The Squid's Ear
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Henry Threadgill Zooid:
Poof (Pi Recordings)

The sixth album in saxophonist and composer Henry Threadgill's Zood small ensemble project Zooid, a quintet with guitarist Liberty Ellman, tuba & trombonist Jose Davila, cellist Christopher Hoffman and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee, following Threadgill's serial intervallic language compositions to create an amazingly intricate yet warmly embraceable avant jazz; exceptional! ... Click to View


Henry Threadgill Zooid:
Poof [VINYL] (Pi Recordings)

The sixth album in saxophonist and composer Henry Threadgill's Zood small ensemble project Zooid, a quintet with guitarist Liberty Ellman, tuba & trombonist Jose Davila, cellist Christopher Hoffman and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee, following Threadgill's serial intervallic language compositions to create an amazingly intricate yet warmly embraceable avant jazz; exceptional! ... Click to View


Lussier / D'Orion / Kuster / Tetreault :
Printemps 2021 (Victo)

This mercurial and impressive 2021 Victoriaville Festival concert brought together improvisers from three duos as a quartet: guitarist Rene Lussier, who has a long running duo with turntablist Martin Tetreault; Erick d'Orion on computer and electronics, who also has a experimental sound duo with Tetrault; and frequently collaborator with Lussier, drummer Robbie Kuster. ... Click to View


Artifacts (Tomeka Reid / Nicole Mitchell / Mike Reed):
...and then there's this (Astral Spirits)

Confirming their place in Chicago's improv legacy, the second album from the Artifacts Trio of Nicole Mitchell on flute & electronics, Tomeka Reid on cello and Mike Reed on drums & percussion expand the AACM canon with compositions from each member, plus several insightful and lively collective improvisations and one piece each from Roscoe Mitchell and Muhal Richard Abrams. ... Click to View


Charlotte Keeffe :
Right Here, Right Now (Discus)

Collecting facets of London trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe's diverse settings and interests, including three live recordings with her own quartet, three recordings with London Improvisers Orchestra including a conduction for a piece dedicated to Steve Beresford, a duo with guitarist Diego Sampieri, and two solo recordings, one interacting with live electronics. ... Click to View


Skeeter Shelton / Hamid Drake:
Sclupperbep (Two Rooms Records)

After meeting in Detroit when tenor saxophonist & flutist Skeeter Shelton subbed for a sick player in a duo concert with drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake, the two found a bond through Shelton's father, Ajaramu Shelton, who had been one of Drake's mentor at Chicago's AACM; the concert was so successful that this recording was immediately planned, based around many of Shelton's themes. ... Click to View


Skeeter Shelton / Hamid Drake:
Sclupperbep [VINYL] (Two Rooms Records)

After meeting in Detroit when tenor saxophonist & flutist Skeeter Shelton subbed for a sick player in a duo concert with drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake, the two found a bond through Shelton's father, Ajaramu Shelton, who had been one of Drake's mentor at Chicago's AACM; the concert was so successful that this recording was immediately planned, based around many of Shelton's themes. ... Click to View


Archer / Keeffe / Pyne:
Hi Res Heart (Discus)

Inspired by the 70's Leo Smith Trio and the AACM tradition, during pandemic lockdowns UK multi-reedist & wind player Martin Archer, Charlotte Keeffe on trumpet & electronics and Martin Pyne on drums, percussion, vibraphone & toy piano, developed these 12 pieces where each member recorded four ideas independently, the other two arranging and recording their own parts in response. ... Click to View


Blue Lines Sextet (Rave / Maris / Wierbos / Scheen / van der Weide / Hadow):
Live At The BIMhuis (Casco Records)

An exceptional live concert of original compositions from pianist Michiel Scheen alongside insightful interpretations of pieces from Charlie Haden and Charles Mingus, plus six collective instant compositions, from the Amsterdam sextet of Scheen, Ada Rave on reeds, Bart Maris on trumpets, Wolter Wierbos on trombone, Raoul van der Weide on bass and George Hadow on drums. ... Click to View


