The Squid's Ear
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Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker [2 CDs] (Confront)

Derek Bailey's Company in recordings from 2000 at The Klinker in London, with four performers--Bailey on guitar, Simon H. Fell on double bass, Mark Wastell on violincello, and Will Gaines tap dancing--the concert presenting various permutations of these musicians improvising, with narrations from Bailey, Fell, Wastell and Gaines punctuating the recordings. ... Click to View

Phil Maguire / James L. Malone: Working Title (Confront)

Phil Maguire (Verz label) exchanges abstract electronics from a variety of lo-fi devices with glitch and aberrant guitarist James L. Malone, a London improviser who has worked with Eddie Prevost, Phil Durrant, Steve Beresford and Adam Bohman, as the two trade strange sonic disruptions, avoiding pandemonium, instead using noise in pointed discourse. ... Click to View

Phil Minton / Roger Turner: Scraps Of Heard (Confront)

London Free Improv Scene long-standing members, vocalist Phil Minton and drummer/percussionist Roger Turner's first album together, "Ammo", was released in 1984; the two have continued to record together, and this live recording from 2016 in Hanover, Germany shows the two continuing to create distinctly bizarre and wonderfully personal dialog unlike any other. ... Click to View

Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole (BeCoq)

Rough and ready, angular instrumental rock from this Stavanger, Norway-based instrumental duo of Kristoffer Riis on guitar and Thore Warland on drums, two parts of the power-trio Staer, here creating a massive dose of momentum as they push heavy rhythmic riffs with odd tonality and a great sheen of prickly effect layers, in a compelling and muscular album. ... Click to View

Loubatiere / Warnecke: Couleurs Chimeriques (BeCoq)

An album of rich aural environments contrasted with clamorous action and disintegrating sound from the duo of French percussionist Rodolphe Loubatiere performing on snare drum and Berlin-based sound sculptor Pierce Warnecke, their second album as a duo presenting a sophisticated and diverse set of compositions that both entrance and disrupt their listeners. ... Click to View

IKB: Apteryx Mantelli (Creative Sources)

IKB continue their series of albums graced with taxonomic latin names for animals, here with the North Island brown kiwi bird, as the string- and wind-heavy electroacoustic ensemble led by violist Ernesto Rodrigues present this extended improvisation of subtle motion and understated complexity live at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon, Portugal in 2017. ... Click to View

Finn Loxbo / Erik Blennow Calalv : Snow Country (Creative Sources)

A duo between Swedish guitarist Finn Loxbo (Fire! Orchestra) and bass clarinet Erik Blennow Calalv, in a low-key, moody and tranquil album of improvisations with titles implying their unhurried approach to their dialog--"Clouds", "Moving, Dancing", and "Ryoanji"-- making a beautiful album of nearly ambient but decidedly determined music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae : Live at Cafe Amores (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae: Live at Cafe Amores [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Jeph Jerman : The Bray Harp (White Centipede Noise)

Aural explorer Jeph Jerman reworks 20 years of source material into this large work of recurring sound, obscuring sources in a rugged mill that turns its sonic grist into a mesmerizing flow of ringing tones and resolute grit, constructed from Jerman's own recordings and tapes from Eric La Casa and Oskar Burmmel, and metal & wood from Ben Brucato. ... Click to View

Stephen O'Malley / Anthony Pateras: Reve Noir (Immediata)

Pianist Anthony Pateras and guitarist Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O))) performed a concert in 2011 at Instants Chavires in 2011, which they took into the studio to deconstruct and recompose on 1/4 inch tape, creating a compelling landscape of fractured musique concrete, introspective meditations, electro-acoustic textures and heavy guitar; includes a 20 page interview with O'Malley. ... Click to View

Rohan Drape / Anthony Pateras: Ellesmere (Immediata)

A founder of the Slave Pianos collective and co-organizer of the Inland Concert Series, Australian computer and synth artist Rohan Drap joins keyboardist Anthony Pateras for an extended exploration of interlocking vintage electric organs, allowing their tones and timbres to interact in microtonal richness as they create tonal environments and gradually unfolding progressions. ... Click to View

Max Eastley / Steve Beresford / Paul Burwell / David Toop: Whirled Music [VINYL] (Black Truffle)

