The Squid's Ear Magazine

Biota: Fragment For Balance (Recommended Records)

From Mnemonist Orchestra to Biota, with 18 albums in total, the Colorado collective Biota presents its 11th album on ReR, taking 4 years to complete this genre-defying album of gorgeous abstraction through free improvisation and composition, absorbing styles and reflecting them in a filtered ray of melody & song using unusual instrumentation and arrangment; absolutely recommended

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32 page full color booklet with artwork, credits and track listings.

UPC: 752725041225

Label: Recommended Records
Catalog ID: RERBCD9
Squidco Product Code: 27407

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2019
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold w/ booklet
Recorded at Dys Studio, in Bellvue, Colorado, between Spring 2016 and Fall 2018, by William Sharp.


Kristanna Gale-voice, acoustic guitar

James Gardner-electronic woodwind motifs

Tom Katismpalis-electric guita, nylon string guitar, 12 strong guita, bass guitar, clavioline

Randy Miotke-Rhodes, trumpet, flugelhorn, chimes, processing

Charles O'Meara-piano

Mark Piersel-acoustic guitar, resophonic guitar

William Sharp-editing, arrangements, processing

Gordon Whitlow-electric organ, pump organ, accordion, kaen

Larry Wilson-kir drums, percussion

Randy Yeates-keyboard

David Zekman-violin, banjolin

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"After 4 years of work on their 11th release for ReR, this extraordinary, reclusive, and highly individual audio-visual collective continues to evolve through the painstaking accumulation and disposition of a seemingly incompatible range of both exotic and familiar musical languages, instruments, techniques and studio manipulations into one of the few genuinely original bands at work today. It took a long time to refine their unique process of composition to this level of ambiguity and depth and newcomers will wonder how they strayed so far from orthodoxy and yet managed to retain a lucidity and transparency that is quite rare in contemporary music.

The bullet points are that Biota is a unique project, defying genre with, like all such cult artists, a small but extremely dedicated public that, over the last 15 years has grown continuously as new listeners discover them. Founded in Colorado in the late 1970s, Biota's first recordings were released under the name of the Mnemonist Orchestra who, between 1980 and 1984, released five albums on its own label, before linking up with ReR."-ReR

Background: group_or_band
Alias: Biota-Mnemonists, Mnemonists, Mnemonist Orchestra
Origin: Fort Collins, Colorado, United States
Genre: Experimental music, electroacoustic music, musique concr¸te, free improvisation
Years Active: 1979 - present
Label: Recommended Records (R R) (1986-present), Dys (1979-1985), Bad Alchemy, Anomalous Records, No Man's Land

Biota is an American experimental electronic music collective that has produced numerous albums since its beginnings in the late 1970s. Biota is known for its highly detailed and often radical compositional approach, which involves extensive electronic processing of traditional acoustic sound sources, often blending and coalescing folk, jazz, chamber, and rock idioms, among other music forms. In a review of their 1995 album Object Holder, David Newgarden wrote "Biota is not even remotely like any other group I can think of."
Musical career

Founded in Colorado in the late 1970s, Biota's first recordings were released under the name Mnemonist Orchestra (a.k.a. Mnemonists). Produced and engineered by Mark Derbyshire and William (Bill) Sharp, Mnemonists released five albums between 1980 and 1984 on its self-produced Dys label. Horde (1981), a seminal album of electronically processed music, garnered critical attention (including from the Recommended Records/R R label) for its groundbreaking use of unconventional sound manipulation and musique concr¸te techniques. Shortly after the release of Gyromancy in 1984, the group split into two collaborative factions: a visual arts collective, which retained the name Mnemonists, and the musical group, Biota.

Since the mid-1980s, Biota has released numerous idiosyncratic titles, mostly on R R. These include Rackabones (1985, Dys), Bellowing Room (1987), Tinct (1988), the Awry 10" (1988, Bad Alchemy), and Tumble (1989), a commissioned work for R R. Almost Never (1992, R R) features three voluminous suites for winds, strings, and processed acoustic/ethnic/antique instrumentation.