Leap Of Faith:
Imaginary Perspectives (Evil Clown)

The core duet of the Leap of Faith Orchestra of David Peck on clarinets, saxophones, clarinets & flutes, and Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice are joined by Evil Clown regular, Bob Moores on trumpet, guitar, electronics & percussion, the excitement evident as the trio performed together live in the studio the first time after pandemic vaccinations. ... Click to View


PEK Solo / A Quartet of PEKS:
Fixed Intentions for the Saxophone Family (Evil Clown)

The sixth PEK Solo effort of 2020 in Boston-based improviser and composer David Peck's series, this album is a followup to his Clarinet Family album earlier in the year, here creating a virtual symphony of saxophones by layering his composition in the studio through four separate recordings, working in the vein of Rova Sax Quartet or the World Sax Quartet. ... Click to View


Don Cherry:
Complete Communion & Symphony For Improvisers, Revisited (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Following a 1964 Albert Ayler tour, trumpeter Don Cherry remained in Europe, working on new concepts of improvising based on form itself, developing his concepts with saxophonist Gato Barbieri, vibraphonist Karl Berger & bassist J.F. Jenny Clark, composing two brilliant albums: 1966's Communion with Barbieri, Henry Grimes & Ed Blackwell; and in 1967 Symphony for Improvisers as a septet. ... Click to View


Nick Fraser Quartet:
If There Were No Opposites (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

First recording in 2012 as a trio with saxophonist Tony Malaby as a guest, 9 years later Toronto drummer Nick Fraser's quartet with Malaby as a permanent member, Rob Clutton on double bass and Andrew Downing on cello show their long collaboration's strength in a set of improvisations plus compositions for Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and the DJD production, Juliet & Romeo. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman (Duos w/ Burrell / Crispell / Ortiz / Parks / Courvoisie / Fernandez / Taborn / Sanchez / Iyer):
Brass And Ivory Tales [9-CD BOX SET] (Listen! Foundation (Fundacja Sluchaj!))

Referring to the brass saxophone and the piano's ivory keys, Brazilian saxophonist based in New York City Ivo Perelman celebrates his 60th birthday with this 9-CD set of diverse approaches to sax & piano duos, performed with some of world's finest improvising pianists: Dave Burrell, Marilyn Crispell, Aaron Parks, Augusti Fernandez, Craig Taborn, Angelica Sanchez and Vijay Iyer. ... Click to View


Alex Ward:
Gated (Discus)

A stunning solo album showing the widely diverse interests of UK clarinetist and guitarist Alex Ward, recording in the studio in 10 multi-track pieces using clarinets, saxophones, guitars, keyboards, electric bass and assorted software instruments in a mix of pre-composed and improvised approaches, burning the spectrum from contemplative to aggressively assertive performance. ... Click to View


Blue Lines Trio (Scheen / van der Weide / Hadow):
Blue Lines Trio (Casco Records)

With all the tongue-in-cheek aspects of Dutch improvisers, the piano trio of Michiel Scheen on piano, Raoul van der Weide on bass, crackle box & sound objects and George Hadow on drums, all hailing from a superb pedigree of European Free Improv involvement, show their connection through comprehensible playing with a wonderful sense of humor in their approach to delightfully smart playing. ... Click to View


Axel Dorner:
Untitled [3''CD] (Euphorium)

A companion of sorts to the Euphorium release from Leimgruber/Turner/Dorner/da Boff/Flesh, London/Leipzig/Luzern, trumpeter Axel Dörner breaks off solo for an extended improvisation recorded at the same studio on the same day in Leipzig, employing his unique approach to the instrument in an 18-minute exploration of tone, timbre, and unexpected brass utterance. ... Click to View


Alex Reviriego:
Raben [CASSETTE W/ DOWNLOAD] (Tripticks Tapes)