Remastering a singular album of joyfully disruptive free improv recorded in England in 1979 at Ikon Gallery from the quartet of Max Eastley, Steve Beresford, Paul Burwell, and David Toop, their goal: to create music from instruments and objects that would be whirled to produce sound, performed behind a net and played with masks to protect the performers and audience. ... Click to View

Jean-Luc Guionnet / Daichi Yoshikawa: Intervivos [VINYL] (Empty Editions)

Recording at Empty Gallery in Hong Kong furing a week residency, the duo Jean-Luc Guionnet (Ames Room) on saxophone and Daichi Yoshikawa (Eddie Prevost) using self-developed feedback of speakers, contact microphones & found objects, create intense yet constrained improvisations of impressive control, technique and exotic soundscape. ... Click to View

Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction (ESP-Disk)

Focusing on sound, warmth and exploration, pianist Matthew Shipp leads his quartet with saxophonist and clarinetist Mat Walerian, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey through 10 tracks that explore a diverse set of moods and styles, allowing each player space for expressive solo space, while never leaving the jazz and blues behind in this beautifully paced album. ... Click to View

Matthew Shipp: Zer0 aka Zero [2 CDs] (ESP-Disk)

New York pianist Shipp extends his infrequent solo career with this set of eleven solid studio recordings, taking us into the inner working of the influential pianist's approach to improvisation through lyrical, structured, enigmatic and unusual approaches to the keyboard; the first CD pressings include an hour talk "On Nothingness" that Shipp gave at The Stone. ... Click to View

Loren Connors: Pretty As Ever [VINYL] (Recital)

The Recital label continues its Loren Conners editions/reissue series with their 4th album of the guitarist's music, collecting and remastering tracks from out of print albums "Sails" and "Little Match Girl" in an album of ballads, complemented with a 12-page art-booklet of previously unpublished illustrations by Conners himself. ... Click to View

Sun Ra & His Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra: Sun Embassy [VINYL WITH DOWNLOAD] (Roaratorio)

Recordings from Sun Studios made between 1968-1969 with Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra including Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Daddy DAvis, Ray Thompson, Danny Davis, &c. in nine tracks, six of which have never been heard before in any form, plus remasters on 1950s classics "Sunology" and "Ancient Aiethiopia", plus an early rendition of "Why Go To The Moon". ... Click to View

Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra: Sleeping Beauty [VINYL] (Art Yard)

An extremely soulful electric album from Sun Ran and the Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra, a groove driven and funky swirling masterpiece from the late 70's, with Sun Ra on piano, electric piano and organ, the Arkestra propelled by the drumming of Luqman Ali over a full band with Craig Harris, Michael Ray, Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Danny Ray Thompson, &c &c. ... Click to View

Bistre (Muller / Rodrigues / Wong): As We Read Along... (Creative Sources)

A trio of free improvisers recording five detailed and subdued dialogs in the studio, from trombonist Matthias Muller (Splitter Orchester), cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, and guitarist Eric Wong, collective improvisation guided by long pointillistic passages that converge into lyrical focal points, a profound example of concentrative discourse. ... Click to View

Anthony Braxton : Sextet (Parker) 1993 [11-CD BOX SET] (New Braxton House)

Originally released on Hat Hut in '95, this 11-CD box blows open these 2 European concerts in Zurich and Koln, reworking the music of Charlie Parker and associated bop composers, with Braxton himself on reeds, plus saxophonist Ari Brown, trumpeter Paul Smoker, pianist Misha Mengelberg, and alternating between drummers Han Bennink and Pheeroan AkLaff; superb, essential! ... Click to View

Yoni Kretzmer's New Dilemma (Kretzmer / Loriot / Hoffamn / Sinton / Niggenkemper / Van Hemmen): Months, Weeks and Days [2 CDs] (OutNow Recordings)

The 2nd album for NY-based saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer's Chamber-Improv ensemble New Dilemma with Frantz Loriot (viola), Christopher Hoffman (cello), Josh Sinton (bass clarinet), Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass) and Flin Van Hemmen (drums), investigating "the intricacies differentiating and combining the written and the improvised continue with further depth and chance". ... Click to View

Quin Kirchner: The Other Side Of Time [VINYL 2 LPs + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

