Listening - Monday, August 31st 2020
I stopped writing in this listening journal back in February. Of course I kept listening, but at some point the idea of trying to write about everything I listen to started to weigh poorly on my listening choices. I don’t need to write about everything I listen to, so I won’t.
Going forward I’ll just write something here when it feels like fun. Not because I have anything special to say per se, or because the things I listen to have some special weight but just because I feel like writing a little bit. I felt like writing a little bit today. :-)
I also haven’t been listening to very much music for the past few weeks – the happy exception being the new routine of Sunday listening club meetings with a small group of friends.
Most of this new Yo La Tengo album has been sitting on my hard drive unplayed for quite a while. Between the time I picked up three of the tracks on bandcamp and now they’ve collated it into an album and even pressed an LP. So, I accidentally listened to two tracks out of order before I realized there were more, and everything had been collected.
I’ve heard very little of Yo La Tengo’s music. In high school, their and then nothing turned itself inside out record was coveted by friends, and I did spend some time with it because of their enthusiasm. Last year, I picked up a dirt cheap copy of it on discogs curious to revisit – and honestly I’ll have to spend more time with it to feel like I have anything to say. It still didn’t really hit me in a particular way, but I remember it as a nice album anyway.
I was curious about these tracks now called We Have Amnesia Sometimes partly because I’d like to give this band another chance, partly because Marc Weidenbaum wrote something nice about one of them, partly because I wanted to see what had or hadn’t changed in the 20 years since nothing turned itself inside out, but mostly because these songs are all just recordings from improvisations / jams during their normal rehearsals. I was aware of their reputation as improvisers and being a rock band I assume they get into the psych/jam band territory as improvisers which is something I generally enjoy even from groups that aren’t the most skillful improvisers, whatever that means.
Based on the titles (and from what I remember of the pace of the releases on bandcamp when they were coming out as singles) I think each track is a curated moment from some part of that day’s rehearsal, one for each day of the week Monday through Friday. If I had to pick a favorite, Wednesday’s James Gets Up And Watches Mourning Birds With Abraham has a nice Arnold Dreyblatt drive to it and feels maybe the most composed of the bunch. On the whole though all of these tracks follow essentially the same pattern which is well-worn by jam bands of all walks: settle into a droning groove & do a bit of solo work on top. The lone exception being the final track which is mostly drum-free, but otherwise essentially follows the same pattern. Nothing on this album jumps out at me to validate the praise I’ve heard about their skill for improvisation, but that’s not to say the songs don’t hang together or that it sounds like they aren’t listening to each other, etc. For me these are best listened to not as improvisations really but just as what they are: a rock band nicely screwing around in their rehearsal space. (And the louder I play these, the better they sound – probably the best listening experience would be on a mono PA system cranked up at least enough to match the volume of a rock drummer in a mid-sized room.) To be honest I might enjoy these more if they were all three or four times as long and had enough time to actually sprawl out into the meditative jam zones they tease.
Thankfully they had the good sense to stop after a week’s worth of recording though. This is a nice snapshot in time, and I think I’ll come back to it next time I feel like playing their music, but it would quickly fall over on itself as a never-ending series. I don’t really feel like there are any tracks on here that stand out as something extremely special, but that’s also the charm of the collection. I’d like to hear documents like this in the future from them, but let some time pass. Yo La Tengo, are you listening? ;-) It could be a nice yearly event to set down these relaxed interstitial moments in the workshop. This window into their rehearsal space is fun and pleasant in a way that a highly polished worked-over studio album could never be.
Listening - Saturday, Feb 1st 2020
- Sun Ra – Lanquidity (1978 Philly Jazz)
- Christopher Hipgrave – No Greater Hero Than The Least Plant That Grows (2015 Home Normal)
Spent most of the day listening to something I’m working on, but took a few listening breaks with Sun Ra and Christopher Hipgrave.
I really would love a new Christopher Hipgrave album! He’s been one of my favorite computer musicians since his Home Normal debut Day blew me out of the water.
Lanquidity gets further into the realm of funk than many Sun Ra albums, but it’s still our man with his ways. Utopian, thoughtful and a bit more funky than usual.
Listening - Friday, Jan 31st 2020
I downloaded this from an mp3 blog long ago, then lost track of the blog, but I very much enjoy coming back to this album. (I’ve since found a cheap used copy as well.) Just a great post-rock outing – reminds me a bit of Isotope 217 maybe. Great sense of sound & timbre, plenty of hypnotic freakouts and a solid showing of interesting harmony and subtle hooks.
Listening - Thursday, Jan 30th 2020
“There’s another side left?” was a question I found myself asking throughout the day as I listened to this. In a weak moment sometime in 2018 I pre-ordered the vinyl box set. I like Autechre a lot – top Autechre is fantastic and classic. I’ll be replaying Chiastic Slide and Cicli Suite and EP7 and others until I die, I’m sure… but I’m skeptical of this data-dump trend generally.
This three-record set which is only 1/4 of the full release could have easily been whittled down to a nice EP, with maybe a few b-sides leaked out here and there on the side. There are some very nice moments, I prefer the more textural outings on this collection, and other volumes in the NTS series have some of the best IDM-slurp-swarms they’ve ever accomplished. Still, it’s all buried under basically mediocre filler that should have hit the cutting room floor.
Are we having a similar moment when CDs really took off in the 90s, capacity had hit 80 minutes and every artist or label felt obligated to fill every release to the very brim of those 80 minutes? Just because digital delivery systems allow you to fairly easily release 10 hours of music at once doesn’t mean it needs to be so!
That said, I’m thankful for extremely long-form outings like Calineczka’s Music not for Airports or Terre Thaemlitz’ haunting but beautiful Deproduction… I just wish these NTS Sessions felt as essential in their length as those.
Listening - Wednesday, Jan 29th 2020
- Clifford Thornton – Ketchaoua (1969 BYG)
- Archie Shepp – Montreux One (1976 Arista)
- Howard Stelzer & Jason Talbot – Songs (2003 Intransitive)
- Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack – Born To Love (1983 Capitol)
Well, I only ended up writing a short rant about Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack’s Born To Love, so here it is.
In Defense of Born To Love
If you can set aside the incredibly schlocky 80s love ballad lyrics – heavy-handed and precisely dramatic gestures of eternal love and everything is forever and boundless etc etc. Just get over it, because underneath there is actually a lot of great music on Born To Love.
Blame It On Me and Heaven Above Me feel like stand-outs but the winner of top-schlock lyrical content while remaining a pretty great song is the groan-worthy Tonight, I Celebrate My Love. Really, get over it and bask in the rolling waves of rhodes-like guitar and soft arrangements.
The record stays surprisingly on point until Comin’ Alive. Just skip that one, and maybe call it a day after I Just Came Here To Dance. Robbie Buchanan’s synth programming at times echos Giorgio Moroder’s synths in Limahl’s Neverending Story, but there’s just too much garbage swirling around it to salvage Comin’ Alive.
After that unfortunate turn, the record kind of wimpers away. The synth brass in You’re Looking Like Love is fun but the song feels like a poor soundalike of much better material from the same record – like Maybe! Unfortunately Can We Find Love Again is another mostly forgettable genre exercise.
That said, before giving it a chance, I assumed the whole record would be a series of forgettable genre exercises. There are some seriously great songs and breaks in here, with the standard content disclaimer for the over-the-top schlocky narrative premise.
Listening - Tuesday, Jan 28th 2020
- Collections Of Colonies Of Bees – Rance (2000 Crouton)
- Man Or Astro-Man? – Eeviac: Operational Index And Reference Guide, Including Other Modern Computational Devices (1999 Touch And Go)
- Spill – Fluoresce (2012 Monotype)
This early Coco Bees album is one of my favorites – heavy on the guitar-stuttering tricks Chris Rosenau has perfected over the years, abstract without veering too far from what it is abstracting… Jon Mueller sounds like a young man on this! I didn’t remember him singing on it, but there is no contemporary chant-style intonation here, just pure teen heart-throb indie crooning.
I haven’t heard Man Or Astro-Man? since the 90s – they were one of those bands I’d hear at band rehearsal or listen to with friends but I never fully got into myself. I guess not much has changed. Funny since I’ve developed a love of surf music as an adult – well, I guess it’s more accurate to say I’ve developed a love for Alan Jenkins surf projects… and Man Or Astro-Man? has plenty of studio electronics smeared here and there, a cheeky sense of humor… I don’t know. It doesn’t really work for me for some reason. I almost turned the album off several times. The one highlight was track 9 which was a 90 second pop song that sounded like it was recorded inside of a dumpster, during a dumpster fire. That was very nice! Points also for the cheeky robot synth ending, but I might not come back to another Man Or Astro-Man? album for another 20 years or so…
Spill’s Fluoresce is hard to describe, but Tony Buck’s skittery drums and Magda Mayas’ crystalline pianos and misc implements are a match made in heaven. They have two other records I haven’t heard yet!
