette on the Directions Music label in 1990, here reissued in 2020; the two side-long pieces were performed live and then remixed, using a mixture of tapes, concrete and mechanical sounds alongside love instrumentation of percussion, violin, voice, &c, sometimes stark, always fascinating. ... Click to View


Jean Derome:
Somebody Special (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Drawing on Steve Lacy's quintet, Montreal saxophonist Jean Derome pays homage to the late saxophonist through a selection of 9 Lacy pieces with lyrics from Brion Gysin, Lao Tseu, Herman Melville, &c, in a quintet with Derome on alto sax, bass flute & voice, Karen Young providing vocals, Alexandre Grogg on piano, Normand Guilbeault on double bass, Pierre Tanguay on drums. ... Click to View


Ensemble SuperMusique / Symon Henry:
voir dans le vent qui hurle les étoiles rire et rire (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Montreal's true supergroup since 1998 of some of the city's essential Musique Actuelle performers and composers, directed by Danielle Palardy Roger and including Jean Derome, Joane Hetu, Scott Thomson, Lori Freedman, Alexander St. Onge, &c. &c., take on Quebec composer Symon Henry's piece, performed in an exceptional and impressive concert in the Chapel in Bon-Pasteur. ... Click to View


Gabriel Dharmoo :
Quelques fictions (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Stunningly unusual vocal music from composer, music researcher and vocalist based in Montreal, Gabriel Dharmoo, collecting works from 2012 to 2019, performed with small and large ensembles using almost completely wordless voice, utterance, guttural sound, swoops and, melodic flights, augmented with physical percussion like stamping and clamping; brilliant and enthralling. ... Click to View


Prevost / Solberg / Pettersen / Moore / Brice / Hardie-Bick:
Plumes of Ash in Moonlight [2 CDs] (Split Rock Records)

Bringing together two innovative improvising percussionists--Eddie Prevost of AMM fame, and Stale Liavik Solberg (VCDC, John Butcher)--for a studio album of wide-ranging and sometimes hair-raising electroacoustic improvisation, recorded live and unedited with Olie Brice on double bass, Tony Hardie-Bick on piano & tapes, Ed Pettersend on lap steel, and NO Moore on guitar. ... Click to View


Ken Vandermark / Paal Nilssen-Love Duo:
AMR (NO LABEL)

The long-running duo of Chicago saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark and Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love are heard in this live concert at AMR in Geneva, Switzerland in 2018, performing the first four letters of the alphabet ("A", "B", "C" & "D"), each letter a unique creative approach in evolving their remarkable and enthralling dialogs. ... Click to View


Decoy (Alexander Hawkins / John Edwards / Steve Noble) With Joe McPhee:
AC/DC (Otoroku)

The UK Decoy trio of John Edwards (bass), Steve Noble (drums) and Alexander Hawkins (keys) joins forces with pocket trumpet and saxophone player Joe McPhee during McPhee's residency at London's Cafe OTO, recording these two huge sets of brilliant free improv, Hawkins performing on organ adding a unique and soulful tone to the set that balances powerful energy with innate lyricism. ... Click to View


John Carter Octet:
Dauwhe [VINYL] (Black Saint Vinyl)

A much-needed reissue of John Carter's 1982 LP "Dauwhe", the first chapter in his "Roots and Folklore" saga, a 5-part epic through African American heritage, performed with Carter himself on clarinet, Bobby Bradford (cornet), James Newton (flute), Charles Owens (sax, oboe & clarinet), Red Callender (tuba), Roberto Miranda (bass), William Jeffrey (drums), and Luis Peralta (percussion). ... Click to View


Philip Samartzis / Eric La Casa :
Captured Space [CASSETTE] (Cronica)

Kruger National Park in the north-east corner of South Africa is the subject of Eric La Casa and Philip Samartzis's audio exploration, using field recordings made over 10 days in and around the park, and taking them into the studio to organize them into an aural representation of the park's exotic mystery, placidity and tension, with a tinge of the modern world nearby. ... Click to View


Laboratorio Della Quercia:
Laboratorio Della Quercia [VINYL 2 LPs] (Alternative Fox)

Documenting the 12-day Italian experimental jazz festival at the ancient amphitheater Tasso della Quercia in 1978, revolving around Italian improvsers Tommaso Vittorini, Eugenio Colombo, Maurizio Giammarco, Alberto Corvini, Danilo Terenz, with visiting players Steve Lacy, Steve Potts, and Evan Parker, trombonist Roswell Rudd, pianist Frederick Rzewski, and drummer Noel McGhee. ... Click to View


Turbulence:
Eddy Flux (Evil Clown)

The extended horn section for the Leap of Faith Orchestra from the Boston-area collective led by reedist/multi-instrumentalist David Peck, here with PEK on an assortment of saxophones, clarinets, flutes, game calls and percussion, the other horns from Michael Caglianone on sax, game calls, wind sirens and percussion, with drums, bells, bowls and other percussion from Yuri Zbitnoff. ... Click to View