Known as a superlative sideman, Chicago drummer/percussionist Quin Kirchner's debut as a leader brings together trombonist Nick Broste, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, saxophonist Nate Lepine, pianist Ben Boye and bassist Matt Ulery for an excellent album of spiritual free playing with compositions from Sun Ra, Andrew Hill, Charles Mingus, Paul Motian, Phil Cohran, &c. ... Click to View

William Hooker Trio (Feat. Ava Mendoza / Damon Smith): Remembering [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Downtown NY drummer William Hooker leads a trio with West Coast players, Damon Smith on double bass and Ava Mendoza on guitar, for a live album at New York University in 2017 that blends free jazz and avant rock forms to create something unique and powerful, yet filled with moments of intrinsic beauty and drama, a great amalgamation of free playing. ... Click to View

Eave (Anna Webber/ Erik Hove / Vicky Mettler / Evan Tighe): Eave [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

A mix of New York and Canadian players, "Eave" is the quartet of Anna Webber and Erik Hove on saxophones, Vicky Mettler on guitar and Evan Tighe on drums, a collective abstract improvising band that uses its instruments as much for effect as for conventional playing, with commanding skill in all approaches as they surprise, bemuse and mesmerize the listener. ... Click to View

Tony Irving / Massimo Magee: The Fog [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

London scene free players since the 90s, drummer Tony Irving and alto saxophonist Massimo Magee, both of the improvisation duo Ascension, meet in the studio to record seven distinctive and quirky dialogs of strong technical skill, Irving often thundering over Magee's strangling runs and melodic diversions and asides; powerful and unpredictable. ... Click to View

Muyassar Kurdi / Nicholas Jozwiak: Intersections & Variations [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Interdisciplinary vocalist Muyassar Kurdi and Chicago-born, NY-based cellist Nicholas Jozwiak use the ambient sounds of their recording spaces in Brooklyn to add a presence to their introspective dialogs that take an almost devout approach to their calmly measured performances, making an intimate and evocative album of unorthodox improvisation. ... Click to View

Udo Schindler / Korhan Erel : leben | nebel (Creative Sources)

Live at the 66th SALON fur Klang+Kunst in Krailling, Munich, Germany finds festival leader Udo Schindler on cornet, bass, contrabass clarinet, soprano saxophone in a duo with Berlin-based Istanbul-born computer musician Korhan Erel, who designs his own unique instruments with unusual controllers, performing 9 singular dialogs of ethereal and unorthodox sound. ... Click to View

Yoko Miura / Jean-Marc Foussat: When Lowlands Consume the Space (Creative Sources)

Two approaches to keyboards from Japanese acoustic pianist Yoko Miura and keyboardist Jean-Marc Foussat (Fou Records) recording these extended and excursive improvisations in Paris in 2017, contrasting Foussat's alien and encompassing synthetic and electronic worlds with Miura's sophisticated playing inside and out of the piano. ... Click to View

Michael Winter : Approximating Omega (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Composer Michael Winter uses the "maximally complex, incomputable number" known as Chaitin's Constant, plus text adapted from Gregory Chaitin's 1994 book "The Limits Of Mathematics", samples from 36 creative musicians, the voice of Muirgen Eleonore Gourgues, plus cello from Judith Hamann and piano from Winters, to create this curious and compelling narrative work. ... Click to View

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  The Tyranny of the Tens  

A Belated Look Back at 2003

It must be hard to be a year. You have to come up with ten great movies, ten great records, ten great books - anymore than that and you're just spinning your wheels. History is written in decasets, or - with sufficient hindsight - in groups of 100.

Problem is, of course, there are good years and there are bad years. So rather than asking our writers to scrap for or limit themselves to ten, we gave them the sky as the limit for their end-of-the-year wrap-ups: a more democratic process, we feel. Those who had a better listening year get more votes because they want them, a vague sort of proportional representation.

A common complaint among avid listeners about the digital age is that there are just too many records these days. There have always been talented people, of course, but we fanatics have never been so saddled with knowing about them. Perhaps that's why only five records were named more than once, and perhaps this is how we might name the best records of 2003. And if anything can be gleaned from that half-a-ten, perhaps it's that we had a fairly melancholy year.