Spanish double bassist Alex Reviriego (Memoria Uno) in a solo album recorded by Ferran Fages in 2019, the second chapter of his "German Poets Trilogy" following his 2018 Blaue Tauben album, here inspired by the writings of Romanian-born poet Paul Celan in an intense and moving album of dense foreboding depicted through nine improvisations of heavy bowing, ruminative harmonics and dark friction. ... Click to View


Axioms:
Hypothesis (Evil Clown)

The second album of free improv with poetry from the Boston-based Evil Clown collective band Axioms of David Peck, Jane SpokenWord and Albey onBass, this album extending the trio with Glynis Lomon on cello and Steve Niemitz on drums & percussion, heard in an extended improvisation bridging the distance between poetic discussion of truths and abstract musical structures. ... Click to View


Anne-F Jacques / Takamitsu Ohta:
Oto to Secchi [CASSETTE w/ DOWNLOAD] (Tsss Tapes)

Using small objects and contact microphones to create peacefully clacking, mewling and idiosyncratic utterances, sound artists Takamitsu Ohta and Anne-Francoise Jacques developed this installation shown in 2019 at the Bonjour! Gendaibunmei gallery in Kyoto, recorded by Jacques as a tour of the various sonic manifestations that a visitor to the gallery might experience. ... Click to View


Keith Tippett / Matthew Bourne:
Aeolian [2 CDs] (Discus)

Two generations of remarkable pianists--Keith Tippets and Matthew Bourne--performed a series of two-piano concerts between 2017 and 2019, also recording in the studio, as heard in this 2-CD release, the first a set of consequential piano duos recorded at Leeds Conservatoire in 2019, the 2nd disc a live performance at Daylight Music at Union Chapel, London, Tippetts' final public performance. ... Click to View


Takatsuki Trio Quartet w/ Tobias Delius / Alex Dorner:
Berliner Quartette (Orbit577)

The Berlin-based collective Takatsuki Trio of Rieko Okuda on piano, Antti Virtaranta on double bass and Joshua Weitzel on guitar & Shamisen are expanded to a Quartett in two extended live sets at Berlins' Kuhlspot Social Club in 2020, first in an expansive set with trumpeter Axel Dorner, and then an intensely active set with tenor saxophonist & clarinetist Tobias Delius. ... Click to View


The Remote Viewers :
The Remote Code [3 CDs] (Remote Viewers)

Three CDs of three concerts at London's Iklecktik Club, presenting primarily compositions by David Petts plus collective improvisations, from Adrian Northover, David Petts, Caroline Kraabel and Sue Lynch on saxophones, John Edwards on bass and Rosa Theodora on piano, with Northover, Edwards & Petts adding percussion and electronics to their cryptically rich music. ... Click to View


New Rumours And Other Noises (Ada Rave / Nicolas Chentaroli / Raoul van der Weide):
The Moonlight Nightcall (Casco Records)

The debut of the Amsterdam-based trio of Argentinian pianist Nicolas Chientaroli and saxophonist & clarinetist Ada Rave with Dutch bassist Raoul van der Weide, all three using preparations, objects and voice to extend their unique approach to instant composition, heard in eight succinct, animated and sometimes eccentric dialogs recorded at BIMHuis. ... Click to View


Xavier Pamplona Septet:
Play The (Casco Records)

Initiating his Netherlands-based ensemble in 2016, contrabassist Raoul van der Weide assembles younger musicians, alongside Michael Moore for one piece, orchestrated up to a septet performing a dizzying and joyfully fun array of original compositions including pieces from ICP composers Bert Koppelaar, Guus Janssen and Tristan Honsinger, and a piece from Fred Katz. ... Click to View


Homei Yanagawa:
Homura (Armageddon Nova)

Two extended pieces of solo free improvisation from Japanese alto saxophonist Homei Yanagawa, aka Yoshinori Yanagawa, who regularly performs solo, releasing this album 30 years after his first solo album in 1991, Ground and Figure, here recording in the studio for confidently active and diverse approaches to solo expression; engaging and absorbing work. ... Click to View


