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Matthew Shipp : Magnetism(s) (RogueArt)

The creative NY jazz trio led by pianist Matthew Shipp with Rob Brown on alto sax and flute and William Parker on bass re-release and re-master their 1999 Bleu Regards album "Magnetism", a 20-part suite of concise and informed dialogs; and add a live CD of the trio recording three larger "Magnetism" improvisations capture live at the Stone, 2016. ... Click to View


Larry Ochs / Sax and Drumming Core: Wild Red Yellow (RogueArt)

Rova leader Larry Ochs takes his Sax and Drumming Core to the next level with this charged album of mind-bending album of free improvisation with an hallucinatory edge, joined by Libra artists Satoko Fujii on piano & synth and Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, with Scott Amendola on drums, William Winant and Matthias Bossi on a wild set of percussive instruments. ... Click to View


The Seen: Archive: Volumes I - V (2005 - 2009) [5-CD BOX SET] (Confront)

Since 2005 bassist and percussionist Mark Wastell has been organizing concerts of ever-changing groups of improvising musicians under the collective name The Seen, using predominantly improvised material with occasional instructions or themes, here presented in 5 CDs, each a complete concert recorded at venues including Cafe Oto, Red Rose Theatre, &c. ... Click to View


Nicole Mitchell : Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE Records)

The second astounding album from Chicago Flutist Nicole Mitchell on the FPE label, continuing her project in the sphere of Sun Ra and Afrofuturists, merging fiction, fantasy and sound in an electro-chamber octet, encompassing contemporary classical, globally oriented fusion, gospel, avant-rock, spoken word, and funk-inspired groove research. ... Click to View


Nicole Mitchell : Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds [VINYL] (FPE Records)

The second astounding album from Chicago Flutist Nicole Mitchell on the FPE label, continuing her project in the sphere of Sun Ra and Afrofuturists, merging fiction, fantasy and sound in an electro-chamber octet, encompassing contemporary classical, globally oriented fusion, gospel, avant-rock, spoken word, and funk-inspired groove research. ... Click to View


Michael Foster / Ben Bennett: In It [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

The second release for the duo of Ben Bennett on drums, percussions and membranophones, and Michael Foster on tenor, soprano, sopranino saxophones and aerophone, in uniquely voiced improvisations that develop both carefully and, at times, erratically, but always with an ear to interesting dialog that captivates and confuses the listener. ... Click to View


Andrew Smiley : Dispersal [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

An uncommon solo guitar album from Andrew Smiley, a member of Little Women and the Chris Pitsiokos Quartet, creating textures on the guitar by applying unconventional techniques with his pick and fingers instead of using effects or guitar preparations, and accompanying himself on voice in Haino-esque ways, creating an album of sharp contrast and color. ... Click to View


Emmanuelle Waeckerle : Ode (owed) to O [2 CDs] (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

London-based composer Emmanuelle Waeckerle in a project of spoken word, flute and melodica with contributors including Antoine Beuger, using minimal and multiple narrations in texts that blend erotic literature, conceptual writing and verbal scores, presented as 2 Scores for voice(s) and instrument(s) based upon Pauline Reage's "Story of O". ... Click to View


HMS (Joe Houpert / Nathan McLaughlin / Erich Steiger): Tetrad [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Blurring the lines between experimental music, improv, and composition, the trio of Joe Houpert, Nathan McLaughlin, and Erich Steiger use the studio to rework their improvisations, accenting aspects of the acoustic and electronic elements and morphing them in unexpected ways; "think Henry Flynt meets Cluster meets Revolutionary Ensemble". ... Click to View


W-2 (Sam Weinberg / Chris Welcome): Fanatics [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

The Brooklyn duo of saxophonist Sam Weinberg (Captain Phillips) and synth player Chris Welcome (Chris Pitsiokos, Mike Pride) in an album of abrasive, rhythmically abraded and contorted electro-acoustic improvisation, each player embedding themselves into each other's sound, at time making their instruments indistinguishable from one another. ... Click to View