Listening - Monday, Jan 27th 2020
- Helado Negro – This Is How You Smile (2019 Rvng Intl.)
- Various – Musique Électroacoustique - Electroacoustic Music - Disc 2 (1990 Radio Canada International)
I think I listened to the Sunday Jazz Workshop for more than 16 hours yesterday - I didn’t plan to but the playlist was so good… Brent is going to start doing them every Sunday.
This Is How You Smile continues to grow on me.
I moved on to disc two of this Radio Canada comp from 1990 and there are plenty more highlights – for me probably Marcelle Deschenes’ appropriately titled Big Bang II which is all explosions and cool spectromorphology as well as David Jaeger’s Fancye organ feature are some of the standouts. I also really enjoyed the rhythms and textures in Diana McIntosh’s …and 8;30 in Newfoundland as well – according to wikipedia she’s worked with Ann Southam who I need to get back into the queue sometime soon!
This disc ends with a fantastic strumming string drone freakout from James Montgomery called Saigon that also really stands out for me.
It’s sort of criminal this comp seems to have been erased from the earth at some point. I stumbled onto it via soulseek – please, go and find it there, this music deserves to be heard.
Listening - Saturday, Jan 25th 2020
Listening - Friday, Jan 24th 2020
- Jose Ignacio Quevedo Gómez - την εποχή της αναγέννησης. // पुनःकरण. // En la Era del Renacimiento. [SuperCollider] // Stochastic Music (2019 Self-released)
- brekekekekexkoaxkoax - Drone Works (2017 Earthwalker)
- Radboud Mens - Three Linear Studies Of Cross-Synthesis (2016 ERS)
Tonight I’m soldering a kit with some drones to keep me company. Radboud Mens’ recent series of drone records are fantastic but this one is especially varied and lush. The brekekekekexkoaxkoax was way more deviant than I remember it being the last time I listened – lots of explorations of inharmonic spaces and I was much more aware of the presence of a room where things were taking place this time around.
Jose Gómez’ lovely stochastic music is just a (long) fragment from a huge collection on his bandcamp page. I have a soft spot for this kind of hyper-textured roughly digital microsound and he does a very nice job with it. It’s a beautiful sound world. I haven’t listened to the rest yet but I’m curious to hear more from the collection.
Listening - Thursday, Jan 23rd 2020
- Haim - Days Are Gone (2013 Columbia)
- Child’s View - Funfair (1999 Bubblecore)
- Phonem - Hydro Electric (2000 Morr Music)
Too engrossed in a music project tonight to write much.
Haim’s Days Are Gone is a classic and I can’t wait to hear the one they’re teasing with new singles now. The last one felt like a weird misstep but the new singles seem to go back to what they do best: playing rock and roll very well.
So much I wanted to write about this relatively obscure Nobukazu Takemura album which comes at an interesting point in his solo career… another time!
Finally: Phonem’s Hydro Electric defines the IDM genre and is the best offering of its era. A nuanced view!
Listening - Wednesday, Jan 22nd 2020
- Shalabi Effect – Shalabi Effect: Disc 1 (2000 Alien8 Recordings)
- Autechre - Chiastic Slide (1996 Warp)
Shalabi Effect was a dorm room touchstone. My friend introduced me to this record. I remember just hanging out and comparing our personal lists of mind-blowing albums, listening and geeking out on our favorite moments. Do people do that sort of thing still? I hope so! Also, of course, we both played in a freeform electroacoustic jam band at the time so this album wasn’t just a cool thing, it was research for us.
Despite that and its influence on me at the time, I never spent a ton of time with it on my own. A couple years ago when everyone decided that CDs were no good anymore I started trolling discogs for classic albums being dumped for pennies… (People are still dumping their CDs like garbage so if you’re one of those people who doesn’t hate CDs, be advised.) Anyway I hadn’t thought about that album at all since college but I wanted to give it another chance.
Today I played the first disc five times in a row and I think the whole thing finally might have really clicked for me. It was an especially productive work day, and I think I owe at least some of that focus and productivity to this album. I had the experience over & over of putting the record on, getting absorbed in some work, and then noticing the album was over and I guess another 65 minutes had passed. The first few times I replayed it were just to try to pin it down enough in my mind that I might be able to write something about it later on, but eventually I got sucked into the magical rhythm of it dilating time over & over.
Shalabi Effect has some heritage with American jam bands like The Grateful Dead or even Phish, to my ears. Those moments aren’t totally pervasive but there’s plenty of juicy psych guitar for the lover of the classic 70s style freak out. Still, the vibe of the record is a much more atmospheric tambura-like undulation of guitar and synths and textural percussion that really does a great job of stirring up a meditative vortex and sucking you into a timeless spin for a rewarding but hazy 65 minutes.
I was a little afraid to play disc two so soon after. Chiastic Slide and a healthy interval of silence made a nice chaser to that experience though. I think Chiastic Slide gets better every time I listen to it. Somehow it always surprises me how good it is – that rhythmic modulation in the opening track, oof! The sound design is gorgeous on this one too. They were at the top of their game in 1996.
Listening - Tuesday, Jan 21st 2020
- Bernhard Günter - Impossible Grey (1997 Metamkine)
- Bernhard Günter - Monochrome Rust / Differential (2002 Line)
- Chiyoko Szlavnics - During a Lifetime (2017 Another Timbre)
Impossible Grey is one of Günter’s more silent pieces – maybe the most silent. Despite his suggestion to play these earlier albums quietly, I do tend to crank them up to at least the point where they are not losing a battle when the A/C kicks on in my apartment. This EP-length offering has something like a dozen or so audible events during its 18 minutes. Something like this which is often gone and only at its most pronounced barely there maybe seems like a prank, or pretentious, or some other sort of put-on. The truth is the modesty of its offering is a little overwhelming. There are so few gestures offered up into your listening environment – this isn’t just a 4’33" type exercise in activated listening to the environment, although that’s certainly a happy side effect. If I could imagine an analog to this album it would be a transparent overlay on a window, with gem-like points that gently disturb the light passing through, creating an observable pattern that sits inside the frame of the window rather than on top of it.
If the appeal is just some incidental dirt smeared on a window, what exactly is the composer bringing to this? How could it have value if it could be pumped out in bulk by a child? Without becoming too obsessed with ego and intention, the fact is every choice in a hyper-restrained piece like this is a jewel. It’s not important if each gesture was labored over or chosen freely and easily, each one is a micro-composition placed inside the listening environment – just an offering as time passes, a tiny situation that’s gone as quickly as it arrives and rewards patient and thoughtful listening.
Monochrome Rust / Differential and its companion set Monochrome White / Polychrome with Neon Nails along with the otherwise unrelated 音丈 (Oto Dake) for me are a suite of ghost drones. These albums are to my ears very different from the rest of his work although the Line double-discs all operate at the edge of perception which was a recurring theme in his earlier music. Much of Günter’s music, especially the early stuff, is very gesture-oriented. Points and events placed in space, gestures that articulate themselves once and never return. They’re story-tellers without a narrative per se.
This trio of ghost drone albums all create a continuous environment for their duration. The Line discs sparkle and crackle and seethe with detail – even more so I listen to these albums loud so as to feel like I’m inside this world, surrounded by the cellophane echos of that mysterious Immedia disc. Monochrome White / Polychrome with Neon Nails was constructed from a nearly-silent disc called In Audio.
I don’t know much of anything about Immedia except that in 1998/1999 they released this disc which captivated Günter enough for him to do two double-disc reworkings of its near-silent material. The second double-disc Monochrome Rust / Differential uses the first as its sound source, and in theory the process could continue forever.
It didn’t though, so I’m content to crank these double albums now and then and climb into their plastic gauzy sheen for a while.
I felt a little badly writing that basically all recent Another Timbre albums sound the same a few posts ago. That’s not nearly fair. Simon Reynell has a very specific vision and appetite which has changed over the years and currently seems to be settled somewhere in the world of very understated chamber music. I have tended to listen to batches of these releases in one day, fairly casually, and so they blend together from inattention because they’re basically all simpatico, but I shouldn’t suggest that recent releases on the label are just a parade of the same thing. That absolutely happens with some genre labels and Another Timbre is not one of those.
During a Lifetime could easily be mistaken for an album of additive synthesis at times. The composer is a saxophonist and the opening track for saxophone ensemble is obviously written with a knowledge of the instrument. The later pieces feature members of Apartment House and introduce new timbres like strings and accordion and flute and even percussion, but each explores a similar smearing world of tone combination from a different angle. There are precious few events as such here but it’s not really a drone album either. Like most of the new Another Timbre stuff it’s very very pretty, but this stands out in its blurry arrangements and lack of overt patterns.