The Pitch (Baltschun / Nutters / Joh / Thieke):
KM28 [CASSETTE w/ DOWNLOAD] (Tripticks Tapes)

The Pitch is the Berlin quartet of Boris Baltschun on JI organ &, sines, Koen Nutters on upright bass, Morten Joh on JI electric vibes & cassette tape delay and Michael Thieke on clarinet, performing at Karl-Marx-Strasse 28 as they break off into solos, duos and trios to create spaciously reflective electroacoustic music of indirect melodic warmth and development; gorgeous. ... Click to View


An PEK Solo Orchestra of PEKs:
Prisms (Evil Clown)

The first "Orchestra of PEKS" album to feature Tim Kaiser's recent electro-acoustic instrument, this multi-track solo recording also introduces multi-wind / multi-instrumentalist David Peck's new West African Kora, in a wild electroacoustic set performed on a dizzying array of reeds, winds, strings, electronics, metallic percussion, wood percussion, sirens and thunder tube. ... Click to View


Rodrigo Amado / This Is Our Language Quartet:
Let The Free Be Men (Trost Records)

Referencing Ornette Coleman in the group name, Portuguese tenor saxophonist engages three US free jazz players--legendary saxophonist and pocket trumpeter Joe McPhee, double bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Chris Corsano--for this 2017 concert at Jazzhouse in Copenhagen, Denmark, capturing four exemplary, at times explosive, and always tightly interactive collective improvisations. ... Click to View


Mofaya! (John Dikeman / Jaimie Branch / Luke Stewart / Aleksandar Skoric):
Like One Long Dream (Trost Records)

A fiery record of collective free improvisation from the Mofaya! Quartet of American saxophonist based in The Netherlands John Dikeman, Chicago trumpeter Jaimie Branch, US East Coast bassist Luke Stewart and Slovenian drummer Aleksandar Skoric, recording live at Roze Tanker in Amsterdam for three exhilarating improvisations that embody US & European Free Jazz forms. ... Click to View



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  2009-19: A Decade Reviewing Unusual, Experimental, Improvised, Composed, Rock, Folk, and Other Musics for Squid's Ear  


By Dave Madden 2020-01-02
2009-19: A Decade Reviewing Unusual, Experimental, Improvised, Composed, Rock, Folk, and Other Musics for Squid's Ear

2020 will be my eighteenth year working as a music journalist. Well, define "work" as a hobby that gets me free CD's and a few dollars now and then. I used to write for the free concerts, opportunities to interview bands and other famous types of people, opportunities to hang out with bands, free everything and movies at Sundance, very random stories that come from free everything and hanging out with band members and famous people. All the lingering with professional musicians made me feel like I was part of their story — I could at least be a contributor via my compliments, blog posts...I guess I was simply an asexual groupie. With Squid's Ear, however, I stick around because I continually find brave, new stuff just when I think I've heard it all. You suppose you know what Avant-Garde is, but there is a basement in that club. And a tunnel leading from there, and a fork in that tunnel, and a cave behind that wall, etc. You know of John Zorn? Great, now dig deeper. Keith Rowe? That's just the start of the anti-guitarists. Find that cave — and keep your eyes open along the way.

I put together a list similar to this in the mid-2000s. That one outlined a musical road map from my birth (Magical Mystery Tour in the womb) to grad school, so the group of artists mentioned therein is a more wide-eyed, sometimes fashion-forward, "there is a big world out there" choice of a young person mentally escaping the ick of a conformist, religion-saturated town. That is, this music was crucial, but the whole package is what cultivated my range. There is the arbitrary fifth grade field trip to a Japanese temple - punctuated with lunch at Chucky Cheese — the first time I heard Depeche Mode (age thirteen), learning about sampling from Art of Noise (also age thirteen), watching a Throbbing Gristle video (I thought it was gross), officially claiming to be goth after five minutes of Bauhaus, finding out that Jazz can be really sexy if it's Bitches Brew, being immersed in a wall of color and sound of Tibetan non-secular music, and having George Crumb's daunting Black Angels murder my thoughts of writing for string quartet. When writing that account, I had barely discovered Jason Kahn's revelatory Cut label, Japan's Onkyo collective (i.e. Otomo Yoshihide, Taku Sugimoto, Tetuzi Akiyama) and label Ambiances Magnétiques, specifically the boxset Montréal Free. And off I went.