For Object Holder (1995, R R), the group expanded to include drummer Chris Cutler (Henry Cow, News From Babel), vocalist Susanne Lewis (Hail), the late electric guitarist Andy Kredt, and instrumentalist Charles O'Meara (a.k.a. C.W. Vrtacek of Forever Einstein), who later joined the group as a full-time contributor on piano. As with Biota's other releases, visual artwork that accompanied Object Holder was provided by Mnemonists (featuring Larry Wilson, Ken DeVries, Tom Katsimpalis, Bill Ellsworth, Dana Sharp, Heidi Eversley, Dirk Vallons, Randy Yeates, Ann Stretton, E.M. Thomas, Stan Starbuck et al.). Object Holder was the first Biota album to include sung lyrics, written by Katsimpalis and Cutler.

For Invisible Map (2001, R R), Biota's lineup included Genevieve Heistek (Set Fire to Flames, H A) on vocals and violin. In his review of Invisible Map, Fran¨ois Couture of writes "With its wide range covering delicate post-folkish pop songs to ambient soundscapes, Invisible Map may be the collective's most accomplished and accessible release to date. All music styles (folk, jazz, blues, rock, musique concr¸te, free improv, etc.) coalesce to be filtered through the dreamer's ears Ń background vocals are slightly treated, soloing instruments are heard from a distance, rhythm tracks are deliberately just a bit out of sync. This way, the simple tunes never really come into focus, giving the whole album an aura of mystery."

The group re-emerged in 2007 with its next release, Half a True Day (R R). On Cape Flyaway (2012, R R), traditional folk ballads, sung by group member Kristianne Gale, are interspersed amid original Biota compositions. Funnel to a Thread (R R) followed in 2014.

The group continues to adhere to an unpredictable method of organizing sounds that ultimately allows listeners to imbue proceedings with their own individualized interpretations and experiences (much like interpreting a piece of abstract visual art), thereby allowing for an element of "listener composition". Such a concept is in keeping with notions of community collaboration and song evolution inherent in many forms of traditional folk music. Biota's current lineup consists of Tom Katsimpalis, Bill Sharp, Larry Wilson, Mark Piersel, Kristianne Gale, Charles O'Meara, Gordon Whitlow, Randy Miotke, and Dave Zekman (with contributions from James Gardner and Randy Yeates).

Biota-Mnemonists has performed onstage only twice Ń at the Colorado State University art school in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1981, and at the 1990 New Music America festival in Montreal, Quebec, where the group premiered a suite of original works composed specifically for the occasion, featuring live (real-time) production and projected animation created by Mnemonists artist Heidi Eversley. The entire musical program of the New Music America performance was eventually released on CD as Musique Actuelle 1990 (2004), on Anomalous."-

32 page full color booklet with artwork, credits and track listings.

Get additional information at Biota Music

Artist Biographies

Track Listing:

1. Either Without the Other 5:18

2. Telling 1:01

3. Separate Chance 3:23

4. Kirree/Fishing Song 1:47

5. The Flandyke Shore 3:05

6. Key Ring 2:29

7. Other Thing Lake 2:30

8. On a Level Place 2:38

9. Balancer 1:50

10. Rivers Apart 4:00

11. Desperate Times 5:11

12. Unspun 1:19

13. Cast Out for Light 4:40

14. Compass Well 2:26

15. Walking Is Missing 9:48

16. Whirl Quarter Moon 1:14

17. Halflight 2:29

18. Sender Vine 2:22

19. To Brigg Fair 2:43

20. Corner Shade 1:22

21. Earlier an Encounter 1:51

22. Rabbit in the Rain 1:29

23. Cloud Pale 1:24

24. Remember Even Though 1:02

25. Lost While Found 0:38

26. On Laurels 4:48

Related Categories of Interest:

Recommended Records
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Large Ensembles
Song Based Music
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