The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Polwechsel / Klaus Lang:
Unseen (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

The innovative acoustic free improvising ensemble Polwechsel bridging contemporary music and free improvisation in ways that sound deceptively electroacoustic, comprised of Michael Moser on cello, Werner Dafeldecker on double bass, and Martin Brandlmayr and Burkhard Beins on cymbals & percussion, are joined by Klaus Lang performing on the church organ of St. Lambrecht's Abbey. ... Click to View


Noah Kaplan Quartet:
Out Of The Hole (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Noah Kaplan is a composer and saxophonist from Topanga Canyon, CA, associated with Anthony Coleman, David Tronzo, Peter Erskine, Rinde Eckert, Joe Morris, Mat Maneri, Joe Maneri, &c., here in his 3rd album with his Noah Kaplan Quartet, in a set of Kaplan compositions and one standard performed with Joe Morris (guitar), Giacomo Merega (electric bass) & Jason Nazary (drums, electronics). ... Click to View


Christopher Fox :
Music For Piano (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Six compositions for solo piani written by English composerb Christopher Fox between 1991 and 2015, performed by Netherlands pianist John Snijders at Abbey Road Studios in London, each work uniquely approached in both writing and performance, each a concept or style that brings something unique to Fox's music while still retaining his voice and character in composition. ... Click to View


Burkhard Stangl / Dieb13:
Jardin Des Bruits (Mikroton Recordings)

Returning to their duo work together 17 years after their erstwhile records eh, guitarist Burkhard Stangl and turntablist Dieb13 explore and expand the sonic properties of their work in this new "Garden Of Noises", using electronics and recordings of soundscapes from Paris and Montreuil, recorded live at Instants Chavires in France, 2019. ... Click to View


Oyvind Skarbo / Fredrik Ljungkvist / Kris Davis / Ole Morten Vagan:
Inland Empire (Clean Feed)

A transatlantic all-star quartet of modern improvisers influenced by contemporary compositional music and creative jazz, with pieces from all four players--Fredrik Ljungkvist on tenor sax & clarinet, Kris Davis on piano, Ole Morten Vagan on double bass, and Øyvind Skarbø on drums--creating superb modern, unforseeable, and joyful music. ... Click to View


Patty Waters (w/ Greene / Pavone / Altschul):
An Evening In Houston (Clean Feed)

The distinctively unique voice and unconventional stylings of Patty Waters brings a set of standards and folk songs to a live quartet session in Houston, Texas in 2018 with the stellar backup of Burton Greene on piano, Mario Pavone on bass, and Barry Altschul on drums, covering songs by Billy Holiday, Nat King Cole & Hank Williams and a trio instrumental of Monk's "Off Minor". ... Click to View


Andre Moller O. / Christoph Nicolaus / Rasha Ragab:
Music For Stone Harps [2CDs] (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Christoph Nicolaus began working with the stone harp around 2007, a block of granite with a slanted top that is deeply notched to create fins that resemble a loaf of bread, played by "bowing" the sides with wet hands causing each to vibrate in unique and beautiful tones; this album collects 13 compositions & improvisations performed between 2008 and 2018, in rich and uniquely evocative sound. ... Click to View


Bruno Duplant / Pierre Gerard:
Soleil Clandestin (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Five "Soleil Clandestin" soundscapes using abstract voice, guitar, electronics, field recordings & percussion from sound artists Bruno Duplant and Pierre Gerard, on the surface peaceful, minimal and using space and silence, but buried inside are disquieting additions the vocal abstractions placed in unusual position to the sound; curious and captivating. ... Click to View


Milo Fine / Joseph Damman:
Acceptance Of Sorrow (Aural Terrains)

An album of improvisations culled from the long-running Minneapolis duo of amplified acoustic guitarist Joseph Damman and multi-instrumentalist Milo fine, recorded in concert at Studio Toile d'Angles in 2018, with Fine performing on percussion, a Bosendorfer imperial piano, B-flat clarinet & marimba, for 8 pieces of explorative and accomplished dialog. ... Click to View


Martin Archer :
Anthropology Band [2 CDs] (Discus)

Inspired by the music of 70's Miles Davis electric work, composer and saxophonist Martin Archer presents 15 compositions performed in two parallel sessions over two CDs, the first in a septet that includes Corey Mwamba, Pat Thomas and Dave Sturt, and the second an extended ensemble with brass and wind sections, each bringing distinctive life to these inspired compositions. ... Click to View


Tetuzi Akiyama / Herve Boghossian:
Suketchi (Tour de Bras)

Translating to "sketch", the duo of Japanese improvising guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama and French guitarist Hervé Boghossian recorded these sketches in the studio in Marseille, France, seven succinct free improvisations of an open and intuitively lyrical nature performed on acoustic guitars, in a gorgeous album of uniquely spacious interlaced string improvisation. ... Click to View


Sakina Abdou / Barbara Dang / Peter Orins:
Lescence / Gmatique (Tour de Bras)