What have I gained during my ten-year residence with Squid's Ear? I'm a few steps closer to comprehending:

1) The word "music"

2) The possibilities that sound is capable of

3) Awareness of the illusion of pitch relative to each living organism's brain (I believe our tastes can be swayed by this phenomena)

4) The ever-widening definition of "consonance"

With each epiphany, I add another pin to my philosophy sash. And I understand that music becomes my emotional support animal when someone can create an environment, or a heterotopia (a world within a world), or otherwise convince me of a new reality, universe, microcosm, wormhole, etc. On the downside, I always squint and fidget and force my mouth shut while thinking "I'll be the judge of that" every time someone says the words "experimental", "atonal", or the worst, "unlistenable"; I'm tolerant but I won't suffer loud, uninformed chumps who assign pejorative definitions to something they want to dismiss while under the influence of being cool. It physically hurts me — ask my former chiropractor.

(But I haven't increased the number of synonyms for works, music, sound, record, album, disc, sonic, pieces, performers, players, guitarist, listen, hear, strings, frequency, bow, trumpet, horn, and instrument. I can never remember the rule about apostrophes after singular and plural S's. These are my frustrations.)

While there are plenty of other albums that made a substantial impact on my relationship and approach to sound since 2009, reviewing these CD's - doing it right — forced us (me, the CD) to get in there under a blanket and be intimate. Ahem. Looking down at the list below, I remember the moments when, after sequestering myself with headphones, time and patience, I allowed this often genre-agnostic music to tell me what it's about. With each, I figuratively went cross-eyed as I felt the universe expand, and / or saw the Hand of God, and / or had a peak behind the curtain that hides all of life's answers.

So here are the records I was most intimate with. Ahem.

1) Fünf: La règle (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Who and what: Brace yourself. Magali Babin (amplified objects, tape deck, nebulophone, field recordings), Andrea-jane Cornell, (amplified objects, field recordings, accordion, loops and voice), Martine H Crispo (circuit bent toys, iDensity, electronics), Anne-F(rançoise) Jacques (rotation, objects, amplification), Émilie Mouchous, (analogue synthesizers, electronic fabric), and Erin Sexton (oscillators, electromagnetic fields, microphone) each sit back, toss a little spice, debris, paint, clay, or whatever they have to build sonic collage.

What it taught me: Lessons in space and pause. You don't have to constantly speak to convey a message, and you don't have to use everything you packed in your stick bag (the results of this sextet have the potential to be an impermeable wall of noise). Everyone in a band should have to abandon ego and adhere to these règles (they should have to pass a test). I spent a while playing in Jazz combos, and the maddening competition in that world felt like a contest of "the best soloist wins at music!" As one does with a fickle, delicate garden, I am still trying to figure out how to groom and feed when playing in an ensemble. This record is a benchmark for that.

2) Håvard Volden & Toshimaru Nakamura: Crepuscular Rays (Another Timbre)  

Who and what: Håvard Volden (prepared 12-string guitar) and Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board) in an articulate mix of acoustic versus electricity where both sides find a balanced middle ground. I called them "godlike contrarians" in my review. I also said that Volden "...has ingested his instrument's history — including chapters written by Keith Rowe — circumvented the potential for dominance via amplitude and rendered it to a post-language whisper." I assume most reading are familiar with Nakamura's "outputs of a mixer plugged into inputs, put some effects in the middle of that chain, wait for the brilliance that no other no-input mixer performer can measure up to."