Listening - Monday, Jan 20th 2020
- Lionel Marchetti – Jeu Du Monde - Disc 1: Inferno (2018 Sonoris)
- Nathan Michel - The Departure Variations (2019 Self-released)
- M.C. Schmidt – Aqua Sauvage / Stuffed Concrete (2019 Northern Spy)
- Seth Parker Woods - asinglewordisnotenough (2016 Confront)
- Toshiya Tsunoda / Taku Unami – Wovenland (2018 Erstwhile)
- Toshiya Tsunoda – Extract From Field Recording Archive (2019 ErstPast)
I’m excited that I’m finally dipping into this Lionel Marchetti boxset that Sonoris put out a couple years ago. I loved their Jim O’Rourke and Steve Roden box sets – functionally sturdy and nice-looking boxes too. This one is partly a retrospective like the Roden box, including music that goes back at least to the 90s like the track that kicks off disc one. If someone had played me just the first track (Psychopompos) and told me the subtitle for this disc was Inferno I’m not sure I would have gone out of the way to listen to the rest – assuming I had no idea who Marchetti was, at least… Psychopompos starts things off on a surprisingly cheesy note with hokey ghost groaning sounds, scraped / bowed cymbals, low thudding ritualistic drums and some shimmering that could be the scraping of chains. Something I’d maybe expect from a high quality Halloween theme CD. Play this on a loop at your entryway and your house will feel very spoooooky!
Thankfully that’s where the cheeseball stops on this death-themed CD. The rest of the disc consists of really top notch wordless audio plays mixing field recording and spectacular concrete acousmatic sound shapes. The final track (also called Inferno) explodes with teeming brass – amazing-sounding unclean brass that growl fantastically against the edge of the tape. Knowing Marchetti the brass is actually some scrap metal or a broken pipe or something. I wish I could read French because there is an extensive-looking booklet too, but the music very well speaks for itself.
After being really surprised by a teenage Nathan Michel expertly prefiguring his rock work 30 years later, today I checked out the most recent project he has posted to his bandcamp page: a film score. It looks like he’s been pretty focused on writing music for film and now I understand why there hasn’t been much solo music released since The Beast. His score for The Departure Variations doesn’t get nearly as digital as his earlier solo laptop music and features a very film-music-y instrumental world of pianos and strings and whatnot, but this is probably the most beautiful stuff I’ve heard him write. It’s I guess genre-ish, it has that film music idiomatic knowhow, but it’s not at all bland or cookie-cutter in execution. The collection is short and left me wanting more, I actually ended up playing it on a loop four or five times this morning before I had to give it a rest. The electronics work is really expertly subtle, reminds me a bit like Jóhann Jóhannsson except overall much less stark and instead more lilting and soft. It’s not a follow-up to The Beast but I hope he keeps sharing more of his scores in collections like this.
Coming back to M.C. Schmidt’s (best known as 1/2 of Matmos) second solo album still had me leaving happily overwhelmed. This one goes all over the place without losing itself somehow. Moments of Return To Forever style fusion, 50s electroacoustic music, landscapes of microsound hypertextures… really impressive and very fun to listen to.
I picked up Seth Parker Woods’ asinglenoteisnotenough because it includes a George Lewis piece. As a computer musician and onetime trombonist, George Lewis is a personal hero. If I could play trombone worth a damn, I wish I could play like him. His piece on this collection is great and Woods makes you forget you’re listening to an album of solo cello music. The whole album is timbre-city and all the pieces really show off where he can take the cello. The final track written by Pierre Alexandre Tremblay is the only one that really leans into synthetic-sounding processing. The rest of the processing is derived from the cello and stays tightly connected to it – the effect is more like an extended cello (like Mario Davidovsky’s Synchronisms) than a duet between electronics and cello.
Speaking of subtle processing, Wovenland’s processing seems to amount entirely to simply alternating three recordings at a relatively fixed interval. It has an amazing effect despite the extreme simplicity of the approach. Some tracks combine Tsunoda and Unami’s field recordings by layering with minimal if any editing once the environment has kicked off – while others (which are probably the strands of the Wovenland title) combine recordings vertically by alternating brutally hard digital cuts at regular intervals from recording A to recording B or A and B and C, etc so you have a sustained parade of evenly-lengthed fragments marching ABABABABABAB until they start to mix in strange ways in your head.
This put me in the mind to hear some of Tsunoda’s retrospective box set on ErstPast (an Erstwhile sub-label) and I ended up listening to all six hours of it. He’s kind of known as the field recordist who puts mics in weird places and comes back with other-worldly sounding field recording, nothing at all like the sort of nature recording you’d find with most of the acoustic ecology Chris Watson types for example. Tsunoda will stuff a recorder and contact mic down a tube at a fish market near an idling freighter and capture something that sounds like an understated Franciso Lopez, or some minimalist computer music.
I think my new favorite track on the collection is track 10 on the final disc where he went back to many of the places he took recordings of in the 90s on the first few discs and tried to recreate them for the box set reissue. Inside The Former Fish Market has a gorgeous sustained choir-like drone resonating through some empty space that gets punctured by a distant rattling bell that makes a perfectly consonant harmony. It’s maybe the most “obvious” or immediately striking track of the collection – possibly with the exception of the track where he claps slowly in a huge tunnel which is the only track of its kind in the entire box set – but it also pushes far enough into the realm of “traditional music” to remind you how touched these recordings all are, really. The booklet has a very detailed gear list and catalogs the type of vibrations being recorded in what sort of location and so on very carefully and it’s worth remembering that the music here is not just the space, it’s really moreso the framing of the space.
Listening - Saturday, Jan 18th 2020
- Kenneth Kirschner - April 17, 2019 (2019 Self-released)
- Joda Clément – I Hope You Like The Universe (2015 Notice)
- Marc Hasselbalch - Exact Impo (2019 Self-released)
- levinson / mahlmeister - 10-27-19 (2019 Self-released)
- brekekekekexkoaxkoax - Drone Works (2017 Earthwalker)
- Le Berger - For an audience of not a single cow (2019 Self-released)
- Nathan Michel – The Beast (2005 Sonig)
- Nathan Michel – Poor Cow (1989-1992 Self-released)
I’m really behind on my Kenneth Kirschner listening, I may never catch up… as much as the no-metadata approach to dumping new works quietly and formlessly is aesthetically appealing, in practice it means I’m probably only going to dip in randomly. In recent years his music seems mainly written for traditional instrumentation. Maybe at least include a list of forces to jog memory when perusing decades of music without any context except the completion date? It would help to find some of the older stuff I remember being much more timbrally various and percussive… Anyway, archival practices aside, I’ve heard the Feldman-esque vibe in previous material but April 17, 2019 is very much leaning into that world. It would sit happily among the recent releases on Another Timbre. I like Another Timbre very much, but like any label that has a fairly hyper-focused eye on a very specific sound, the material can really blend together into a forgettable mush sometimes. Which of these CDs of chamber music performed by Apartment House was I just listening to? I don’t like how easy one solo piano and violin piece with a pleasant harmony and plenty of space between events blends with the other, but they eventually become interchangeable with enough entries.
So the Kirschner will get filed (mentally) along with a stack of lovely CDs that I’ll play at random when I’m feeling like hearing that late 2010s Another Timbre sound again.
I guess I’m catching up today with a few releases I picked up last year for this reason or that by artists that are new or mostly unfamiliar to me. I know I’ve seen Joda Clément’s name in the Glistening Examples catalog but I don’t remember what drew me to pick up this 2015 album on Notice. It’s very understated and nice – a good wipe of the slate after the relative disappointment of the Kirschner. It reminded me of the space in some of Brent Gutzeit’s recent albums, and even a bit of the wide understatement of Sukora’s Ice Cream Day! Nice Day! though much less extreme.
Marc Hasselbalch’s Exact Impo and levinson / mahlmeister’s 10-27-19 were both found via the lines forum. I’d heard Exact Impo a couple times already and a repeat listen was very welcome. Some gorgeous and patient work with a single function generator.
I really enjoyed 10-27-19 as well – if memory serves this EP is an edit from a series of improvisations, which is a recipe I usually enjoy. Overall the music is much more active and playful than anything else above but still sits nicely on the edge of the realm of atmosphere.
This recent brekekekekexkoaxkoax album hit the spot. I entered the nap zone somewhere near the end, but it was a haze of gentle guitar that I look forward to revisiting.
I have a lot of Le Berger to catch up on, it seems like he’s been fairly prolific recently. Peaceful as always.
Nathan Michel’s The Beast is one of those albums which has declared itself a part of my life & here to stay. I like his newer work with Hospitality but I really wish he’d do a conceptual follow-up to The Beast. Bit like wishing for a conceptual follow-up to Loveless I guess, but hey I’m one of those folks who liked MBV, so bring it on!