Three musicians who are active members of the Lille-based collective Muzzix--Peter Orins on drums, Barbara Dang on grand piano, Sakina Abdou on saxophone & recorder--captured live at La Malterie, in Lille, France for two extended improvisations of minimalist conversation using extended techniques and unusual approaches to their instruments; fascinating. ... Click to View


Anticlan (Costa / Amador / Ernsting):
Close To The Bone (Creative Sources)

The second album of open-minded free improvisation of great drive, skill and and experimental determination from the Anticlan trio, a facet of the Albatre trio in the duo of Portuguese saxophonist Hugo Costa and German drummer Philipp Ernsting, with Mexican guitarist residing in Rotterdamn, Josue Amador, recording in the studio in Rotterdam, 2019. ... Click to View


Jean D. L. (w/ Hermant / Ranaldo / Young):
Forays (Shhpuma)

A set of beautiful electro-acoustic compositions, dream-like and rich in details using sources of acoustic instruments, field recordings, guitar, electronics and voice, organized into hazy and beautiful reflections, with contributions from Margaret Hermant on xylophone & violin, Jeremy Young on electroncis, and Lee Ranaldo providing field recordings and voice. ... Click to View


Dean Rosenthal:
Stones/Water/Time/Breath (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

American composer Dean Rosenthal's influential performance piece written in 2012 and performed more than 40 times throughout the world, a site-specific piece for any outside body of water with any number of performers, using stones to create percussive sounds in the water, here in five live performances from Newfoundland to New York to Wilbraham, MA (the composer's hometown). ... Click to View


Urs Schneider Peter :
Klavierwerke 1971 - 2015 [2 CDs] (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Four compositions for solo piano from Swiss composer Urs Peter Schneider, founder of Ensemble Neue Horizonte Bern, with four accompanying prose pieces with text in German from Schneider himself, Martin Luther, and Ita Wegman, unusual words to accompany Schneider's minimalist works of clear progressions, thoughtful direction and interesting concepts. ... Click to View


Guillaume Gargaud :
Miniatures (Self Released)

Twenty miniature compositions for acoustic guitar from French composer and improviser Guillaume Gargaud, each under one and a half minutes, the shortest just 53 seconds, each composed in 12 measures creating a lovely reflective and introspective set of abstract melodies, poetic and evocative music from a player dedicated to solo guitar work. ... Click to View


Weston Olencki:
Solo Works (Creative Sources)

New York City-based trombonist/composer Weston Olencki, specializing in the performance and production of experimental music & art, presents four compositions for brass instruments exploring a sound-based and psychoacoustic approach to solo performance, applying extended instrument preparations and fundamental principles of sound synthesis to this acoustic medium. ... Click to View


Simon Nabatov Quintet (w/ Speed / Robertson / Hebert / Rainey):
Plain (Clean Feed)

Russian-born Germany/NY-based pianist Simon Nabatov's Quintet with the new lineup of Chris Speed on tenor sax & clarinet, Herb Robertson on trumpet & cornet, John Hebert on double bass and Tom Rainey on drums, performing Nabatov's magnificently lyrical, sophisticated and often chamber-oriented compositions, an incredible achievement in writing and performance. ... Click to View


Luis Lopes Humanization 4Tet (w/ Amado / Gonzalez / Gonzalez):
Believe, Believe (Clean Feed)

Energetic and assertive jazzcore improv from Portuguese guitarist Luis Lopes' long-running Humanization 4Tet with saxophonist Rodrigo Amado and the near-telepathic rhythm section of Aaron Gonzalez on double bass and Stefan Gonzalez on drums, in an album recorded in the studio in front of an audience in New Orleans during their 2018 tour, finding the band in formidable form. ... Click to View


Carl Testa :
Sway Prototypes - Volume 3 (Sway)

The third volume of NY bassist, composer, and electronic/computer musician Carl Testa's amazing Sway project, giving an interactive electronic processor its own voice interfacing with any size ensemble, here with two new works--one for quintet among a set of Chicago improvisers, the other in Portland, Maine with a sextet--each uniquely voiced and excitingly unpredictable. ... Click to View


Joanna Mattrey :
Veiled (Relative Pitch)

The first solo record for NY violist Joanna Mattrey, performing also on the Stroh violin, in a deep exploration of the sound possibilities for both instruments, using preparations to alter the resonance of the viola, masking its overtly singing and beautiful nature and allowing for unexpected and unusual textures which weave around melodic lines; unique and fascinating. ... Click to View


Bedrnhard Meyer / John Hollenbeck:
Grids (Shhpuma)

Bringing together NY drummer/percussionist John Hollenbeck, also on prepared piano, with Berlin bassist Bernhard Meyer for an album that blends textural rock, electronic and jazz approaches in 9 elusively calm yet structurally turbulent pieces, using complex systems of cross rhythms against atmospheric immersion, occasionally disruptive but generally eccentrically controlled and exploratory. ... Click to View


Day & Taxi:
Devotion [VINYL 2 LPs] (Percaso)

A melodically subtle and sophisticated album of twenty improvisations composed by saxophonist Christoph Gallio and performed with Gerry Hemingway on drums and Silvan Jeger on electric bass, with Friederike Mayrocker providing words on several tracks, the compositions as short as 19 seconds and a long as 7:40, each dedicated to visual artists and colleagues. ... Click to View