Ratchet Orchestra:
Coco Swirl (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Active since the early 90's, the superb Montreal super-group Ratchet Orchestra under the direction of Nicolas Caloia with 19 performers presents 10 works including the title track, with soloists including Jean Rene, Lori Freedman, Jean Derome, Ellwood Epps, Sam Shalabi, Craig Petersen, Yves Charuest, Joshua Zubot, Scott Thomson, Isaiah Ceccarelli, &c. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos :
Speak In Tongues And Hope For The Gift Of Interpretation (Relative Pitch)

Dedicating his pieces to Charlie Parker, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and John Zorn, NY alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos is heard live at this solo concert in New Haven, CT in 2019, reflecting on the history of jazz through his intense playing style that deploys incredible technique balanced with abstraction and rapid lyricism. ... Click to View


Raoul Bjorkenheim :
Solar Winds (Long Song Records)

Paying tribute to his musical inspiration John Coltrane, Finnish/NY electric guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim leads a quartet with Silvia Bolognesi on contrabass, Tiziano Tononi on drums & percussion, and Emanuele Parrini on violin, as they perform five Coltrane compositions and two Bjorkenheim originals, a superlative homage to technical brilliance and conceptual vision. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne / Duck Baker / Randy Hutton :
The Guitar Trio In Calgary 1977 (Emanem)

A concert recording from 1977 in Calgary, CA captured during Eugene Chadbourne's time in Canada prior to his move to NYC, from the guitar trio of Duck Baker, Randy Hutton & Eugene Chadbourne, performing on acoustic guitars, using a variety of approaches to improvising in trio, duo and solo configurations, with original work, an Ornette Coleman mashup, and a piece by Charlie Haden. ... Click to View


Company:
1983 [VINYL 2 LPs] (Honest Jons Records)

Unreleased recordings from Derek Bailey's Company project, recorded at the BBC in 1983 with a stellar set of performers including Evan Parker (clarinet), Hugh Davies (electronics), Jamie Muir (percussion), Joelle Leandre (bass), J.D. Parran (winds), John Corbett (trumpet), Vinko Globokar (trombone), Ernst Reijseger (cello), and Peter Brotzmann (reeds). ... Click to View


Muhal Abrams Richard:
Celestial Birds [VINYL] (KARLRECORDS)

A compilation of works from the late Chicago multi-reedist, experimenter, and AACM founder Muhal Richard Abrams, focused on his widely unknown electronic compositions, in four recording from 1968-1995 with collaborators including Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Amina Claudine Myers, Roscoe Mitchell, Maurice McIntyre, Yousef Yancey, Thurman Barker, &c. ... Click to View


Eric La Casa:
L'inspir du Rivage part 2&3 [VINYL 7-inch] (Povertech / Joe Colley)

First stock of this 1999 7" from French sound artist Eric La Casa created as part of Joe Colley's "Explorer" series, the title translating to "the shore breathing" where each composition develops from field recordings of water, the first part more naturalist and adhering to the initial recordings, the second using sound processing to create something unique and mesmerizing. ... Click to View


Rachel Musson / Naoko Saito / Audrey Lauro:
The Region Of Braille Responsibility [CD with English Braille Sheet] (Armageddon Nova)

Three female saxophonist from around the world--Rachel Musson (UK), Naoko Saito (Japan) and Audrey Lauro (Belgium)--in a compilation of solo saxophone works, two extended pieces from Musson and Satio, and four shorter works from Laura, with a CD insert with English Braille characters, and a QR code that, when scanned, plays the audio information for the album. ... Click to View


Musica Elettronica Viva:
United Patchwork [VINYL 2 LPs] (Alternative Fox)

A reissue of Musica Elettronica Viva's innovative 1978 open-structured album of free improvisation, United Patchwork, with the core performers of Frederic Rzewski on piano & electric piano, Richard Teitelbaum on synthesizer & conch shells, Alvin Curran on synthesizer & keys, plus Karl Berger on keys & vibraphone, Garrett List on trombone, and Steve Lacy on soprano sax. ... Click to View


Karkhana:
Bitter Balls [VINYL] (Unrock)

LP-only, no 7" single. The second full-length album from Karkhana, a septet featuring members of Dwarfs Of East Agouza, A "Trio", Konstrukt, Chicago Tentet, Land of Kush, among others in four compositions of "crystal clear and deep, dark, distorted unrock compositions" in both electric and acoustic instrumentation, an international genre-crossing album. ... Click to View


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  Susie's Aria  

Drummer Susie Ibarra Premieres her First Opera


By Steve Smith
Photos by Kurt Gottschalk 2003-06-20

Susie Ibarra Ever since Susie Ibarra burst onto the international jazz scene in the early 1990s, the versatile young percussionist and composer has made it eminently clear that there is no boundary to her artistic vision, nor any assumption she was content to leave unchallenged. As a member of groups led by David S. Ware, William Parker and Matthew Shipp, Ibarra held her own among decidedly heavyweight company in a field still largely dominated by male performers. The ferocious energy and sinuous grace of her drumming cast aside any considerations of gender, as she quickly became a much-demanded collaborator for such leading maverick artists as Derek Bailey, John Zorn and Pauline Oliveros.