Steve Lacy: Free for a Minute (1966-72) [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Four sessions on a 2 CD set, all featuring Steve Lacy and Kent Carter: (1) DISPOSABILITY, the 1965 trio record with Aldo Romano of jazz standards, originals and free improv; (2) SORTIE, the 1966 free improv quartet + Enrico Rava album; (3) previously unissued 1967 'Free Fall' Film Cues in a quintet with Rava, Karl Berger, & Paul Motian; (4) two never issued '72 quintet pieces with Steve Potts, Irene Aebi on cello and Noel Mcghie. ... Click to View


Paul Rutherford : In Backward Times (1979-2007) (Emanem)

Four very different previously unissued concert settings featuring trombonist Paul Rutherford: 2 festival solos - one from 1979 with electronics and one from 2004 without; a 1988 duo with Paul Rogers a few months before their ROGUES CD; and a 2007 trio with Veryan Weston and Marcio Mattos, which turned out to be Rutherford's last public appearance. ... Click to View


Barry Guy: Frogs [VINYL 7-inch PICTURE DISC] (Trost Records)

A 7" limited vinyl picture disc made to celebrate legendary European Free Jazz bassist Barry Guy's 70th birthday, with Guy providing "acoustic sounds" along with his collaborating frogs, Wasserfrosch (Rana Esculenta) and Laubfrosch (Hyla Arborea), size A presenting Frogs & Barry Guy, and side 2, Barry Guy & Frogs; quirkly and wonderful free improv. ... Click to View


Christian Wolff : Berlin Exercises [VINYL] (God Records)

A series of shorter works composed by Christian Wolff written to explore the process of practicing and working within specified limits, exercises for both the composer and the performers, recorded live in Berlin in 2000 by an ensemble directed by Peter Ablinger and including Wolff on piano & melodica, Robin Hayward on tuba, Anette Krebs on guitar, &c. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock: Rhymes With Water [VINYL] (God Records)

A beautiful set of minimalist compositional drone from New York composer Phill Niblock, commissioned by the performers Natalia Pschenitschnikowa on bass flute and Erik Drescher on glissando flute, recorded at PIETHOPRAXIS, in Cologne, Germany by Marcus Schmickler, and in Berlin, Germany, by Thomas Ankersmit. ... Click to View


Simon Rummel Ensemble: IM MEER (Umlaut Records)

German composer and improviser Simon Rummel presents the 2nd release from his 11-piece Simon Rummel Ensemble, blending his interest in acoustic phenomena and improvisational harmonics in an extended work that shift from beautiful tonal work to disruptive cacophony and back to melodic music, blending jazz and 20th century approaches; a great achievement. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee / Bryan Eubanks: My Undocumented Alien Clarinet [VINYL] (Penultimate Press)

Recorded and presented as part of Pauline Oliveros Foundation's New Vanguard Series in Kingston, NY in 2006, the unusual duo of Joe McPhee on b-flat and e-flat alto clarinets and synthesizer and Bryan Eubanks on open circuit electronics explores unusual dynamics and psychoacoustic intersections of both acoustic and electronic instruments. ... Click to View


Blaise Siwula / Jorge Nuno: Waterscapes (Creative Sources)

Waterscapes is the performing duo of New York saxophonist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Jorge Nuno, interwining distinct approaches to acoustic and electric improvisation, creating rich sound environments and rapid interaction that draws the listener in and then sweeps them off their feet with passionate, complex and informed dialog. ... Click to View


Carlo Mascolo: My Tubes (Creative Sources)

A unique take on this large brass instrument from Italian trombonis and Free Flow Festival director Carlo Mascolo, using preparations, focusing on components of the instrument, and using extreme techniques to create a startlingly diverse set of sounds, vocalisations, microtonal output and simply bizarre utterances as Mascolo brings new language to horn. ... Click to View


Alfredo Monteiro Costa / Miguel A. Garcia: Aq'Ab'Al (Mikroton Recordings)

Audio experimenters Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Miguel A. Garcia join forces in an album titled after "Aq'ab'al", the Mayan Astrology Sign about polar opposites-- dawn and dusk, hot and cold, black and white--which represents renewal and change, through a series of opposing audio events, forceful sounds of texture, feedback, and intervention. ... Click to View


