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Sprawl: Sprawl [VINYL] (Trost Records)

Intense and beautifully harsh improvisation from drummer Michael Wertmuller (16-17, Alboth!, Full Blast) with Peter Brotzmann (reeds), Stephan Wittwer (guitar), Alex Buess (reeds & electronics), and William Parker (bass), originally released on CD in 1997. ... Click to View


Russell / Beresford / Edwards / Liavik Solberg: Will It Float? [VINYL] (VA FONGOOL)

Norwegian drummer Stale Liavik Solberg leads this quartet with prominent British improvisers, guitarist John Russell, bassist John Edwards, and Steve Beresford on electronics and objects, the latter adding an unusual edge to superb interactive playing. ... Click to View


Gallio / Rupp: Fasane Hula Punk (Rapid Moment)

The duo of electric guitarist Olaf Rupp and soprano saxophonist Christoph Gallio in a set of 13 studio improvisations, restrained and thoughtful dialog of great technical skill and unusual tonal approaches to both instruments. ... Click to View


Yannis Kyriakides + Andy Moor: A Life Is A Billion Heartbeats (Unsounds)

Yannis Kyriakides and Andy Moor's exploration and mining of the rich and mysterious terrain of Greek rebetika music from early 20th century, using a combination and juxtaposition of rebetika elements with their own distinct sonic explorations. ... Click to View


Charlemagne Palestine & Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra: ggrrreeebbbaaammmnnnuuuccckkkaaallloooww!!! [VINYL] (Important Records)

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SAKA: Posh?! (FMR)

The free improvising tree of bassist Jon Rune Strom (Frode Gjerstad Trio, Paal Nilssen-Love, &c), tenor saxophonist Kristoffer Berre Alberts and percussionist Dag Erik Knedal Andersen, fiery free jazz with great technical skills and an oddly playful side. ... Click to View


Ian Watson / Susie Hodder-Williams : The Tao Of Homeopathy (FMR)

A meditative double CD with subtle flavours of flute and gamelan accompanying a reading by Ian Watson, the author of the Tao of Homeopathy exploring the philosophies and practices of homeopathy and Taoism."-Susie Hodder-Williams ... Click to View


Marcin Masecki : Variations (Bolt)

Composer & pianist Marcin Masecki wrote this work, inspired by Frederic Rzewski and presenting variations on the Chilean song "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido" (The town united will never be defeated) and invited pianist Piotr Nowicki to perform it for this recording. ... Click to View


Gintas K: Blind Man Tales (Bolt)

Gintas K, in a moment of frustration, took more than 40 elements from some recent work he was preparing and put them into multichannel software which, with a few corrections, became this surprising and complex work of organized and detailed sound. ... Click to View


Candelaria Valiente Saenz / Marcin Masecki: Hymnen (Bolt)

Based on the anthems of nations that have endured recent struggles, from the duo of Marcin Masecki on keys and Candelaria Saenz Valiente on vocals and percussion, embraceable songs with unusual structures paying tribute to the beautiful themes for each nation. ... Click to View


Arturas Bumsteinas : Different Trains (Bolt)

A collection of experimental, electroacoustic, and comprovized works of composer, sound artist, performer, and improviser Arturas Bumsteinas, inspired by Central European cultural landscape, including a radio play Wielka improwizacja commisioned by Bolt Records. ... Click to View


Joanna Sokolowska Halszka: Msza (Bolt)

A chamber opera by Joanna Halszka Sokolowska at Opera// REMIX at Komuna// Warszawa, using sung and spoken voice, piano, and a variety of tonal instruments to present an intriguing set of variations informed by numerological methods, scientific statistics, &c.. ... Click to View


Alexander Schlippenbach Von Trio: Pakistani Pomade [VINYL] (Cien Fuegos)

One of saxophonists Evan Parker's favorite recordings from the long-running trio led by pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach with drummer Paul Lytton, the powerhouse free improvised "Pakistani Pomade" alubm is reissued on 180 gram vinyl with its original cover. ... Click to View


John Butcher / Andy Moor: Experiments With A Leaf (Unsounds)

Since working together in Thermal, saxophonist John Butcher and The Ex guitarist Andy Moor have collaborated in live performance, here recording in a cathedral in Berne, Switzerland in 2013, using its natural reverb to augment their impeccably paced and inspired dialog. ... Click to View


L'Ensemble Volta: Les Nuages de Magellan (Recommended Records)