Ibarra stepped out on her own as a bandleader in 1999, asserting her growing confidence as a composer. Her fresh, original musical voice bears the influence of jazz, blues, contemporary composition, gamelan and the traditional music of her Philippine heritage. That voice has been manifested in a chamber music-influenced trio, a fiery mainstream jazz quartet and the hypnotically grooving Electric Kulintang project. At the same time, Ibarra has also been active in the free-improv trio Mephista, alongside pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and electronics performer Ikue Mori.

For most performers, the furious pace at which Ibarra's calendar fills up would prove more than sufficient. But for the last year, she was also hard at work on a project that any composer might find daunting, and one that most jazz-related artists would never consider tackling in the course of a career: The 32-year-old composer has just completed her first opera.

Based on a libretto by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, Shangri-La received its world premiere on June 14 at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton, New Jersey, produced by Passage Theater Company. Despite its bucolic title, Shangri-La is a challenging work, taking as its subject matter three Western businessmen drawn into the sex trade in Thailand, and their inability to escape the situation in which they find themselves.

The two-hour chamber opera featured a nine-member cast with a traditional Thai vocalist, two sopranos, one mezzo-soprano, two tenors, a baritone and a bass-baritone. Noted composer Tania Leon led an ensemble that included regular Ibarra collaborators Craig Taborn on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass and Roberto J. Rodriguez on percussion, alongside flutist Thea Reynolds, violinists Meg Okura and Joyce Hammon, violist Carol Cook and cellist Egil Rostad. Ibarra herself did not perform in the piece, for which she supplied a through-composed score that still provides for a degree of improvisatory freedom from the soloists.

Perhaps the most obvious question is why Ibarra would be interested in composing an opera at all. Blame it on her youth: Opera played an important role in Ibarra's childhood. "My mother took me to the opera when I was a kid," she said, her voice animated by a breathless ebullience that colors a conversation generously punctuated by laughter. "She had season tickets. My father's not an opera fan, and my brothers and sisters didn't want to go. I was the youngest, so I would be the one going with her."

For Ibarra, who grew up in Seabrook, Texas, a small town located between Houston and Galveston, this meant seeing first-class performances at Houston Grand Opera, one of the nation's most renowned and ambitious companies. "I grew up seeing incredible productions at Houston Grand Opera. In a way, this project takes me back to my childhood, because I have all these memories of different classical operas."

It was partially that childhood familiarity that led Ibarra to sign onto the current project when Komunyakaa, who conceived Shangri-La, proposed it to her. A Trenton resident and Princeton University professor, Komunyakaa is widely revered for his rhythmic, almost reportorial style. Many of his works have touched on musical themes; one, the epic-length Testimony, based on the life and art of Charlie Parker, was adapted as an opera by Australian jazz composer and saxophonist Sandy Evans for broadcast by the Australian Radio Company in 1999, and staged by the Melbourne Festival at the Sydney Opera House in January of this year.

Ibarra first met Komunyakaa in 1997, and felt an immediate affinity with the Louisiana-born poet. She accompanied him in several readings, and played behind him on Herido, a vibrant, bluesy session Komunyakaa co-led with Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez, which was issued by 8th Harmonic Breakdown in 2001. Despite her youthful passion for mainstream operatic lore, however, what attracted Ibarra most to Komunyakaa's project was its thoroughly contemporary subject matter - a refreshing anomaly in a contemporary opera scene still predominately mired in the reheated verismo of recent pieces like Therese Raquin, Little Women and A View from the Bridge.

"Yusef originally had the idea [for the opera] from a magazine article he came upon," Ibarra said. "It mentioned how British and European businessmen were going over to Thailand on sex tours, and how they were committing suicide and never coming back. It's set in Bangkok, but it touches on things that happen in a lot of countries, not just Southeast Asia. This stuff goes on in Cuba, it goes on in Eastern Europe, it happens pretty much everywhere. It's a story about paradise and hell-and how paradise can turn into hell-and it also touches on the AIDS epidemic, which is out of control in the sex trade."