Sylvie Courvoisier - Abaton (ECM)The two surprises on Sylvie Courvoisier's two cd set are almost the same. The pianist proves herself to be a fine composer, and her trio with violinist Mark Feldman and cellist Erik Friedlander make a strong enough improvising unit that they nearly emulate the composer's voice even when playing without charts. The first disc contains four striking compositions and the second, recorded immediately after the first, captures three of New York's strongest improvisors in duo and trio settings. Abaton is a remarkable achievement, one that might bring the talented Courvoisier to many more ears.

Peter Kowald/William Parker - The Victoriaville Tapes (Victo) - Death, of course, brings immortality to the greats, and the German bassist Peter Kowald was no doubt one of the greats. He died in 2002 at the home of his longtime friend and fellow bassist William Parker, and this set from that year's Victoriaville Festival captured the two in a beautiful duet.

The Necks - Drive By (Fish of Milk) - The Australian piano trio The Necks are no doubt the least known of our Fab Four, which is a shame because they're as enjoyable as they are accessible. Landing somewhere between Miles Davis' In a Silent Way and Bernard Herrmann's film soundtracks, their music is slow, dramatic and engaging. Here they add Hammond organ to the piano/bass/drum line-up to a softly psychedelic effect.

Keith Rowe/John Tilbury - Duos for Doris (Erstwhile) - Two-thirds of slowsound forebearers AMM met in January, 2003, in Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy, France, for a session that almost didn't happen but turned out to be one of Erstwhile's biggest sellers. The mood of the musicians was no doubt hampered by the fact that Tilbury's mother died at age 95 three days before the recording was to take place. The two-cd set is a worthy addition to AMM's nearly 40 years of exploring.

John Zorn - Masada Guitars (Tzadik) - A strange criticism surrounds the proliferous John Zorn. While he cut his first working band, Naked City, too short, his second long-term project has gone on too long. Plenty of cds have been released under the Masada name, and the plethora has pushed away some old-school fans. From the core quartet, with Joey Baron, Greg Cohen and Dave Douglas, to the string trio, chamber groups, and "cover" albums, the Masada songbook has become lovingly dogeared. Those who jumped ship somewhere around the fourth DIW record or the fifth live album, though, would be advised to return to the fold for this solo guitar recital. The well familiar pieces are given new breath by Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot and Tim Sparks and the album, from beginning to end, is a work of beauty.

That said, here's the list, alphabetically and with apologies to believers in the decimal system.