John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders: Last Dream Of The Morning (Relative Pitch)

A studio album between three UK master improvisers -- John Butcher on sax, John Edwards on double bass, and Mark Sanders on drums -- the trio pushing the envelope in technique and dialog in nearly telepathic playing that transports the listener into their environment, as the music builds and releases in effortless ways that are stunning and exulant; highly recommended. ... Click to View


Fred Van Hove / Roger Turner: The Corner (Relative Pitch)

Pioneering improvising pianist Fred Van Hove at UK's Cafe OTO for the first time, captured in a duo with UK drummer/percussionist Roger Turner, their first recording together, for a night of exceptional improvised interplay, sophisticated and complex playing that is constantly buoyant and charming, an enthralling conversation between two veteran players. ... Click to View


Magda Mayas / Jim Denley: Tempe Jetz (Relative Pitch)

A pairing of two innovative players, Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas and Australian sound and wind artist Jim Denley, Mayas playing inside and out of the piano and Denley on alto sax and bass flute, both providing field recordings adding unexpected elements in a set of extremely balanced recordings that entrance the listener with unlikely and captivating settings. ... Click to View


John Butcher: Resonant Spaces [VINYL] (Blume)

Extreme acoustic space recordings from saxophonist John Butcher, part of Arika's Resonant Spaces event, with performances from resonant and remote corners of Scotland. ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Kontakte Trio (Trevor Taylor / Ian Brighton / Steve Beresford): Kontakte Trio (FMR)

An important and well-matched trio of electroacoustic improvisers, and a welcome addition to guitarist Ian Brighton's return to active music life, with Steve Beresford on piano, prepared piano and electronics, and Trevor Taylor (Circuit) on percussion and electronics, six unhurried improvisations of intricate interplay and interchange themed on physics. ... Click to View


Viv Corringham / Lawrence Casserley: Anemoi (FMR)

Lawrence Casserley is a pioneer of real time electroacoustic music, since the 60s working with other artists and developing his Signal Processing Instrument, using physical gestures to process and morph sounds; here he works with British vocalist and Deep Listening teacher Viv Corringham in an other-worldly collaboration of voice and electonics. ... Click to View


Kamins / Smith / Fielder / Hertenstein: After Effects (FMR)

A great example of traditional free improvisation spanning generations from the quartet of Danny Kamins on baritone saxophone, Damon Smith on double bass, and two drummer/percussionists--Alvin Fielder and Joe Hertenstein--for 10 tracks of swinging free music recorded in the studio in Texas, 2016, jazz with a lyrical intention and powerful rhythmic underpinnings. ... Click to View


Pat Thomas: The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Inspired by the automatic water clock invented by Iraq inventor, engineer, and father of robotics, Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari built in the 12th century, pianist Pat Thomas recorded these four exceptional improvisations of powerful solo piano with an unusual and inventive twist live at London's Cafe Oto in 2015. ... Click to View


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  John Fahey 
  Vampire Vultures  
  (Drag City) 

   review by Kurt Gottschalk
  2003-12-15

John Fahey's life was an open book. True enough, even during his life that book was at least as much a novel as it was a memoir, but it was there for all to read, its chapters doled out in liner notes, interviews and the occasionally published essay.

Fahey's influence as a guitarist cannot be understated. As far back as the early 1960s, he was taking folk and blues styles and extracting them from the limits of song form. The mass of musicians that came in his wake, from Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges to Jim O'Rourke and Loren Connors and countless others, only eclipsed his significance. His contributions to solo guitar music are lost without context, in the way that Billie Holiday or Hank Williams might now be seen as just singers. If an artist truly revolutionizes a form, their impact can be overshadowed by their influence.

Along the way, Fahey imagined his old age, his death and his posthumous reputation in the lengthy notes that came with the recordings he released on his own Tacoma record label. And just as he labelled his music "American primitive," his writing carried an unschooled honesty. His first book, How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life was largely a catalogue of romantic relationships and yearning for acceptance. Vampire Vultures follows in that vein, but expands his fanciful imaginings into a story of a childhood that could be licensed to Steven Spielberg.