ReR's 3rd collection featuring the ondes Martenot, an early electronic musical instrument invented in 1928 by cellist Maurice Martenot; this volume, performed by the 4 piece L'Ensemble Volta + Antoine Alerinie is dedicated to Spectralist composer Tristan Murail. ... Click to View


John Greaves / Peter Blegvad / Lisa Herman : Kew Rhone (Recommended Records)

Taking Rock In Opposition into difficult territory, Peter Blegvad and John Greave's song cycle is a perplexing and rewarding album blending literature with rock and jazz forms, performed in an ensemble including Carla Bley and Michael Mantler; an intricate masterwork. ... Click to View


Stepmother (Simonis / Visser / Gilonis / Kerman): Calvary Greetings (Megaphone / Knock 'Em Dead)

Bringing together members from RIO-oriented bands like Vril, AA Kismet, The Work, Hat Shoes, Hail, 5uus, Present, & Thinking Plague, Stepmother presents a strange conglomerate of styles in short songs with twisted elements, strange intent, and superb playing. ... Click to View


Motorpsycho: Demon Box [VINYL 2 LPs] (Rune Grammofon)

Still the favorite of many Motorpsycho fans, the iconic "Demon Box" was also this Norwegian rock band's breakthrough album from the early 90s, hard-edged prog oriented rock (think Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), presented in its original 2 LP format on 180 gm vinyl. ... Click to View


Beatriz Ferreyra : GRM Works [VINYL] (Recollection GRM)

Electronic composer Beatriz Ferreyra was a pioneer alongside Pierre Schaeffer, developing the famous Music Theory of the Sounding Object in the 50s, and continued to compose with Bernard Baschet and his Structures Sonores, holding residencies at Dartmouth College. ... Click to View


Michel Redolfi: Pacific Tubular Waves/Immersion [VINYL] (Recollection GRM)

Electroacoustic landscape composer Michel Redolfi in a work for Synclavier digital synthesizer recorded between 1979 & 1980, attempting to musically translate his research on underwater sound in the Pacific, from the movement of rolling waves to its depths. ... Click to View


The Necks: The Necks Box [8 CD BOX SET] (Recommended Records)

Formed in Australia the late 1980s by Chris Abrahams, Tony Buck and Lloyd Swanton, the Necks play post-jazz, post-rock, post-everything, slowly morphing improvised music, here in a limited numbered box set presenting 8 of their CDs from the UK Recommended Records label. ... Click to View


Reinhold Friedl : Golden Quinces, Earthed For Spatialised Neo-Bechstein (Bocian)

Reinhold Friedl performs on one of the last remaining of 150 Neo-Bechstein amplified Grand Pianos, using unusual recording techniques to find unexpected sonic aspects to the instrument, producing a dark ambient and industrial work of great intensity. ... Click to View


Alva Noto: Xerrox Vol. 3 (Raster-Noton)

Alva Noto continues his Xerrox series with the 3rd volume,"Towards Space", using the process of copying and manipulation of data as a basis for sound compositions, here showing a warmer music inspired by film memories, creating an imaginary soundtrack. ... Click to View


Eric La Casa: W2 (1998-2008) [2 CDs] (Herbal International)

A journey in sound from composer Eric La Casa, who organized these recordings of water and wind captured over 12 years as a sonic journal of the various geographic locations he visited, transforming them into an absorbing story about the living world. ... Click to View


John Zorn: The Song Project Live At LPR (Tzadik)

In celebration of his 60th birthday Zorn asked his most acclaimed vocal collaborators to write lyrics to select compositions from his vast musical catalog, first released as a 7" box set, and now here in red velvet covered CD package from a live performance in NYC, 2015. ... Click to View


Steve Coleman & the Council of Balance: Synovial Joints (Pi Recordings)

Composer and alto saxophonist Steve Coleman in a superb modern jazz album, written by applying characteristics of human synovial joints to compositional process, and using "camouflage orchestration" to orchestrate players into the fore-, middle- and background. ... Click to View


Graham Lambkin / Michael Pisaro: Schwarze Riesenfalter (erstwhile)

Balancing active organized sound worlds from Graham Lambkin with Wandelweiser discretion from Michael Pisaro in five tracks that punctuate concrete sound compositions with Feldman-esque piano progressions, bound together by a short poem; captivating and elusive. ... Click to View


Jeph Jerman / Tim Barnes: Matterings (erstwhile)