What it taught me: More lessons in space and pause. There is an awesome, tremendous confidence that accompanies not playing a note, especially on a recorded medium where the audience can't see you holding your breath or scrunching and twitching your eyebrows (the "thinking of the next move" face). The same applies to holding a note or repeating gesture: How long should it last? Perfecting this is a life-long struggle. And I'm still trying and failing but inching forward with my no-input mixer work. I might feel comfortable showing it at some point in the distant future (after someone goes back in time and forbids Nakamura access to electronics).

3) Tim Olive & Anne-F Jacques: Dominion Mills (845 Audio)  

Who and what: Tim Olive on magnetic pickups, aka his prized ramshackle one-string guitar, and Anne-F Jacques on "rotating devices", those being anything from hacked turntables to toy motors that make brushes flick against strips of cardboard to a sardine can soldered to wire and springs.

What it taught me: Tim Olive's The Specialist is something that thoroughly expanded my idea of "sound art". His aesthetic is a grumbling, mostly-mono, inimitable affair, and it's what I imagine will be heard on the daily once technology fails and we adopt simpler, more focused means; his language increased my awareness and admiration for city noise (it might have helped me speak thousand-foot crane and jackhammer). I am forever indebted to him for what he does with his collaborative, curatorial 845 Audio label. These are the worlds within worlds I reference above. They are self-contained ecosystems, largely free of outside influence, wherein I can meditate or disappear. And did I mention "rotating devices"? I read this phrase and had to know more and more and more about Anne-F Jacques. I wish I could inherit the time, tools and talent of a welder or renaissance craftsman capable of forging immaculate noisemakers à la freaking Harry Partch; not having the ability to build these contraptions means my mental invention vault periodically dries up. But rotating devices can be anything, and they don't have to be hard to assemble and transport. In fact these devices are (I think) a reaction to our complicated tech that can play itself without human guidance. Like the individual parts of a Rube Goldberg project, the interest of Jacques's modest-looking creations sinks in only after watching and hearing them do a thing. There is an "a-ha!" moment with each when my brain's LED lights brighten, and I laugh, or double-take, or think "I would have never thought of that — well played, Anne-F", and then I usually fall into the emotions cycle every artist has when seeing something they wish they did. Check it out yourself https://vimeo.com/294155071

4) Kuwayama Kiyoharu & Urabe Masayoshi: Heteroptics (Songs From Under the Floorboards / Intransitive Recordings)   

Who and what: Kuwayama Kiyoharu on cello, viola, percussion i.e. metal junk, wood sticks, etc. and Urabe Masayoshi exploiting alto saxophone, percussion i.e. chains, metal joints and bells. Captured in one of the many of the abandoned warehouses found in Nagoya Port.

What it taught me: One can make the activity between what we think of as music as important as the music. The anticipation during the journey is equal to that of the arrival (smacking a snare drum). What we think of as tension and release might invert. Use everything around you as an instrument. These guys stomp through an abandoned building, kicking up crap, plunking out a few raw gestures on whatever happens to be in hand, and lean heavily on natural reverb as part of the ensemble. They create those sonic environments I mentioned in the introduction. As with Jeph Jerman and a bunch of other people (more on Jerman later), there are no wrong notes, there is no wrong production, experimental actually means to experiment. About Heteroptics, I said, "...the techniques and craft of the artists we review here all generally attempt to offer both a new voice and queries about 'What is music?' Kuwayama and Masayoshi further pose 'Where is music?'"

5) Evan Parker / John Wiese: C-Section (Second Layer)

Who and what: Evan Parker on soprano and tenor sax, John Wiese on electronics, tape and Max MSP, laptop as "guitar pedal", both churning out an intensity I compared to watching a real-life caesarean section. I only made it about 40 seconds without covering my eyes. It was the definition of horror.

