The Squid's Ear
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London Jazz Composers Orchestra:
That Time (Not Two)

Released for their 50th anniversary, The LJCO, in configurations of up to 21 musicians including Derek Bailey, Trevor Watts, Evan Parker, Peter Brotzmann, &c., perform works by Kenny Wheeler, Barry Guy, Paul Rutherford and Howard Riley, captured live for the Berliner Jazztage in 1972; at Donaueschingen Musiktage in 1972; in the studio in 1980; and London's Round House in 1980. ... Click to View


Dave Rempis / Elisabeth Harnik / Michael Zerang:
Triple Tube (Not Two)

Recording in Graz, Austria in 2019 at the club Tube's, Chicago alto saxophonist Dave Rempis and drummer Michael Zerang, frequent collaborators with Ken Vandermark and The Resonance Ensemble, joined with Austrian improvising and classical pianist Elisabeth Harnik to record three exuberant and incredibly informed improvisations: "Triple Tube" I through III. ... Click to View


Barre Phillips:
Thirty Years In Between [2 CDs] (Victo)

The title to be taken literally, these two solo concerts recorded in Canada by French-based US bassist Barre Phillips, the first recorded at Vancouver Western Front in 1989, the 2nd from the 35th International Festival Music Festival of Victoriaville in 2019, both exemplary concerts showing his masterful skills and ability to captivate then and now. ... Click to View


Joelle Leandre / Lauren Newton / Myra Melford:
Stormy Whispers (Fundacja Sluchaj!)

The 13th International Festival of Improvised Music "Ad Libitum" in Warsaw, 2018, themed "Women Alarm!", presented the new trio of Joëlle Léandre (double bass), Myra Melford (piano), and Lauren Newton (free improv voice), performing a masterfully energetic, quirky and indescribably enthralling set of trio and duo improvisations titled "Whisper" 1 through 8. ... Click to View


Conference Call (Gebhard Ullmann / Michael Jefry Stevens / Joe Fonda / Dieter Ulrich):
Prism (Not Two)

The tenth Conference Call album and the first with drummer Dieter Ulrich taking over for former drummers Matt Wilson, Han Bennink, George Schuller and Gerry Hemingway, the 20 years journey for this transatlantic band leading to this album captured in the studio in Central NY while on tour, performing 3 original compositions from Ullman, 2 from Fonda, and 2 from Stevens. ... Click to View


Philippe Lauzier / Éric Normand :
Not the music : Les temps fluos [PRINT w/ DOWNLOAD] (Tour de Bras)

An album of quiet improvisation focused on timbre, rhythm and pensive pacing from the duo of bass clarinetist Philippe Lauzier and bassist Éric Normand, also using objects to create mysterious tones and acoustic sonics, released as a limited 300g paper card hand-printed by Normad with an accompanying download code, 1 of 2 art card initiating an 8-card series. ... Click to View


Michel Doneda:
Monstre (PRINT w/ DOWNLOAD) (Tour de Bras)

Performing on soprano and sopranino saxophones, French saxophonist Michel Doneda is heard in concert at Tiasci in Paris for three "Monstre" solo improvisations of quietly emphatic playing using extended techniques and unusual phrasing, released as a limited 250g paper card hand-printed by Normad with an accompanying download code, 1 of 2 art card initiating an 8-card series. ... Click to View


Von LMO:
Future Language (Flemish Masters)

The 1981 debut studio album of Von LMO, released independently in 1981 through his label StraZar, dedicated to the advancement of the United States space program, described by music journalist Chuck Eddy as being one of the 500 best albums of heavy metal in his Stairway to Hell book, here in the Flemish Masters edition with the track "Shake, Rattle and Roll". ... Click to View


KNW :
(Psykomanteum)

An album of ecstatic noise improv with an experimental edge from the trio of Ulrich Krieger on tenor saxophone & contrabass clarinet, Nandor Nevai on "throats" & drums, and Wolcott on oscillator & electronics, viciously assertive music in seven track of mostly succinct statements composed or conceived by each of the band members; cathartic. ... Click to View


Cecil Taylor / Tony Oxley:
Birdland / Neuburg 2011 (Fundacja Sluchaj!)