In short, young Fahey - innocent, outcast and above reproach in his actions - is chosen by the Great Koonaklaster (who also has concerns about land use issues) to lead the Cat People in a battle against a plot by the Krell to eat all of the earth's people in a single sitting. It's a ridiculous story, and one that probably requires a love of Fahey's music to be bought into, but somehow it relates a moral vision and, probably more important to those likely to read it, an insight into the strange mind of a seminal and under appreciated musician.

The fabrications are hard to ignore, but they aren't the whole of the book. As soon as the evil plot of the lizard-like Krell is revealed, a darker revelation is made. At age 40, twelve years before his death in 2001, Fahey came to realize that he was sexually abused as a child. It was a time when he was lost in the world. His records during that period bordered on New Age and he was deep in psychoanalysis. His revelation - and he seemed to want people to know about it, was ugly and muddled. He often repeated a story of seeing a turtle in the yard and recognizing it as a symbol he'd adopted for a penis, in particular his father's. But the story was always a bit uncomfortable and vague, told so briefly that it felt like troubled ramblings: true, perhaps, but certainly no one's business. Here, in eight brief and painful pages, he makes the story real, and concludes that: "The church, the school, the supermarket - all institutions - all teach that it is a far greater sin to talk about incest than to commit it. Or condone it. 'Remember the Fourth Commandment.'"

Fahey's prose isn't great, but it is entertaining, and he knew how to spin a yarn. Some of the dialogues are so stilted and self-praising that they could only be tongue-in-cheek, but at other points he does a nice job of creating a tale. He brings the reader in midstream and hints at what's going on in a scene, slowly providing concrete details and leaving the reader wondering if he's really writing about the absurdities he seem to be (and generally is). Other times he mixes folk vernacular with his biting and cynical intelligence, creating parodies that carry with them a strange verity:

"One day in the sweltering summer N.W. Washington, D.C. Ecozone, har har, while Grandma was sitting beside her pet terrestrial hammerhead shark reading a copy of Animal Farm, Grandpa rose his demeanor from the book he was reading, Black Beauty, and opened his mouth and spake unto me saying, "John, I think it's about time we loaded up the car with our surf poles and tackle, and yes, yes, yes, let's go out to West Virginia and do some fishing. I hear the stripers are running in the Ohio River. And I have to go to the Moundsville Agricultural Experimental Station and make a survey."

"That's a great idea, Gramps," I offered. "I'm fer it."

"John, Jane, Catherine, Suzie, Rover, George, Al, Jane, what do you think?" He posed there in the midst of time, exposing his Aufhenen, and thus opening the matter up for all to peer. Such courage.

Then John, Jane, Catherine, Suzie, Rover, George, Al, and Jane said in conglomerate mastiglian association,

"AFFIRMATIVE."

Some passages seem genuinely autobiographical, if we are to believe the reprinted letters he penned to women for whom he pined. But his penchant for self-contradiction was never more blatant than in these pages. In another reprinted letter he writes (and apparently later editorialized) of the John Fahey Trio, the group he recorded with in his final years. "Playing in a band is a new experience for me. We have recorded some great stuff. (All enclosed.) But it is inhuman music. It contains no emotions. (7/17: Not true.)"

The prose leapfrogs from letters to dialogue to memoir, from fiction to likely fiction to passages so human that if they're not autobiographical then there's so much wool over eyes toss it in and join forces with the Krell. Of which Fahey was one, at least by upbringing. Fahey's father was a factory and his mother was a river, but he was raised by Krell, who can of course block people's thoughts so he never saw them in their true lizard form. The Krells are Christian. They've always been at war with the Jews. The Cat People (who may or may not be Jewish) fight the Krell with the promise of being rewarded in an afterlife where they can maim and pillage and rape and kill every day. And that's not even getting into Garrison Keillor's role in the plot.

It's a complicated world Fahey imagined, but then it's a complicated world in which he lived. The book is published by the Chicago record label Drag City, and it's just as well it didn't go to a proper publishing house. An editor might have missed the point of the clutter.





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