What it taught me: I didn't learn as much as I'm in awe of what these two can do. Hearing Parker do his circular breathing mania for the first time (via a "Jazz" Last.fm channel on random in 2004) left me figuratively breathless. He works with some of the most virtuosic acoustic players (i.e. Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley), and the marriage is generally even parts without compromise. On the processing / generative side, Wiese acts as a champion bronco rider who capably takes on Parker's brunt and returns with just as much force. Don't get it twisted: This is aikido (maybe Muay Thai), not Godzilla vs. Rodan vs. every standing city structure. C-Section made me want to be a better musician. And I started treating my laptop as a guitar pedal.

6) Tatsuya Nakatani: Abiogenesis (H&H Production)  

Who and what: Percussionist (and maker of intricate bows) Tatsuya Nakatani attacking everything from standard drum kit (he has serious Free Jazz chops) to rows of enormous gongs. His solo work — especially here — is borderline supernatural in its ability to take an aggressive, idiosyncratically overpowering instrument and make it spiritual. I wrote, "Nakatani's bow meets gong to birth an elegant swirling exhale of distant thunder and polyphony of pitches and harmonics; his further elaborations on this gesture invoke everything from Siren Song to mournful wails (sic) to passing jets to static whirs..."

What it taught me: A former professor / improvising sparring partner once told me that playing live will teach you more about theory, your skill, your limitations, and your potential than reading about it-hand (I could have saved $40K in tuition had I heard that sooner). Like many other nerds across the country attending Nakatani's shows, I had the opportunity to perform with the man. I brought a bunch of drums, sticks, cymbals, bows, brushes, rubber balls, an Indian harp, and a corny effects rig that made the bad kind of feedback when turned up enough for humans to hear. Within a few minutes, I figured out that he could double anything I had to offer; for a bit, he anticipated every direction I took, mirroring it a microsecond behind me. What's that analogy about the big thing toying around with the little thing and the latter having hope? Nakatani schooled me without being a dick about it, though, and it is a highlight in my life. My damned professor was right, and I immediately went to work planning for a rematch.

7) Jeph Jerman: The Angle of Repose (No label) 

Who and what: Jeph Jerman on "shortwave receiver, pot lids, bao dijian tshon, saw blades, eggs in bowls, bowls and cup in sink, cassette recorders, digital 4-track, and laptop." He amplifies rocks, tosses things around, spins things, makes the floor creak when walking across the room, and spills things into other things. His brilliance is found in the way he can organize this mess to be...natural (I called him a deft "observer of the quality of sound"). To me, "natural" means something forged by time and the elements — sans direct human intervention - that you find under a log in the forest. The arrhythmic patterns of wind chimes is another example. Or it can be the really amazing portrait taken of someone when they weren't aware the camera was on. I'm still not great at explaining this concept. Many people call it "honest", but I don't trust that most of them have anything to back up that word.  

What it taught me: 1) Stop being so precious when recording 2) I don't have to make rocks, cutlery, and chunks of metal be something they aren't; stop sampling and transforming everything into something else when the original source can be interesting if I give it a chance. I can sum all this up with "be a better listener". And learn the dialectal difference of the language of river rock versus electric fence.

8) John Cage Cartridge Music (Another Timbre)  

Who and what: Stephen Cornford, Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Robert Curgenven, Ferran Fages, Patrick Farmer, Daniel Jones, and Lee Patterson interpret Cage's "earliest attempts to produce live electronic music". The score shows minutes and seconds and some shapes, and each performer uses a turntable cartridge wherein they can insert objects of their choice. Different materials against other materials, lots of variables.

What it taught me: Another of the ninety-nine things I learned from Cage, this particular reading of Cartridge Music made me (it was a command) understand more about the illusion of sonic elements (i.e. as I said earlier, pitch is sensed uniquely per each conscious being's audio receptors and the way their brain handles it), how sound here can cease to exist when the article is pulled away from the cartridge; it's a microphone, but there is very little air, hence no echo or residue or proof it was just there, like a baby's (or dog's?) idea that leaving a room makes a person disappear into the ether. I started thinking more about séances and animation of the inanimate. It also ties in to my obsession with miniature things, like ant footsteps. When I close my eyes and listen to this Cartridge Music, I picture how much motion is happening a few feet under the surface of my backyard — and how amazing it would be to hear this almost-microscopic commotion. Kind of like A Bug's Life, but cool and without Kevin Spacey or Dennis Leary. Anyway, I started thinking of contact microphones and turntables as (magical?) conduits after this. The fact that we can process sound is a miracle, man.