One memory I always have of this album is blasting it in my dorm room and a friend coming bursting in to ask what is this?? – he was just learning some specific style of drumming that is all over this album. I don’t know enough to say what exactly that means beyond what I can hear which is a certain type of really precise latency and calculated sloppiness. We just stood there listening together for a while. “This is a really hard thing to do!” You could say the same of the construction and arrangement of the songs – they read as playful and even a little simplistic on the surface but there’s so much clever neato music nerd stuff happening under the surface. I guess if this is the album you write while you’re finishing your composition PhD at Princeton that stands to reason you’d stick a bit of nerdery under the surface. Still, it’s all so detailed and wonderful without feeling forced or pretentious – not an easy feat.
Of course writing all this got me digging around and I was happy to find a treasure trove of unreleased and out of print music on Nathan Michel’s bandcamp page. Including a collection of tracks called Poor Cow that he recorded between the ages of 15 and 18. I was expecting… well I wasn’t expecting a polished-sounding 70s rock vibe. A prequel to The Beast? Sure. Amazing he was already right there with the Hospitality aesthetic 30 years ago. Also: he’s got a really great singing voice, even as a teen.
Listening - Friday, Jan 17th 2020
- Julie Doiron – Désormais (2001 Endearing)
- Désormais – Drown Variations (2016 Kikimora)
- Kieran Daly - Untitled (2019 Madacy Jazz)
- Mark Templeton - Factory Fire (2013 Self-released)
- Grisha Shakhnes – Being There (2019 Unfathomless)
- Brent Gutzeit - Cold Snap (2018 JMY)
- Brent Gutzeit & Pharmakustik – Nonmotor (2019 JMY)
On the hunt for some old Désormais records (having discovered yesterday Mitchell Akiyama & Tony Boggs had reformed the project to release a new album a couple years ago) I came across this record of the same name by Julie Doiron. I admit I tend to avoid Jagjaguwar even though they’ve released music by a number of artists that I like. At some point I formed the opinion that the label is mostly chasing indie film soundtrack royalties and signing anyone who sounds like such and such, and I haven’t thought much about it since.
Anyway thanks to the benefit of confusion this time around I didn’t realize the Jagjaguwar connection until it was too late and so I also didn’t needlessly poison an impression of Julie Doiron’s music because of it. Instead of a long-lost early full length by Désormais, here is Désormais a nice French language outing from Julie Doiron. To be blunt it doesn’t change my mind about Jagjaguwar, but finding this short record was a nice surprise.
Speaking of the new Désormais album – Tony Boggs apparently started a new label a while back called Kikimora and Drown Variations was one of the early releases. He’s also got a new solo project post-Joshua Treble called unfollow with a few releases on the label, so there’s a lot for me to catch up with.
I was primarily into the solo work from each of the folks in Désormais back in the day, which tended toward fractal reworkings of pop-ish sources, following more or less in the path of Fennesz’s Plays EP, and always just as adventurous, balanced and detail-oriented. The Désormais project from my standpoint at the time was a cool side-project that went further down the post-rock road than any of their solo work. There were guest drummers, even guitar riffs sometimes.
Drown Variations seems to be a reinvention of the project to swap out the post-rock leanings for techno and EDM. Unfortunately for me dropping the post-rock angle also discards a lot of what made this project exciting in the first place. Reimagining the rock band as a laptop ensemble is exciting and interesting territory but for whatever reason taking a similar approach to deconstructing techno isn’t as compelling for me. Thankfully only a few tracks really go fully down this path. The core of the album revolves more around careful sound design, atmosphere, and the sort of low fidelity meets high fidelity approach to timbre studies that seemed pervasive in the early 00s.
Given this is closer to an EP-length outing at about 33 minutes, I’m hoping there is a follow-up in the pipeline that reaches back to some of that post-rock band laptop reimagining that I miss dearly in Drown Variations.
Listening - Thursday, Jan 16th 2020
- Real Life Rock And Roll Band – Hollerin’ The Spirit (2019 Geomancy)
- Roland Kayn – A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound - Disc 6: Aseral (2017 Frozen Reeds)
- Mark Templeton - Standing On A Hummingbird (2007 Anticipate)
- Mark Templeton – Inland (2009 Anticipate)
- Joshua Treble – Five Points Fincastle (2004 Intr_version)
- Keith Fullerton Whitman - Heritage (2019 Self-released)
Some brief observations:
- On Hollerin’ The Spirit: this band really took shape – all the energy and angst of Cap’n Jazz plus timbre for miles.
- On A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound: only six discs in and I’m starting to think of this as a single piece in multiple variations. Not looking forward to running out of discs.
- On Standing On A Hummingbird and Inland: Mark Templeton is one of the great practitioners of 2nd or 3rd wave ambient/glitch or whatever you want to call it. (1st wave french post-concrete 80s & 90s digital folks, 2nd wave bedroom laptop researchers like Fennesz, Opiate, etc?) I slept on these in the day and they’re fantastic.
- On Five Points Fincastle: this was at the very top of my list circa 2004 and hasn’t aged a day since. I was there for the last kiss is still so gorgeous.
- On Heritage: I can’t keep up! I think I’m about 30 hours behind on new KFW and that’s just from the last few months. (I don’t really know how many hours.) It’s honestly inspiring though. I’m in a similar place with non-realtime generative projects and maybe I need to start releasing them the way I listen to them myself – as sprawling lakes of undulating process.
Update, the morning after: sometimes I publish these entries having just put on the last thing for the day. I couldn’t make it through this new KFW last night. I’ll have to try again when I’m in the right headspace. I’m not totally sure the bandcamp data-dump is the right way to present all this. I’m probably biased but I can’t help but feel like an internet radio stream would be much better…
Listening - Tuesday, Jan 14th 2020
- Andrew Weathers Ensemble - Build A Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall (2017 Full Spectrum)
- Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album (1996 Warp)
Today was the yearly Richard D. James Album listen. Now that I’m actually writing it all down, I kind of wonder in a few years if I’ll be able to spot certain records like these that I think I’ve been playing about once a year or so for 15 or 20 years and more. Curious to see if that’s actually the case.
I’m also curious to see if eventually I’ll be able to see some listening patterns for certain records, and maybe even make groups out of them. Some records like 4Hero’s Two Pages when I put them on, sometimes they keep coming back to the turntable on a daily basis for days until I finally get it out of my system. That’s how I remember it feeling for some things anyway, I wonder if that’ll be the case too.
I haven’t listened to this AWE record (full disclosure Andrew used some of my bleeps and computer donks on it) in a long enough time that listening felt really fresh again. I can see this also becoming one of those yearly forever records…
Listening - Monday, Jan 13th 2020
- Helado Negro – This Is How You Smile (2019 Rvng Intl.)
- Michael Pisaro & Greg Stuart – Ricefall (2010 Gravity Wave)
- Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges – Clube Da Esquina (1972 Odeon)
- Various – Musique Électroacoustique - Electroacoustic Music - Disc 1 (1990 Radio Canada International)
- Sukora – Ice Cream Day! Nice Day! (2019 Tristes Tropiques)
Helado Negro’s This Is How You Smile keeps growing on me each listen. I slept on it last year mostly, and I sometimes have a hard time finding a way in to records which are to my ears a collection of individual projects. Meaning, I guess: a singles collection with interstitial tracks and transitions placed around each island of a song. That’s not a dig, singles make economic sense now more than ever so it seems. Maybe that doesn’t apply at all to this album, but for working musicians fighting for stream counts it seems like a common tactic is to work piece-by-piece, drip the release and try to maintain attention in an oversaturated culture. Anyway the songs are so good, the production reveals itself to be more nuanced every time I play it, and I mean who cares if it’s a just a collection of good stuff and wasn’t composed as one lilting stroke of sound in the old fashion. It’s a really strong collection of songs and it’s my pleasure to find a way into hearing them being a collection as such – which, I’m expecting to happen naturally over further listens.
I realized recently I’d never heard the Pisaro & Stuart duo Ricefall before – squidco had a sale, and now I’m a proud owner of a very loud and present disc of amplified rice. The textures in this recording are top notch computer music – except of course, they’re not at all. I couldn’t help daydreaming of software implementations of these sounds though – the entire thing is really sharp, detailed, microgestures seething constantly under the surface as I guess you’d expect when you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of little percussive events! I’d call it a top notch album of analog granular synthesis.
Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges’ Clube Da Esquina is still an epic, gorgeous jaw-dropping classic. I can’t write about it yet.
Another cold listen of the day was the first disc of a compilation of electroacoustic music from Canada. I grabbed it because I thought I didn’t have the Dhomont piece on it (it turns out I do have it, but it’s a really really excellent one) but I was excited to find the comp spans decades from the 50s to the 90s and I’ve already got a few new names I’ll need to explore further – like Alcides Lanza whose … There Is A Way To Sing It… was one of the highlights of this disc for me.
I also finally pulled this new Sukora album off the shelf for a proper listen. It’s probably the best lowercase/silent album I’ve heard since I popped my first Bernhard Günter CD into the player. There’s almost nothing there, but there’s not nothing there either. Excursions like this are wonderful excuses to do close listening to your current environment, but the album managed to be almost not there and at the same time create a framed experience for me that was more concrete than just active listening. There are rumbles, there are whisps of distant (high) tones and there are lots of little plops and ploops. It gave me the impression of being in an empty cave, I imagined I was hearing the slow drip from a stalactite forming. Each plop was an impulse tracing the shape of the space being superimposed onto my apartment.