Dominic Cramp / Mike Khoury / Philip Greenlief / Gino Robair:
Compassion & Evidence (Creative Sources)

Recorded live at Temescal Art Center in Oakland, CA as part of their Babylon 2018 evening, the quartet of Gino Robair (electronics), Phillip Greenlief (tenor sax and clarinet), Mike Khoury (viola) and Dominic Cramp, aka Lord Tang (lyra) improvise in 2 short and 2 extended electroacoustic conversations of detailed restraint, unique pointillism and unforseen atmospheres. ... Click to View


Jim Denley / Eric Normand:
Plant 3 [VINYL] (Tour de Bras)

The collaboration of Quebec bassist Eric Normand and Australian saxophonist Jim Denley, both dedicated experimenters, in their third duo album under the Plant name, here recording live at the 2019 Syndey, Australia NowNow Festival, with Denley also playing bass flute, fruits and objects, and Normand using objects and playing the bass amp itself. ... Click to View


Marc Edwards / Guillaume Gargaud:
Black Hole Universe (Atypeek Music)

A shredding session between French improvisational guitarist Guillaume Gargaud and NY free jazz drummer Marc Edwards (Slipstream Time Travel), recorded in Queens, NY in 2017, for 5 rapid-fire displays of pyrotechnics and attentive dialog, as they take themselves to the cliff's edge and back in a dizzying album of dense technical dexterity and harmolodic force. ... Click to View


The Necks:
Three (Northern Spy)

Three extended improvisations from the three Australian improvisers Chris Abrahams (piano), Lloyd Swanton (bass), Tony Buck (drums/percussion) in their 21st album of mesmerizing music, from the dynamic opener "Bloom" to the introspective "Lovelock" dedicated to Damien Lovelock of The Celibate Rifles, ending in the lyrical and rich groove of "Further". ... Click to View


MPH (Maguire / Pynew / Hewins):
Taxonomies (Discus)

A trio of legendary Canterbury, avant improvisation and contemporary compositional players come together for an album recorded live in the studio over two days, from Alex Maguire on piano and Hammond organ, Martin Pyne on vibraphone, drums, percussion & electronics, and Mark Hewins on guitars & electronics; inventive, sophisticated, hallucinatory & virtuosic work. ... Click to View


Alex Ward Item 4:
Where We Were (Relative Pitch)

UK guitarist Alex Ward's quartet featuring his compositions for improvisers, performed with a set of younger players on London's free improv scene--Charlotte Keeffe on trumpet & flugelhorn, Otto Willberg on double bass, and Andrew Lisle on drums--heard here in two intricately exciting 2018 concerts in London at Set Dalston Lane and at Cafe Oto Project Space. ... 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?'"



continued...




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reviews about releases
sold at Squidco.com
written by
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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Polwechsel /
Klaus Lang:
Unseen
(ezz-thetics by
Hat Hut Records Ltd)



Noah Kaplan Quartet:
Out Of The Hole
(ezz-thetics
by Hat Hut Records Ltd)



Andre Moller O. /
Christoph Nicolaus /
Rasha Ragab:
Music For Stone Harps
[2CDs]
(Edition Wandelweiser Records)



Burkhard Stangl /
Dieb13:
Jardin Des Bruits
(Mikroton Recordings)



Oyvind Skarbo /
Fredrik Ljungkvist /
Kris Davis /
Ole Morten Vagan:
Inland Empire
(Clean Feed)



Martin Archer :
Anthropology Band
[2 CDs]
(Discus)



Jean D. L.
(w/ Hermant /
Ranaldo /
Young):
Forays
(Shhpuma)



Tetuzi Akiyama /
Herve Boghossian:
Suketchi
(Tour de Bras)



Carl Testa:
Sway Prototypes - Volume 3
(Sway)



Simon Nabatov Quintet
(w/ Speed /
Robertson /
Hebert /
Rainey):
Plain
(Clean Feed)



Day & Taxi:
Devotion
[VINYL 2 LPs]
(Percaso)



Luis Lopes
umanization 4Tet (w/ Amado /
Gonzalez /
Gonzalez):
Believe, Believe
(Clean Feed)



The Necks:
Three
(Northern Spy)



MPH
(Maguire /
Pynew /
Hewins):
Taxonomies
(Discus)



Ron Caines /
Martin Archer AXIS:
Dream Feathers
(Discus)



GGRIL:
Plays Laubrock
(Tour de Bras /
Circum-Disc)



Lisbon String Trio &
Gabriel Ferrandini:
Sediments
(Creative Sources)



Dopolarians
(William Parker /
Kidd Jordan /
Alvin Fielder /
Chad Fowler /
Christopher Parker /
Kelley Hurt):
Garden Party
(Mahakala Music)



Berlin Art Quartet
(Schubert /
Bauer /
Muller /
Bruggemann):
Live At B-Flat
(Unisono Records)



Carlos Zingaro /
Ernesto Rodrigues /
Guilherme Rodrigues /
Hernani Faustino /
Jose Oliveira :
Pentahedron
(Creative Sources)







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