9) John Cage: Four4 (Another Timbre)

Who and what: Simon Allen, Chris Burn, Lee Patterson, and Mark Wastell, all billed as "percussionist". Sure it's percussion as long as you count moans and every bubble's pop in fizzing water its own note.

What it taught me: While Cartridge Music is about the composer, this version of Four4 is definitely a showcase of the players, specifically Lee Patterson. He is just a few degrees away from one of my DIY instrument designer heroes, Hugh Davies, and the latter's essence flows through the former's approach. I read that Patterson is very much into the sound of burning nuts, which sparked an obsession with hearing all of his music — I was so fanatical that, after listening to his use of amplified discarded street sweeper tines, I dreamed that I saw Ice Cube haphazardly driving a street sweeper through my neighborhood; I chased it, but could never catch up to Cube to ask what the fuck (and I never found my own tines). Patterson is remarkable with other tiny sounds (i.e. "Nine Lucifers", built from recordings of "nine match burns") and arranging field recordings in a way that transmogrifies the source enough to be different but not too different or unidentifiable. But don't forget about the importance of Cage here. I wrote, "Ultimately, (this disc is) just an admirable, synergistic patience: 4' 33" was the catalyst but the impact of the relationships of blanks to landmarks in Four4 is the former's message in practice."

10)  Michel F. Côté and Isaiah Ceccarelli: Vulgarités (Ambiances Magnétiques)

Who and what: Michel F. Côté and Isaiah Ceccarelli took the joking phrase, "What can we do when we're just two drummers?" and made a challenge out of showing what can be done.

What it taught me: Because of David Tudor's Rainforest series, I spend a great deal of time trying to make found objects, junk percussion, contact mics, feedback, and speakers do something remarkable. However, I reached a point in the mid 2000's when doing that wasn't interesting anymore. I felt stagnant and bored, and was often crippled with feelings of "what's the point of this crap that no one will hear, anyway — you don't even like it" (depression is a motherfucker). Looking back, I wasn't thinking big enough in my investigation of cross-species breeding between electro and acoustic. This duo gave me the desire to revisit my methods and analyze where I was stunted. I needed to stop imposing so many rules on whatever I was working on. I had to stop acquiring a zillion pieces of ceramic, glass vases, bells, cymbals, and sticks made from twenty distinct materials and focus on creativity. I'm still searching, but I'm not lost. Also, I followed Côté's rabbit hole to YouTube and watched him improvise a set where he pressed microphones against drum heads. It pulled a few levers in my head. The information contained in those few minutes made me rethink how to use feedback in neat ways (though that's one more life-long struggle).

11)  Broken Consort: Done (Quakebasket)

Who and what: Mark Wastell (violin, cello, preparations, amplified textures), Rhodri Davies (harp, preparations) and Matthew Davis (trumpet, electronics, processing) coupled, solo, and playing as a trio.

What it taught me: About this record, I said, "Done is four situations where the ultimate active work is mental, Broken Consort deciding how to make the most impact with minimal means..." Slow down, Dave. Stop rushing through your set, trust yourself and take as long as you need while considering your next move — so, more lessons in space and pause. And I learned how much I love Rhodri Davies's work. Like love it so much that I would rather not describe it with words because that would rob it of its charm. I throw a few versions of this superlative around, but I mean it here: His sense of form — on the micro and macro level — and ability to bend his instruments into other characters is not-of-this-world level — playing the harp, a mythical, intimidating instrument (go try and write for it), also adds to his prowess. And he occasionally sets harps on fire and records the results, and it doesn't come off as a novelty.



continued...




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