  • Abdullah Ibrahim - African Magic (enja)
  • Absolute Zero - Crashing Icons (Recommended Records)
  • Adam Lane - Fo(u)r Being(s) (CIMP)
  • Ahmad Jamal - In Search Of: Momentum (1–10) (Birdology/Dreyfus)
  • Albert Ayler - The Copenhagen Tapes (Ayler)
  • Andrew Drury - A Momentary Lapse (Innova)
  • Anthony Braxton - Four Compositions (GTM) 2000 (Delmark)
  • Art Ensemble of Chicago - Tribute to Lester (ECM)
  • Bob Drake - 13 Songs and a Thing (Crumbling Tones/Recommended Records)
  • Carla Kihlstedt - 2 Foot Yard (Tzadik)
  • Charles Hayward - Abracadabra Information (Locus Solus)
  • Christian Fennesz – Live in Japan (Headz)
  • Cooper Moore and Assif Tsahar – America (Hopscotch)
  • Dave Douglas- Freak In (Bluebird)
  • David Budbill/ William Parker/ Hamid Drake- Songs for a Suffering World (Boxholder)
  • David Sylvian - Blemish (Samadhi Sound)
  • Dingobats - Pöck (Bergland Productions)
  • DJ Wally - nothing stays the same (Thirsty Ear)
  • Elliot Sharp - Velocity of Hue (Emanem)
  • Evan Parker and Joe McPhee - Chicago Tenor Duets (Okkadisk)
  • Fred Anderson – Back at the Velvet Lounge (Delmark)
  • Fred Frith - Keep the Dog: That House We Lived In (Recommended Records)
  • Fredi Luescher, Cécile Olshausen, Nathanael Su, Dear C. – The Music of Carla Bley (Altrisuoni)
  • Geof Bradfield - Rule of Three (Liberated Zone)
  • Giorgio Pacorig - My Mind Is on the Table (Splasc(h))
  • Globe Unity Orchestra 2002 (Intakt)
  • Gordon Beck - Gyroscope (Art of Life)
  • Grand Mal - Perfect Fit (Unsounds)
  • Gunther Muller - Eight Landscapes (For 4 Ears)
  • Hiroaki Katayama - Quatre (Studio Wee)
  • Hoahio - Peek-Ara-Boo (Tzadik)
  • John Butcher - Invisible Ear (Fringes)
  • John Fahey - Red Cross (Revenant)
  • John Lindberg- Ruminations upon Ives and Gottschalk (between the lines)
  • John Surman - Free and Equal (ECM)
  • John Wall – Hylic (Utterpsalm)
  • John Zorn - Masada Guitars (Tzadik)
  • Jon Rose - The People's Music (Recommended Records)
  • Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor - Great Fences of Australia (Dynamo House)
  • Josh Abrams - Cipher (Delmark)
  • Josh Abrams Quartet - Ciper (Delmark)
  • Julien Ottavi – Nervure Magnetique (Sigma Editions)
  • Julius Hemphill - One Atmosphere (Tzadik)
  • Keith Rowe – 29 October 2001 (Sound)
  • Keith Rowe/John Tilbury - Duos for Doris (Erstwhile)
  • Kevin Norton/Joelle Leandre/Tomas Ulrich - Ocean of Earth (Barking Hoop)
  • Larry Coryell - The Power Trio: Live in Chicago (HighNote)
  • Le Quan Ninh - Le Ventre Negatif (Meniscus)
  • Limescale - Limescale (Incus)
  • Lisbon Improvisation Players - live_lx meskla (Clean Feed)
  • Lutz Glandien - Lost Rooms (Recommended Records)
  • Markus Eichenberger - Domino Concept for Orchestra (Emanem)
  • Martin Siewert/Martin Brandlmayr – Too Beautiful to Burn (Erstwhile)
  • Marty Ehrlich - Line on Love (Palmetto)
  • Morton Feldman – Early Piano Works (Stefan Schliermacher)
  • Oren Ambarchi/Gunther Muller/Philip Samartzis -Strange Love (For 4 Ears 1448)
  • Paul Rogers - Listen (Emanem)
  • Peter Brötzmann - More Nipples (Atavistic UMS)
  • Peter Kowald/William Parker - The Victoriaville Tapes (Victo)
  • Phil Minton and Roger Turner - drainage (Emanem)
  • Philip Samartzis – Mort Aux Vaches (Staalplaat)
  • Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Compliments of the Mysterious Phantom (Hyena)
  • Repeat – Pool (Cut)
  • Rhodri Davies - Trem (Confront)
  • Robert Marcel Lapage - La machine ŕ exploRecommended Records le tempo (Ambiances Magnetiques)
  • Sachiko M/Sean Meehan – [untitled] (upsidedownbowl)
  • Satoko Fujii and Tatsuya Yoshida- Toh-Kichi (Victo)
  • Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Live (Sickroom)
  • Spring Heel Jack - Live (Thirsty Ear)
  • Staffan William-Olsson - Pop! (Real Records)
  • Supersilent- 6 (Rune Grammofon)   
  • Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman/Erik Friedlander- Abaton (ECM)
  • The Necks - Drive By (Fish of Milk)
  • The Vandermark 5 - Airports for Light (Atavistic)
  • Tim Berne's Science Friction - The Sublime and. (Thirsty Ear)
  • Trio-X - Journey (CIMP)
  • Vijay Iyer - Blood Sutra (Artists House)
  • Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd- In What Language? (Pi)
  • VRIL [Bob Drake, Lukas Simonis, Chris Cutler] (Recommended Records)
  • Whit Dickey - Prophet Moon (Riti)
  • William Parker Trio - Scrapbook (Thirsty Ear)
  • William Parker/Joe Morris/Hamid Drake - Eloping with the Sun (riti)

The Nominating Committee: Nate Dorward, Kurt Gottschalk, Eyal Hareuveni, Andrey Henkin, Brian Olewnick, Phil Zampino

The Squid's Ear is the companion magazine to the online music shop Squidco !

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