Next time, headphones.
Listening - Sunday, Jan 12th 2020
- Grace Cathedral Park - Grace Cathedral Park EP (2018 Self-released)
- Grace Cathedral Park - Grace Cathedral Park (2019 Self-released)
- Cocteau Twins – Victorialand (1986 4AD)
I finally picked up the companion album to that incredibly sleepy Grace Cathedral Park EP. This was a bandcamp find – I don’t know anything at all about this group except that I really enjoyed their EP. The album expands on it nicely, although I could see this structured as a small collection of EPs instead of a full-length.
The sleepy shoegaze vibe works best packaged in an overall concise way – like the Cocteau Twin’s immortal Victorialand album, which is what the Grace Cathedral Park project makes me think of the most. Victorialand clocks in somewhere around 30 minutes, broken into two sides if you’re listening to it the way it was originally released. It feels like a much longer journey in that time though. Just the right balance of sleepy meditative riffs and knowing when to bow out.
The album version of Grace Cathedral Park feels maybe slightly long-winded, but it holds up to the quality of the EP I fell in love with last year. (It contains two out of three of the EP’s songs, too.) I’m really out of touch with what happened to shoegaze in the 21st century, but Grace Cathedral Park doesn’t just sit as a genre piece of empty shoegaze nostalgia – the songs are solid, catchy and haunting and the production style doesn’t rely on recycled tropes but finds a place for these songs to breathe. (While touching obvious idiomatic points along the way – washed out reverb, a hi-fi studio grunge sound that doesn’t quite let itself become too plastic or packaged…)
Listening - Thursday, Jan 9th 2020
- John Saint Pelvyn - A Clerical Error In Shasta County Shouldn’t Have To Ruin A Saturday Night (2018 Electro Motive / Seeland)
My favorite record of the year so far, although we’re only about a week in and it’s the only record I’ve listened to so far this year (amazingly, to me) and it was released in 2018… but it’s really good. Hard-to-describe and haunting guitar music that positions itself in a dusty room and leaves more of the trail of sun hitting the particles in the air near the guitar than the guitar itself in many moments. Makes me think of the Recital label but this is more acousmatic and less concerned with western classical music. (It’s still very much of the world of western harmony to my ears, but fragmented and destructured into sound-mass enough to be more than just chords and rhythms.)
Listening - Wednesday, Jan 1st 2020
Although I participated again in this year’s MEDIUM 24 hour long NYE drone, I spent as much time listening as I did playing. This post could span two days into Thursday the 2nd, too – I spent most of Thursday listening back to the archive recording which is still streaming on a day-long loop on medium.radio.af.
Listening - Saturday, Dec 14th 2019
Listening - Thursday, Dec 12th 2019
I love when Brent Gutzeit blurs the line between mix, remix and collage. This mix tape goes all over & back again – and works well as a companion to his Pop Music album on LuvSound last year.
Listening - Wednesday, Dec 11th 2019
Listening - Monday, Dec 9th 2019
Listening - Sunday, Dec 8th 2019
Listening - Saturday, Dec 7th 2019
Listening - Thursday, Dec 5th 2019
Listening - Wednesday, Dec 4th 2019
Took a long listening break… I didn’t even notice this time.
Listening - Monday, Nov 25th 2019
Wilhelm took the above cover photo for Roots And Ripples - that is one of the best photos I’ve ever seen.
Listening - Saturday, Nov 23rd 2019
- Roland Kayn - A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound - Disc Three: Somitoh (2017 Frozen Reeds)
- Wayne Shorter - Juju (1964 Blue Note)
- Hank Mobley - No Room For Squares (1964 Blue Note)
It might not be fair to say I actually listened to the Wayne Shorter and Hank Mobley albums. The soundscape in my apartment on Saturday was more a wash of screaming children and chattering adults as I hosted a birthday party for my 94 year old grandmother. I stopped putting on music after the Mobley when it was clear nobody would be able to hear it! I am also regretting now that I didn’t have my field recorder going.
Listening - Friday, Nov 22nd 2019
Listening - Thursday, Nov 21st 2019
- Brent Gutzeit - Compositions 36a & 36b (2019 JMY)
- Roland Kayn - A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound - Disc 2: Xattax (2017 Frozen Reeds)
- Greg Kelley – I Don’t Want To Live Forever (2005 Little Enjoyer / Gameboy)
I finally sat down with Brent’s new album today – which is actually a reissue of the audio portion of a 2007 CD/DVD release on his Trust Lost label. I’d love to see the DVD portion re-released someday which includes two performances of Composition 32 (performed by an 11 piece ensemble) and a solo performance of Composition 30 for Computer, Turntable and Cigarette. I feel like Brent told me a little about the Composition 30 performance, and if my memory serves the computer does not survive it, but maybe I’m thinking of something else.
Anyway the two audio recordings that were recently reissued on JMY are also large ensemble recordings – with a stellar lineup of improvisers including Jason Roebke, Aaron Zarzutzki, Kevin Drumm and many others.
Composition 36a was recorded at Elastic Arts as part of the Chicago Sound Map festival and was performed by the Chicago Sound Map Ensemble (which has also released performances of compositions by Olivia Block and Ernst Karel). Composition 36b was recorded later the same year at Jason Soliday’s venue Enemy by the TV Pow Ensemble which adds 12 members to the core TV Pow trio of Gutzeit, Todd Carter & Michael Hartman.
These pieces sound very much like a group of people in a room playing Brent’s music. I mean, that’s what it is! But the performances really retain all the qualities of his acousmatic / collage work – the wide dynamic range, moments of balanced extreme density, lightswitch shifts and timbral contrasts, the presence of harmony inside a context of sound mass that makes the harmony sound other-worldly and naturalistic for lack of a better way to put it… With a large ensemble (also featuring electronics) playing often dense & partially improvised music like this the typical outcome is mumbling mush, but these both have a clarity and precision to them that is not easy to accomplish.
Brent actually reminded me recently that I have the Roland Kayn box set and have so far listened to only one disc! Oops. The second disc picks right up where the first left off – pure texture gymnastics and clusters of tape on tape on tape on tape. I’d be satisfied if the whole collection never strayed from this trajectory but I am curious to know if there is a meta-structure to the collection spanning across the discs. Anyway I’m happy to have many more ahead to listen to.
I was ready and expecting to like this Greg Kelley album, but what I wasn’t really expecting is how narratively suggestive it would feel to me. The opening begins with a patient exploration of basically a single sound object repeated perfectly but erratically and with sparing interruptions from a rupturing chaotic sound mass that will reveal itself completely later.
I can’t see the timer on my CD player so I’m not sure when, but after a while, this re-exploration of the same sound object starts to have a psychedelic effect. I can’t remember how long I’ve been listening. Is it still repeating or is this new? It’s so familiar I can’t even hear it anymore. And it starts to get trying, there is palpable tension by the time the chaos finally overwhelms it completely. When that happens and it finally stops repeating, the long undulating and never-repeating chaos (well, I think it does repeat almost in entirety once, but the effect is more like a callback to a memory of the previous tension than an actual tension) is such a welcome release from the increasingly tedious re-presentation of that initial sound object.
Hey, like life! I really don’t want to get too literal with the interpretation of the title, but the drama that that the sounds present really does fit a tidy little pantomime of life as intricate tedium, with the threat of the unknown (death) looming. The section following the chaos of death which is a release into a static low frequency texture could be the calming stasis of the (lack of) afterlife…
After that comes a short revisit of the intro, and again a launch into chaos but this time the chaos stabilizes into something pretty & organized at regular intervals. And then there is another more melodic iteration of the chaos, followed with a comparatively angelic drone-like section and well my little story falls apart completely after that. (Hey, like life! No, no just kidding.)
This record is probably as it suggests on the tin: just a nice edit of a bunch of live recordings paired with a provocative title. The drama of the arrangement of the excerpts is suggestive though. So, choose your own adventure.
All this said, I guess I prefer what feels like the less formalistic approach taken in the second half / final two-thirds of this which to me seems like more of a straightforward parade of nice textures & long gestures with more overall variation and a throughline you can lose yourself in if you’re not careful.
Listening - Wednesday, Nov 20th 2019
- Claude Debussy / Paul Jacobs – Etudes For Piano, Books I & II (1976 Nonesuch)
- Greg Davis – Gather / Scatter (2004 Tonschacht)
- Greg Davis - throughline (2019 Self-released)
Debussy’s Etudes three days straight! (Some days multiple listens)
It’s a great ear & soul cleanser when you’re in the middle of writing something dense and long-winded…
I have two copies of this Greg Davis EP for no good reason – but it’s a nice one full of sharp space and acousmatic shapes. I suppose you could call it a collection of play-sequences: a term (apparantly coined by Guy Reibel) I’m borrowing from Annette Vande Gorne’s Treatise on Writing Acousmatic Music on Fixed Media and which I think means something along the lines of an intutive story told through the methods of energy-movement, morphology, space and color-spectra.