The main character in Shangri-La is John Wong, "a Chinese-American metaphysical detective from San Francisco who is hired to go to Bangkok to investigate an embezzlement scheme," according to Ibarra. The three western businessman are Paul, a middle-aged African-American Vietnam veteran, Eddie, a troubled younger man, and David, the sleazy drug smuggler who is actually guilty of the crime Wong is investigating. Alee is a waitress who has a sideline in translating letters into English. Other characters include three women, Noe, Mana and Pidang, and the Barker, who runs the club. The cast may be unconventional, but the drama that results from their intersection is certainly operatic in scope.

"As musicians, we live with music and sound," Ibarra said. "We write songs, not characters. But writers live with these characters. So I've been living with these characters, and it's been really cool to experience that. Living with these characters for such a long time, they become real, like they're right behind you. It really is fun."

Though it may initially seem far-fetched to imagine an opera written by an avant-garde jazz drummer, for anyone who knows Ibarra's own recordings, it doesn't take a giant leap of imagination to understand why Komunyakaa sensed that she might be up to the challenge. Much of the music she has composed for her trio - particularly the current lineup that features Taborn and violinist Jennifer Choi - combines the rigor and transparency of chamber music with an unmistakable sense of narrative drama.

Increasingly recognized for her work as a composer, Ibarra was recently commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution to compose Lakbay, an extended suite for her trio that was premiered in December at the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC, in conjunction with an exhibition of photography by Filipino American artist Ricardo Alvarado. Ibarra has been tapped to write two new works for the Kronos Quartet (she will also perform in one of them), and she is also scoring two forthcoming documentariesby Chinese filmmaker Yan Jin.

Still, while Ibarra is not the first jazz composer to take a crack at opera,there have been few predecessors to whom she could turn for inspiration. The best known, of course, is pianist Anthony Davis, whose first opera, X, based on the life of Malcolm X, was produced to widespread acclaim in Philadelphia and New York in 1986. (It's notable, perhaps, that Davis-like his fellow improvisor Ibarra-was drawn to a contemporary subject for operatic treatment.) Davis has since composed three further operas: Under the Double Moon, a science fiction work; Tania, based on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst; and Amistad, detailing the historic slave-ship revolt and subsequent trial.

Other jazz composers have turned to more archetypal allegories for their operatic subjects, such as Leroy Jenkins's Mother of Three Sons, successfully staged by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at Houston Grand Opera and elsewhere, and Anthony Braxton's Trillium R: Shala Fears for the Poor, critically lambasted after its New York premiere. Julius Hemphill employed a still more idiosyncratic approach in his Long Tongues: A Saxophone Opera, abstaining from using singers altogether. The one thing that unites all of these disparate works, unfortunately, is that none has found a place in the standard repertoire and only three (X, Tania, Trillium R) have been recorded, making it nearly impossible for a young artist like Ibarra to hear and learn from them.

Instead, Ibarra immersed herself in contemporary opera scores and recordings. She cites György Ligeti's dark, surreal Le Grande Macabre as a particular favorite, owing in part to its near-improvisatory freedom of expression. Ibarra admits to having been a bit overwhelmed initially by the notion of composing a work of such scale, particularly in light of her own daunting schedule. "I was intimidated by the fact that it could be quite long!" she said. "To me, time was of the essence. But you just have to break it down, and you just do it-like anything, you just begin.The libretto was written pretty quickly, and I find Yusef's words very musical, so it was really easy for me to write with them."

When she finally began to compose Shangri-La in earnest, the music that poured forth reflected her own personality and that of her collaborator, rather than slavishly imitating any particular past master. "Whatever you do, it's going to sound like you," Ibarra says. "There's an influence of Thai music, both traditional percussion and the classical court style. There's some gong music. And there's definitely a blues influence, because I feel that Yusef's writing is so heavily influenced by the blues. It's really kind of an interpretation of his words."

Given the difficulties and expense involved in mounting operatic productions, it's far too soon to tell what the ultimate fate of Shangri-La will be. Ibarra's prognosis is upbeat, however; Passage Theatre hopes to mount a full-scale production of the work, and presenters in New York City and elsewhere have indicated their interest. Meanwhile, emboldened by the experience of creating the work, Ibarra eagerly envisions an ongoing working relationship with Komunyakaa.

"In an age of specialization, people just concentrate in their own medium," she says. "It used to be that artists were collaborating all the time. We've developed this great collaboration, and we have a lot of other ideas. We work well in this medium, and we get the chance to talk about a lot of important things that I think need to be talked about."



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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Georg Graewe Quintet:
Amsterdam,
October 1998
(Random Acoustics)



Werner Dafeldecker:
Parallel Darks
[VINYL]
(Room40)



Skeleton Crew
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Cora):
Learn to Talk
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(ReR Vinyl)



Frederick Galiay
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Symon Henry:
voir dans le vent
qui hurle les
étoiles rire
et rire
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Jean Derome:
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Raoul Bjorkenheim:
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Ratchet Orchestra:
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[VINYL 2 LPs]
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