Performing in the intimacy of the Birdland Jazz Club in 2011, New York innovative pianist Cecil Taylor met with London free jazz legendary percussionist Tony Oxley and long-time associate in The Feel Trio and as a duo, Taylor's rapid often percussive approach to the keys pairing with Oxley's percussive work, and both bringing lyrical beauty from the other. ... Click to View


John Coltrane Quartet:
My Favorite Things Graz 1962 (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

The 2nd volume from tenor & soprano saxophonist John Coltrane 1962 tour of Europe and Scandinavia, heard here in late November at Stefaniensaal, Graz with his quartet of pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones, the band playing classic numbers under the influence of Coltrane's expanding drive to transform his music toward greater freedom. ... Click to View


George Lewis / Ozana Omelchuk:
Breaking News, Studio Dan (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Two works commissioned by the Austrian Studio Dan ensemble: "As We May Feel" by George Lewis, referencing visionary engineer Vannevar Bush's concepts of data linking & association, in a work reminding how music recombines and associates; and Oxana Omelchuk's double concerto for two trombonists, "Wow and Flutter", taking listeners on a profound journey through recording technologies. ... Click to View


Satoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura:
Pentas: Tribute to Eric and Chris Stern (Not Two)

Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura (The NatSat Duo) launch their project Pentas with this album, their 7th as a duo, with compositions from each musician and dedicated as a tribute to Eric and Chris Stern, elder inspirational fans who spoke with the duo after the NY premiere of this music, upon learning that Eric passed away that very night. ... Click to View


Krakow Improvisers Orchestra:
KIO at Cricoteka (Not Two)

The 13-piece Krakow Improvisers Orchestra approaches their music through conduction and improvisation, founder Paulina Owczarek leading the ensemble in an impressive 3-part work recorded in the studio, an exciting and quirky set using mostly acoustic instrumentation through reeds, brass and two drummer/percussionist, 2 bass players, free vocal improv, synth & guitar. ... Click to View


John Russell / Ray Russell / Henry Kaiser / Olle Brice:
The Dukes of Bedford (Balance Point Acoustics)

Exploring the lineage of the Dukes of Bedford, the Russell lineage in Bedford, England, in groupings of acoustic & electric guitarists John Russell, Ray Russell, and Henry Kaiser, with double bassist Ollie Brice, from duos to quartets eight Duke "Russells" from 1680 to 2003 are explored through intricate and joyfully creative and technically amazing string improvisations. ... Click to View


Jorma Tapio / Kaski:
Aliseen (577)

Finnish saxophone & flute player Jorma Tapio and his group Kaski of Ville Rauhala on bass and Janne Tuomi on drums & percussion, with both Tapio and Tuomi playing Kantele, a traditional plucked string instrument, present a beautifully rich and spiritual album named for a shaman's trip to the underworld, reflecting on local folk music and free jazz traditions. ... Click to View


Jerkagram / Martin Escalante :
Parkour (577)

Ater a concert in Los Angeles with Martin Escalante on the same bill, the twin brothers, guitarist Derek Gaines and drummer Brent Gaines, asked the extreme saxophonist to join them in the creation of a new, cathartic form of improvisation, filled with angst and cathartic release, ending with an extended journey in sound and squawk; a gripping album of gritty improv. ... Click to View


No Mor Musik:
(ugEXPLODE)

This puzzling display of punk/jazz surrealism is masterminded by Nondor Nevai on drums and vocals, featuring Weasel Walter on bass and legendary journeyman Kenny Millions (aka Keshavan Maslak) on guitar and reeds, a sort of unholy fusion between extreme metal, bludgeoning noise rock, free jazz, black humor and true stream-of-consciousness improvisation. ... Click to View


Jean-Marc Foussat / Daunik Lazro / Evan Parker:
Cafe OTO 2020 [2 CDs] (Fou Records)

A momentous 2020 concert at London's Cafe OTO, presented in two discs, the 1st with label leader Jean-Marc Foussat in a solo improvisation on synth and voice, the 2nd in a trio with Daunik Lazro on tenor & baritone sax, and Evan Parker on soprano sax, the 2 saxophones weaving and responding to Foussat's remarkable alien soundscapes and vocalization in an immersive extended improvisation. ... Click to View


Peter Brotzmann / Lonberg-Holm, Fred:
Memories Of A Tunicate (Relative Pitch)

While both improvisers were in New York City for the 2019 Vision Festival, multi-reedist and European Free Improv legend Peter Brötzmann met Chicago cellist and electronics artist Fred Lonberg-Holm to record their 3rd album together, their 1st album in the studio a diverse set of incredible concentration, with Brötzmann performing on tenor saxophone, woodwind, and clarinet. ... Click to View


Pinkish Black & Yells at Eels:
Vanishing Light... (Ayler)

Trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez merges his Yells at Eel project with bassist Aaron Gonzalez and drummer/percussionist Stefan Gonzalez, with Texas-based experimental rock band Pinkish Black--Daron Beck on keyboards and Jon Teague on drums & synthesizers--for a gripping and masterful hybrid of improvisation, dark synthetic rock and heavy moods; a riveting journey. ... Click to View


Ingrid Laubrock / Kris Davis:
Blood Moon (Intakt)

German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and Vancouver pianist Kris Davis, both living and working in NY, and having worked together in a variety of groups including Laubrock's Anti-House, a trio with drummer Tyshawn Sorey, Tom Rainey's Obligatto, &c. &c., concentrate their sophisticated playing with this duo album of 7 original compositions and 2 free improvisations. ... Click to View


Omri Ziegele Tomorrow Trio (w / Bennink / Weber):
All Those Yesterdays (Intakt)

Using hard bop as his jumping off point, Swiss saxophonist Omri Ziegele Tomorrow Trio with Christian Weber on bass and Han Bennink on drums--musicians who have toured and performed together over years--went into the studio hot off of a 13 day tour to record these 6 Ziegele original compositions, lyrically balanced with room for exemplary soloing and group interplay. ... Click to View


Damon Smith:
Whatever Is Not Stone Is Light (Balance Point Acoustics)

Taking his title from a poem by Octavio Paz with titles from translations by Lysander Kemp of other Octavio Paz poems, this solo album from double bassist Damon Smith is his definitive statement on the instrument: 23 tracks from 46 seconds to 5 minutes 50, developed over 15 years and displaying Smith's incredible technique and creative intent; incomparable. ... Click to View


Paul Flaherty / Randall Colbourne / James Chumley Hunt / Mike Roberson:
Borrowed From Children (577)

Describing his music as "freeform", legendary saxophonist Paul Flaherty uses the music of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, late-period Coltrane, Peter Brötzmann, &c. as the inspiration for this exhilarating live album captured at Willimantic Records, CT with his quartet of Randall Colbourne on drums, James Chumley Hunt on trumpet, and Mike Roberson on electric guitar. ... Click to View


Sabir Mateen / Patrick Holmes / Federico Ughi :
Survival Situation [VINYL LP + DOWNLOAD] (577)

Having played together in a variety of settings, but never as a trio, saxophonist Sabir Mateen, clarinetist Patrick Holmes and drummer Federico Ughi met in a recording studio in Tuscany, Italy to record this album of wide-ranging free improvisation, Mateen's Farfisa playing and vocal declamations bringing a Sun Ra element to the vehement and profound dialog. ... Click to View


Trrma':
The Earth's Relief (577)

The project of Southern Italy's Giovanni Todisco (percussion) and Giuseppe Candiano (synthesizer), since 2015 touring Japan and Europe to perform in festivals and venues, this album presents their experimental improvisation combining classic afrikaans and symphonic percussion with modular synthesis, merging ancient rhythms with modern electronic excitement. ... Click to View


Various Artists (Barry Guy/Joelle Leandre/Rafal Mazur/Paal Nilssen-Love/Zlatko Kaucic/Agusti Fernandez/Mats Gustafsson/Ken Vandermark/Mikolaj Trzaska/Peter Brotzmann/Steve Swell/Per Ake Holmlander/Maya Homburger):
Not Two... But Twenty [5 CDs in Wooden Box] (Not Two)

Not Two Records celebrates their 20th Anniversary with a festival in Wlen, Poland, inviting 13 of the finest European & US improvisers--Guy, Leandre, Mazur, Nilssen-Love, Kaucic, Fernandez, Gustafsson, Vandermark, Trzaska, Brotzmann, Swell, Holmlander, & Homburg--performing in configurations from duo to quintet, released in a limited 5-CD wooden box set. ... Click to View


Daniel Carter / Matthew Shipp / William Parker / Gerald Cleaver :
Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1 (577)

After decades playing together, the quartet of Daniel Carter on tenor sax, trumpet & flute, Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums, release the first of two planned studio albums, with two extended and remarkably warm collective excursions bookending a shorter "Scintillate", in an exceptionally solid album of masterful modern jazz. ... Click to View


Daniel Carter / Matthew Shipp / William Parker / Gerald Cleaver :
Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1 [VINYL] (577)

After decades playing together, the quartet of Daniel Carter on tenor sax, trumpet & flute, Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums, release the first of two planned studio albums, with two extended and remarkably warm collective excursions bookending a shorter "Scintillate", in an exceptionally solid album of masterful modern jazz. ... 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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