I really like Davis’ angular shape-music. He seemed much more interested in those sound worlds earlier on in his career, and for a while at least got more focused on space and tone with a number of tone combination and synth ambient type excursions. (Or so it seemed to me – I’ve missed a few of the newer ones & look forward to catching up.) In any case his newest (throughline) seems like a marriage of the two (as long as I’m unfairly dumping everything he’s done into buckets) worlds: angular sound-shapes (mostly) frozen in space and time.
Listening - Tuesday, Nov 19th 2019
- Claude Debussy / Paul Jacobs – Etudes For Piano, Books I & II (1976 Nonesuch)
- J. S. Bach / Pablo Casals – Suites For ’Cello Unaccompanied: No. 3 In C Major / No. 4 In E Flat Major (1957 Angel)
- J. S. Bach / Pablo Casals - Suites For ’Cello Unaccompanied: No. 1 In G Major / No. 2 In D Minor (1957 Angel)
Listening - Monday, Nov 18th 2019
Listening - Saturday, Nov 16th 2019
Listening - Friday, Nov 15th 2019
Listening - Thursday, Nov 14th 2019
Listening - Tuesday, Nov 12th 2019
- Carlos Ferreira – A Glimpse of Hope (2019 Healing Sound Propagandist)
- Dawn Chorus and the Infallible Sea – Amber (2019 Healing Sound Propagandist)
- Low Howl – Lux (2019 Healing Sound Propagandist)
- 扎克 – Laudation, Unfurled (2019 Healing Sound Propagandist)
- Organized Chaos & Intergalactic Wasabi Mix on aNONradio (2019-11-12 live radio)
Most of my listening today was checking out the new Healing Sound Propagandist label out of Indiana. I’m not so interested in these genre projects as a general rule, the catalog so far stays firmly in well-tred territory somewhere between new age ambient, tone combination style drone (though never really gets as static as that) and hints of bedroom shoegaze. But of course that’s fine! I preferred Carlos Ferreira’s A Glimpse of Hope maybe because of the bunch it’s the most static and benefits as well from simply staying the course for about 51 minutes. All of these releases are very pretty and well executed even if they aren’t very… exciting or challenging. But not everything needs to be exciting or challenging.
I haven’t listened to radio in quite a while but sampling the Organzied Chaos show on aNONradio was fun. I wasn’t expecting a music show. It’s a mixture of (bear with me while I get all these genres completely wrong) speed gabber, mystical doom metal and a touch of breakcore. Not really my usual fare but that’s what made it fun. Teeming with teen angst and cheesy moves (glamish guitar solos in the metal, honky synth breakdowns in the EDM) regardless of genre – but also possesed of some kind of culture that I’m not a part of, and that usually gets my interest. Overall fun, energetic.
As I write the next show – Intergalactic Wasabi Mix – just started with a mix into Talking Head’s Burning Down The House. The DJ, snowdusk is on the mic! They’re making quips about arson over the song! So I’m going to stay tuned in for a while longer. I love indie radio.
The aNONradio project seems really cool – it’s an internet based community radio station loosely organized around UNIX and free software etc. I’m looking forward to sampling some of their other shows.
Listening - Sunday, Nov 10th 2019
- Child’s View – Minna No Yuenchi (2000 Childisc)
- Silent Poets - To Come… (1999 Idyllic)
- The Arsonists & Anomolies / El Battalion – Blacklisted / MC Squared (1999 Sub)
- Aceyalone / Dilated Peoples – Rappers, Rappers, Rappers 12 For 10 / Strength (1999 Full Frequency)
I think I’ve finally (already) reached the end of the Anomolies catalog, which primarily consists of alternate versions of their collaborations with Silent Poets on To Come…. There’s one track listed on discogs that they are listed as guests on, and they all have at least one or two solo releases or side projects. So there’s more to look forward to, but I wish they’d done a whole series of albums with Silent Poets. Those tracks on To Come… are iconic.
I also finally tracked down (well, in today’s internet – I basically just decided to look, discovery wasn’t the problem) the original version of To Come…. My introduction to the album was via the French alternate cut with a shuffled track order and dub versions of several songs. I was a little sad to discover that the Anomolies tracks are exactly the same on both versions, but I liked the non-dub versions of songs I know way better in their alternate forms, and there was a little Fork In The Road that was brand new to me. I think I’m glad to have started with the French version though, because that Ursula Rucker collab is absent from the original, and that is also a longtime favorite.
I guess I was digging into some new discoveries from old favorites yesterday since I also made another notch into my Nobukazu Takemura completism with this really early remix album Minna No Yuenchi that reworks his first post-hip hop / acid outings as Child’s View in the most delicious early 2000s broken digital fashion. I’m totally unfamiliar with the remixers (and for a brief moment of confusion I thought I’d unearthed yet another alternate solo EP from Takemura) but making my way through the sadly obscure catalog of Childisc is another one on my bucket list, so I’m sure I’ll spend more time with them eventually.
Hard to choose a favorite but that Wunder mix stood out with vocals and almost pop-ish brevity. I think Asao Kikuchi could have reduced his two mixes to one, but I can’t blame him for wanting to try every angle with the original material – that early digital post-turntable Takemura includes some of his best work.
Listening - Tuesday, Nov 5th 2019
This post has been sitting in my drafts queue for too long, I’ll just say the highlight of this (pretty extensive) compilation is J.K. Randall’s benfest reworking of Boretz’ UN(-). I swear to god if you scribbled Nobukazu Takemura’s name onto this I wouldn’t have batted an eye. I need to catch up with 21st century J.K. Randall. I dig the playful and clustery mixture between slick general MIDI FM synth module vibes and sharp arrangements. (Which could also describe a fair amount of Takemura’s work!) Maybe Randall is less risky with timbre and a bit more restless with thematic material, but I couldn’t stop marveling at the kindred spirits I was hearing between these two.
Listening - Monday, Nov 4th 2019
- Various – Qat, Coffee & Qambus: Raw 45s From Yemen (2013 Dust-to-Digital)
- Various - Hub Music (1987 Antelope)
Well, my CD player issue is sorted out for now. I hooked up my DVD player (duh) as a headless player in the short term while I figure it out, but that means I can listen to Qat, Coffee & Qambus which just arrived in the mail today.
I was pretty excited to hear this having just finished an interesting book about Yemen by Tim Mackintosh-Smith this year. It barely touches on the music – and from what I gather music is either outlawed or frowned upon in some areas of Yemen, but there were mentions of percussion ensembles and dances-that-aren’t-called dances sprinkled through the book. I wonder if the opening track on this is an example of that percussive dance/not-dance style. At any rate this is a solid compilation. Chris Menist’s liner notes are helpful but didn’t answer the questions raised in Mackintosh-Smith’s book either – or I’m misunderstanding things, which is more likely.
I haven’t played this tape of The Hub before they were The Hub in a while – I also haven’t digitized it yet so I guess I’m always a little afraid it’ll get eaten for some unknown reason. It’s a good one to come back to though and next time I’ll digitize it! That extended Tim Perkis / John Bischoff / Mark Trayle jam at the end is still the highlight for me but it’s solid early digital skronk all around.
Listening - Sunday, Nov 3rd 2019
My CD player is either broken or needs a better cleaning than a wipe-down and spray with the air compressor. :-/ So no CDs for me for a minute I guess.
I spent a little too long this morning looking into standalone units that have USB support for FLAC playback… but they’re all way too expensive. If I can’t recover my boombox then I might experiment with a $30 CD-ROM attached to an unused raspberry pi. I have a little LCD I’m not using too, so I could turn this into a proper standalone moc device… but I’m bummed because the boombox was working out totally fine and it’s only about five years old.
I have a bunch of digital stuff on deck to listen to though! (And records and tapes and… yeah so not really a crying shame or anything.)
Yesterday I enjoyed a late night listen to the “new” (to me anyway) Francis Dhomont album which was surprisingly smeared-over with narration in French and German. It’s the third part of a long-in-progress suite of some sort so probably if I was familiar with the first two parts the narration wouldn’t have come as a surprise? Some really cool vocal processing, and underneath it all great sound shapes as always. I think I prefer his fully instrumental stuff but then I had no idea what was being said either, so knowing French and German probably would have changed my listening a lot. (I was actually reading while I listened.)
I also enjoyed a headphone listen (I rarely do that anymore!) to the most recent Keith Fullerton Whitman bandcamp offering, which is basically a dump of recordings of concerts he’s played recently. I couldn’t help but feel like it all could have been edited down into a really tight 40 minute album – there is at least that much fantastic material in the ~2.5 hour dump – but I also really enjoyed the raw snapshot of what he’s up to on the stage recently. I hope a more concise offering from this sound-world emerges at some point but it was a fun journey anyway. I also especially liked the soundcheck track that made the quad setup a bit more explicit – who is that jamming along on the sax-that-sounds-like-a-violin in the background?