The pairing of eccentric sound artist Jeph Jerman with Quakebasket label leader/percussionist Tim Barnes, using unidentifiable sound sources, field recordings, and the occasional acoustic instrument to create unique, curious and absorbing environments. ... Click to View


Eric La Casa / Taku Unami: Parazoan Mapping (erstwhile)

Using "recordings" and "devices", this is the first release from the long-standing collaboration of Eric La Casa and Taku Umani, 15 untitled tracks of curious and subtly discursive sound work recorded in a diverse set of locations. ... Click to View


Ingar Zach / Miguel Angel Tolosa: Loner (Sofa)

Using electronics, field recordings, and acoustic percussion, the duo of Ingar Zach and Miguel Angel Tolosa (Ubeboet) create murky soundscapes punctuated and driven by percussion and ringing tones, rich ea-improv using tone and drones to envelope the listener. ... Click to View


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  Helen Stapinski 
  Baby Plays Around  
  (Villard) 

   review by Kristen Persinos
  2004-04-26
Helen Stapinski: Baby Plays Around (Villard)

December.  June.  Four Heads.  Recliner.  Star 69.  Speed Dial.  Bitter.  Panchino.  Gump.  Maraschino.  Tug.  Dish.  Reflector.  Stipend.  Slattern.  Slatternly.  Carmie.  Maxilla.  Shifter.  Resentful.  The Stevedores.

This is the pastime popular with musicians called the "name our band" game, as played by Helen Stapinski and her old bandmates in her memoir Baby Plays Around.  (My own band once considered "Jesus Streisand.")

The book chronicles a year or so in the life of 30-something Stapinski as she made her living as a freelance writer, played drums in an indie rock band based in the Lower East Side of New York City (with no prior band experience other than playing along to her favorite records as a kid) and faced marital problems.

Being a 30-something female in a rock band based in the Lower East Side myself, I was curious and armed for battle: What was her experience, her take on the male-driven popularity contest of the indie rock scene in NYC?  Would the book be much like most of the hipsters involved: puddle deep?  Would familiarity breed contempt?

Upon reading the first few chapters, it seemed that Stapinski and I share more in common than just age and the band thing. We both have older brothers who influenced our involvement with music. We both sometimes come off as tomboyish. We listened to some of the same records (REM's Murmur) growing up, and had some of the same rock heroes (Elvis Costello). And to top it off, much of the book's action takes place within a 10-block radius of my apartment. (One of her band's old haunts was a restaurant where I used to bartend.) After a few no shits - "no shit, that sounds familiar" and "no shit, that is a block from my house" - my claws began to retract and I ended up not being able to put the book down; not just for the cheap thrill of reading about my immediate surroundings and the things we have in common, it was Stapinski's self-effacing, wry sense of humor, her intelligence, and her sincerity.She is delightfully sarcastic, but also thoughtful, decent and ultimately fair. (Hey Helene, wanna play in my band?)  Her writing style is refreshing in its directness and its lack of masturbatory word play. She knows when enough is enough.

There are many witty moments in this book.  The chapter on her band's bass player auditions was funny and dead on, but you do not have to be a musician to appreciate the humor.

"There was another guy, who hadn't even listened to the tape.  'Why are you wasting our time?' Julie asked him.  He just shrugged, grinning like the teenager he actually was.  You could tell what was passing through his meager brain, as he nodded and looked us over: 'Chick band.  Cool.  Two chicks.  One guy.  Guy is me.  Hey.  Maybe I'll score.  Threesome!  Cool!'  I think he actually drooled on his bass guitar.  Unfortunately he was not electrocuted."

"Then there was the guy with the long ponytail who played New Age bass.  He was sent packing, back to the mother ship."

Later chapters in the book are touching as her relationships with her band mates and her estranged husband…well I wouldn't want to give it away, now would I?

So yes, I laughed ... I cried ... as her increasingly troubled marital life intertwined with her rocky (forgive me) band life, both marriages affecting each other with moments of ecstasy and despair as Helene powered through.

Readers who live in New York City, or just love it from afar, will enjoy reading about such landmarks as Katz's Deli, Ratners and the Lansky Lounge, as well as some of the popular rock clubs: Arlene's Grocery, Luna Lounge, and the now defunct Spiral and Brownies.

So, I'll do my best now to sound like a book critic and say that Baby Plays Around is a well crafted, entertaining book about the weathering of love found and love lost (and visa versa); dry but not without heart.





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