So, this Annette Vande Gorne album, Exils? Excuse my French (and my stupid joke) but it’s fucking awesome.
It’s hard to call out favorite moments, there isn’t really any down trend in quality anywhere and it’s a solid ~80 minutes of music which in itself is sort of a feat. On the one hand this is a collection of mostly unrelated pieces, written at different times with different scopes and deliveries – on the other: there is a theme for the album which is “exile”, and even without knowing that the music just flows naturally together and the whole thing feels like a massive tome more than an album. It’s an album the way that Don Quixote is a novel, maybe.
I guess it’s funny that despite the amazing selection of completely acousmatic instrumental selections, it’s the voice-driven tracks that I think stood out the most for me. Fragments de lettre à un habitant du Centre (Fragments from a Letter to a Resident of the Centre) features a really punk rock voice performance by Éveline Legrand and is all thunder and rumblings of thunder to come.
Probably my favorite track of them all is the ~22 minute voice and field recording epic Exil, chant II from 1983 and updated in 2006 with another great but much more subtle reading from Vande Gorne herself. I had to take a break from listening after this one, at the hour mark completely saturated with information I think this album needs most of a day to best listen. Next time I’ll take in each track with a generous interval to let it soak in between. It’s not just the density of information, it’s the shift from world to world between tracks which sound both of a kind and yet tell completely different stories. Even just listening to the first hour uninterrupted was almost dizzying.
I still wish I could understand what was actually being said in these. Exil, chant II is apparantly about:
A French poet and ex-ambassador whose possessions and family have been taken hostage by the Nazis during World War 2 tells, while in exile on a Maine island, of the inner destitution of the exile and the universal conceit of war actions: Exil, chant II.
And really that mood comes through, even without reading the summary until after listening as I did.
The last two shorter tracks felt like a little coda after all that. This is an amazing record I’m sure I’ll be coming back to quite a lot.
Listening - Saturday, Nov 2nd 2019
- Keith Fullerton Whitman - Complicated Lives (2019 Self-released)
- Francis Dhomont - Le cri du Choucas (2016 Empreintes DIGITALes)
- Information - Keeping It All In (2019 Self-released)
Listening - Friday, Nov 1st 2019
Listening - Thursday, Oct 31st 2019
Listening - Wednesday, Oct 30th 2019
I basically just listened to a bunch of overnight renders of a longform algorithmic thing I started recently while I worked today, so I didn’t even make it to side two (the Steve Gunn side) of this Angel Olsen / Steve Gunn split yet.
The Angel Olsen side is wonderful though, several of the songs overlap with the record of hers I already have (and know, and love) but it was fun to hear a few new things and the arrangements on this LP are way different than the originals. Love that flangy guitar! Pretty nice recording for a live / festival recording, too. Looking forward to the Gunn side tomorrow.
Listening - Tuesday, Oct 29th 2019
- Ryonkt - Troposphere (2012 Twice Removed)
- Ryonkt - Neighborhood (2017 Self-released)
- Alfredo Costa Monteiro – Umbralia (2011 Triple Bath)
- France Jobin – Valence (2012 Line)
- Michael Pisaro & Greg Stuart - July Mountain (2010 Point Engraved)
After a flu-y week of no music this morning I had a hankering for coffee and something lush – Simon Scott’s FloodLines to be specific, but as I write I still can’t find my copy… a side effect of having not yet organized my CDs and the slimline spineless packaging that makes it easy to go hidden on a shelf somewhere.
Anyway I found a number of things that well fit that lush vibe and Ryonkt’s Troposphere has been criminally absent from my CD player for too long. It’s a very good one to break the silence. I played it twice, back-to-back actually.
I’m also happy to see a tease for something new on Ryonkt’s bandcamp page, hopefully the wheels are still in motion.
The morning’s energy was completely gone by this afternoon. I literally fell asleep in my chair before a work meeting while listening to Alfredo Costa Monteiro’s Umbralia… ironically as I dozed off I was thinking about how I was going to write that it was much more angular and difficult listening than I remembered: many hard edges and uniform attacks from the electric organ. Lots of close harmony and rhythmic intonation too – a parade of loose clusters with bricked edges maybe… but also apparantly soporific. Probably helps if you just got over a flu, too.
The last time I listened to this France Jobim album I listened to most of her discography in the course of a day. This is her first one, and it’s much more gentle, various and colorful than I remembered. In my memory of that listening much of her work fell into the Tu M’ Monochromes Vol. 1 camp – in other words: subtle, well crafted, but largely featureless by design. Returning to Valence today has corrected that impression. There are some great slow-evolving harmonic drones that I sometimes had trouble disentangling from the hum of my air conditioner but plenty of structure surrounding, the smallest whisp of a crackle, very gently placed high tones… something that is very much at home on the Line label but has an abstractly narrative arc within it that I’d basically erased in my mind. Worth a close listen.
Keeping this listening diary makes me more aware when I’m returning to a familiar favorite that I haven’t played in years. Michael Pisaro’s July Mountain is one of those. I seriously toyed with the idea of staging a performance of it when it came out… which would still be a fun project to attempt. Part of the score requires you to collect certain types of feild recordings beforehand. I’m better suited to do it now that I live in a more remote spot.
I’m also interested to see that the version I have (a 2010 edition of 50 mini CDrs) from Jez riley French’s Point Engraved Edition label kinda fell off the map pretty quickly. The same year Pisaro released a new version with alternate takes and a track of just the percussion part isolated which I’d very much like to hear. Not sure how I missed that back when! My aging CDr is already sadly doing the click-dance, too. It sounds nice, but it’s amazing how quickly some of them can rot away…
Listening - Tuesday, Oct 22nd 2019
Listening - Monday, Oct 21st 2019
On the subject of records I love yet are also the only record by that artist I’ve ever heard… Angel Olsen’s Half Way Home would fall into that category. I wonder sometimes if I’m almost afraid to ruin the magic of that one singular album by exploring the rest of the discography. But that’s ridiculous, so I’ll file Angel Olsen along with Silent Poets among those I need to catch up with. She’s got a split with Steve Gunn, too – probably a good place to start!
Listening - Sunday, Oct 20th 2019
- Cocteau Twins – Victorialand (1986 4AD)
- Miles Davis - In A Silent Way (1969 Columbia)
- Silent Poets - To Come… (1999 Idyllic)
Sometimes I wonder how well known this Silent Poets album is in the US – I think it made a splash in the late 90s / early 00s? It did for me. I found it in a record store in Chicago recommended to me because I was buying Nobukazu Takemura’s Child & Magic album with obvious excitement.
The collaborations with the all-female rap group Anomolies and Ursula Rucker’s short but stark and unforgettable cameo are still the album’s highlights for me. I have made a minor hobby of tracking down all the many alternate mixes and versions out there – prisons especially has some inspired alter-egos.
Over the years the straight instrumental dub and saccharine pop songs in between have grown on me quite a lot though. Funny that it’s one of my favorite records of the era, I’ve heard almost every version and remix (there are a lot of them) but I still haven’t listened to any other Silent Poets albums! Something to look forward to.
Listening - Friday, Oct 18th 2019
- Grace Cathedral Park - Grace Cathedral Park EP (2018 Self-released)
- Various – Songs For Political Action - Folk Music And The American Left 1926-1953 - Disc One: The Leftist Roots Of The Folk Revival (1996 Bear Family Records)
- A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami – Krishna Consciousness (1966 Happening)
- Gal Costa – Índia (1973 Philips)
- Gal Costa – Gal Costa (1969 Philips)
- Milton Nascimento – Milton (1970 Odeon)
- Tim Maia - Tim Maia (1970 Polydor)
That Grace Cathedral Park EP is becoming a morning ritual… might need to break the habit tomorrow before I get tired of it too quickly. I just have really wanted to return to it again and again since I heard it.
I couldn’t resist listening to the original Hari Krishna album but that might be the first and last listen. That hook is worn out in my mind’s ear maybe for good. Disc one of the Songs For Political Action comp was dense like a punk comp but filled with high points I’ll be coming back to. Nine more discs ahead.
But holy shit at this Milton Nascimento album. It’s the first solo outing of his I’ve checked out since finding his duo album with Lô Borges (which needs another play) and now I know I’m going to have to explore the rest of the back catalog. I wish I could get into these Gal Costa albums as much but I think for me there’s a barrier between what sounds like a pair of nice albums and the super-popstar mixing where the vocals loom over the distant backing band like the monster in some schlocky hollywood movie. I think that kind of mix balance only works when the accomp is pure atmosphere. The band wants out, Gal!
I’m getting back to exploring the Tim Maia solo catalog today too – almost through all the early self-titled albums now I think and the first one is as rad and funky as the rest.
Listening - Thursday, Oct 17th 2019
Listening - Wednesday, Oct 16th 2019
Listening - Tuesday, Oct 15th 2019
Listening - Monday, Oct 14th 2019
Listening - Sunday, Oct 13th 2019
- Miles Davis – In A Silent Way (1969 Columbia)
- Telefon Tel Aviv – Dreams Are Not Enough (2019 Ghostly International)
Back after a (partially imposed by sickness) listening break… nothing like In A Silent Way to break the silence.
Listening - Thursday, Oct 10th 2019
Listening - Wednesday, Oct 9th 2019
- Marcus Fischer + The OO-Ray – Tessellations (2012 Optic Echo)
- Aki Tsuyuko – Empty Talk (2017 Enban)
- Alvear / Courtis / Jones – A Távlat, Ha Hátulról (2017 Glistening Examples)
- Various – Introspection (Neglected Jazz Figures Of The 1950s And Early 1960s) (1977 New World)
- Grachan Moncur III – Aco Dei De Madrugada (One Morning I Waked Up Very Early) (1970 BYG)
Listening - Tuesday, Oct 8th 2019
- Anthony Braxton – Seven Standards 1985, Volume I (1985 Magenta)
- Greg Davis – Curling Pond Woods (2004 Carpark)
- Sóley - Live on KEXP (2013 KEXP)
- The Miles Davis Quintet – Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet (1959 Prestige)
- Charles Mingus – Charles Mingus (1980 Fabbri Editori)
- Various – Transmissions from the Love Room (WFMU Sessions 2008 - 2018) (2019 WFMU)
Listening - Monday, Oct 7th 2019
Listening - Sunday, Oct 6th 2019
- Steven Halpern - Comfort Zone (1980 Halpern Sounds)
- Smbols - Dreamsill (2019 Good Glass Records)
- Rosenau & Sanborn – Bluebird (2019 Psychic Hotline)
- Francis Dhomont – Frankenstein Symphony (1997 Asphodel)
- Steven Halpern – Spectrum Suite (1977 Halpern Sounds)
- Kenneth Goldsmith - Sings Frederic Jameson (2006 Self-released)
Also FWIW nothing to report yesterday. The only listening I did was to sketches of things I’m working on.
Listening - Friday, Oct 4th 2019
- Altars Altars - Fragments (2019 Home Normal)
- Ian Hawgood & Stijn Hüwels - No Voices (2019 Home Normal)
- Silent Vigils - Lost Rites (2019 Home Normal)
- Tomoyoshi Date & Stijn Hüwels (2019 Home Normal)
- Tsone - Live: Spring 2019 (2019 Self-released)
- Claude Debussy - Paul Jacobs – Preludes For Piano - Books I & II (1978 Nonesuch)
- Seattle Phonographers Union - Building 27 WNP-5 (2013 Prefecture Music)
Listening - Thursday, Oct 3rd 2019
Listening - Wednesday, Oct 2nd 2019
Listening - Tuesday, Oct 1st 2019
Listening - Monday, Sept 30th 2019
- Catherine Christer Hennix – Selected Early Keyboard Works (2018 Blank Forms)
- Phill Niblock, Joseph Celli – Niblock For Celli / Celli Plays Niblock (1984 India Navigation)
- Mira Martin-Gray - Out of Body Out of Work: Solos for Mixing Boards (2019 Pan y Rosas Discos)
- Greg Davis – Clouds As Edges (2001 Grounded)
- Asterisk – Submersion Tank (Part Six) (2001 techNOH)
- Cedar AV - LP4 (Unreleased)
- Phill Niblock – G2,44+/x2 (2002 Moikai)
Listening - Sunday, Sept 29th 2019
Listening - Saturday, Sept 28th 2019
Listening - Friday, Sept 27th 2019
Listening - Thursday, Sept 26th 2019
- Debussy - Leonard Slatkin, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra – La Mer / Prélude À L’Après-midi D’un Faune / Danses Sacrée Et Profane (1982 Telarc)
- Michael McNabb – Computer Music (1983 1750 Arch)
- Prefuse 73 – Forsyth Gardens (2015 Temporary Residence Limited)
- Pulsinger / Fennesz – In Four Parts (2013 Col Legno)
- Patrick Pulsinger, Pamelia Kurstin, Hilary Jeffery, Rozemarie Heggen – Besides Feldman (2011 Col Legno)
Listening - Wednesday, Sept 25th 2019
Listening - Tuesday, Sept 24th 2019
Listening - Monday, Sept 23rd 2019
Listening - Sunday, Sept 22nd 2019
Listening - Saturday, Sept 21st 2019
- Ateleia & Benjamin Curtis – Baghdad Batterie (2008 Table of the Elements)
- Gregory Taylor – Retinue - Disc 1 (2019 Palace of Lights)
- Stockhausen – Cosmic Pulses (2007 Stockhausen-Verlag)
- Stockhausen – Mittwochs-Gruss (2003 Stockhausen-Verlag)
- Keith Fullerton Whitman & Greg Davis – Late Fall (Complete Live Recordings Presented In Chronological Order For Continuity) (2002 Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge)
Listening - Friday, Sept 20th 2019
Listening - Thursday, Sept 19th 2019
Listening - Wednesday, Sept 18th 2019
- Glenn Gould / Israel Baker, Robert Craft, The CBC Symphony Orchestra - Arnold Schoenberg – Piano Concerto / Violin Concerto (1967 Columbia Masterworks)
- Stockhausen – »Am Himmel Wandre Ich …« (Indianerlieder) = “In The Sky I Am Walking …” (American Indian Songs) = «Dans Le Ciel Je Me Promène …» (Chants Indiens) (1977 Deutsche Grammophon)
Listening - Tuesday, Sept 17th 2019
Listening - Monday, Sept 16th 2019
Listening - Sunday, Sept 15th 2019
Listening - Saturday, Sept 14th 2019
- Calineczka – No More Oranges (2017 Game of Life)
- Manu Dibango – Mélodies Africaines Volume 2 (1984 AfroVision)
- Calineczka – Wydatek Neutronów Podczas Pobudzonej Wybuchowo Kompresji Deuter-tryt W Układzie Cylindrycznym Z Warstwą O Dużej Inercji (2018 Szara Reneta – Taśma Siódma)
- Toshiya Tsunoda – Extract From Field Recording Archive #5: Reflection-Revisiting (2019 ErstPast)
Listening - Friday, Sept 13th 2019
Listening - Thursday, Sept 12th 2019
Listening - Wednesday, Sept 11th 2019
Listening - Tuesday, Sept 10th 2019
- Radboud Mens - Pulse (2004 Staalplaat)
- Various - Microwave - A Manual (2000 Microwave Recordings)
- Yurok, Tolowa - Songs Of Love, Luck, Animals & Magic (1977 New World Records)
- Storm And Stress - Under Thunder & Fluorescent Lights (2000 Touch And Go)
- Steinbrüchel - Parallel Landscapes (2015 12k Records)
- La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela - The Tamburas Of Pandit Pran Nath (An Homage) (2015 Just Dreams)
Listening - Monday, Sept 9th 2019
- Jliat - May (1998 JLIAT)
- Kapital Band 1 - 2 CD (2003 Mosz)
- Television Power Electric - Television Power Electric (1999 Gentle Giant Records)
- Child’s View - Funfair (1999 Bubble Core Records)
- Alex Jang, Apartment House - Momentary Encounters (2018 Another Timbre)
- Cassandra Miller - O Zomer! (2018 Another Timbre)
- Various - Interactions: A Guide To Swiss Underground Experimental Music (2019 Buh Records)
- Joyce Hinterding - Spectral (2003 Antiopic / Sigma Editions)
Listening - Sunday, Sept 8th 2019
- Rosenau & Sanborn - Bluebird (2019 Psychic Hotline)
- Exploding Star Orchestra - Stars Have Shapes (2010 Delmark)
- Eric Dolphy Quintet - Outward Bound (1960 New Jazz)
- Zeitkratzer & Terre Thaemlitz - Deproduction (Live) (2019 Comatonse Recordings)
- Howard Stelzer / Jason Talbot & A Quiet American - Untitled (2005? Center of the World)
- Keith Fullerton Whitman - Track4(2waysuperimposed) (2006 Room40)
Listening - Saturday, Sept 7th 2019
- Duane Pitre - Bayou Electric (2015 Important Records)
- Francis Dhomont - Birthdays (2012 Beniffer Editions)
- Kaffe Matthews & Mandy Mcintosh - Yird Muin Starn (2013 Annette Works)
- 4hero - Escape That (1999 Talkin’ Loud)
- Karlheinz Stockhausen - Ceylon / Bird Of Passage (1976 Chrysalis)
- Dwight Andrews - Mmotia - The Little People (1979 Otic Records)
- Greg Davis - Diaphanous (2004 Lux Nigra)