Laughter

the human race has one really effective weapon


Leave a comment

Review: Jürg Frey/Radu Malfatti, “II” (Erstwhile)

One way to approach Jürg Frey and Radu Malfatti’s II is to concentrate on how they shape their music. The numerous small silences that dot the first disc are conspicuous. So is the album’s low volume and the sharp, maybe surprising, beauty with which Frey plays his clarinet and Malfatti his trombone, but form takes precedence over these. Form and the way sounds are formed. Much of what happens on these two discs is the product of the tension between silence and sound, the difference between expression and phenomenon, and the manner in which sounds beget forms all on their own. By subduing material and structure, Frey and Malfatti knock down the walls that sometimes bind music to a fixed path. What lies outside is a sparse and weightless field where music seemingly organizes—and destroys—itself.

II, as the title implies, splits the work of Jürg Frey and Radu Malfatti over two discs. The first, a Malfatti-credited piece titled “shoguu,” cuts a strong impression. Long, vibrating tones, stark harmonics, and frequent silences comprise nearly all of its material, though certain tones are so smooth and consistent they sometimes sound computer-generated. The likelihood that computers were used is probably pretty low, but the semblance of that analog hum adds a mysterious and blurry component to the performance.

The noise of a depressed valve, a few unexpected squeaks, and the odd bodily clank of brass or hardwood turns up as well, but for the better part of the five sections of  “shoguu,” a subdued, balloon-like spaciousness holds court. The combination of clarinet and trombone produces delicate music, as restrained as it is gorgeous. Without a discernible structure—and without the usual musical tools, like rhythms, chord changes, and other sonic continuities—the duo’s wavering tones come off as autonomous little events, cobweb-like and fleeting. Some of the melodies are so tenuous they seem almost illusory, like particles of dust that might disappear should the sunlight hit them a different way. Malfatti even hollows his trombone’s lower register out, making it feather-like and buoyant, it’s swelling whole tones like vents of warm rising air.

(Read More… at Brainwashed.com – includes samples)


1 Comment

Review: Songs: Ohia, “Didn’t It Rain (Deluxe Edition)” (Secretly Canadian)

Didn’t It Rain is the sixth and final Songs: Ohia studio album, the enigmatic zenith of a seven-year run that saw Jason Molina record with no fewer than seven different bands. But Molina never stuck with one group for very long, on the road or in the studio, and he wouldn’t until after 2004’s Magnolia Electric Co. was completed. So it’s no surprise that, for Didn’t It Rain, he traveled to Soundgun Studio in Philadelphia to play with eight musicians he barely knew. That was how he had always worked.

The only two people at Soundgun who had recorded with Jason before were producer Edan Cohen, who, in 2001, manned the boards for Jason’s cover of Boz Scaggs’s “Sweet Release” and Jennie Benford, who that same year sang backup on the Cohen-produced 7” version of “Lioness.”  Everyone else came to the game a rookie. Surrounded by posters of blues musicians from Chicago that Molina had brought with him, they were all asked to play in the same room together and to invent their parts as they went along. Mistakes would be made and overdubs were not an option, so the idea was to keep playing and to capture the performance raw. It’s a strategy Molina had used for past records, but it had never yielded anything as cogent and heavy as Didn’t It Rain.

(Read More… at Dusted in Exile)


Leave a comment

Review: Scott Walker + SunnO))), “Soused” (4AD)

Bish Bosch is an exhausting record that takes off at an exhausting pace. Its first four songs occupy more than half of its total running time, and Scott Walker stuffs every minute of that opening half hour with awkward transitions, asymmetric structures and lyrics that, at their best, speak to the intuitive and subconscious mind. At their worst they necessitate an annotated guide and draw the listener away from the already messy music, pulling them through the twisted and endless avenues of Walker’s varied interests. They’re a diversion that leads to confusion as often as poignancy. Walker casually drops references to Frank Sinatra and communism in Romania, then leaps to astronomy and Roman history, and in the middle he skips through something about the spread of diseases among animals, a topic he laces with images of Hawaii, Pope Julius and dead men in zoot suits.

Connecting unlikely — or invisible — dots can be its own reward, even if the picture it forms is ostentatious. It can also be a distraction, with all of the disparate elements sitting side by side as naturally as a bright red paisley patch on a torn white wedding dress. With Bish Bosch the novelty of Walker’s combinations often swallowed the content, transforming his poetry, music and ambition into a muddy and overwhelming wave. Fortunately, Soused avoids this fate.

(Read More)


1 Comment

Review: Joseph Clayton Mills, “The Patient” (Entr’acte)

Franz Kafka died of starvation on June 3rd, 1924, his throat cinched by laryngeal tuberculosis. The intravenous delivery of food to sick patients wouldn’t be invented for another 35 years and the swelling in Kafka’s throat caused by the infection made swallowing even water difficult. Forbidden from speaking by his doctor at the sanatorium in Kierling, Austria, Kafka would often communicate with his friends and visitors by writing small notes on scraps of paper. Some such scraps were less notes and more fragments or disconnected ideas, phrases impossible to understand without context. It’s something Max Brod, Kafka’s friend and literary executor, recalls in the opening pages of the booklet that accompanies Joseph Clayton Mills’s The Patient. “Usually these notes were mere hints; his friends guessed the rest,” he writes. Mills, accompanied by Olivia Block, Noé Cuéllar (Coppice), Steven Hess (Pan•American, Haptic, Innode), and Jason Stein take a shot at interpreting those fragments on this record, using Mills’s textual score to trace a line around Kafka’s final abraded thoughts.

“The goal of this document is to suggest a vocabulary of actions,” Mills writes. “It should in no way be seen as prescriptive or comprehensive, and the sequence of elements in this document should not be construed as implying a particular linear arrangement.”

The 52-page score for The Patient bears only a passing resemblance to traditional musical scores. It contains a couple of references to particular notes in the Western 12-tone system, a few bar lines (one set displays both a treble and bass clef, but is otherwise blank), a few more very precise frequencies for sine wave generator, and even a reference to Wagner’s “Tristan chord,” but the majority of it is filled with suggested actions of the sort written by George Brecht, La Monte Young, and Pauline Oliveros. They read, “play for longer than you think you should” and “image of water/droplets/dew” and “hushed breath/for unvoiced bellows/vocalist/friction on drumhead.”

Together they are enough to constitute a composition, only the number of performers is unspecified and there are no instructions for how to string individual performances together. Participants have only Kafka’s quotes and Mills’s accompanying directions to guide them, along with a handful of photographs, drawings, medical diagrams, story excerpts, and historical summaries. None of it is prescriptive, but all of it sets a very particular tone, which is why, despite the score’s innate openness, this performance of The Patient sounds so compact, controlled, and potent.

(Read More… with samples)


Leave a comment

Review: I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, “Dust” (Secretly Canadian)

The last time I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness released a record, George W. Bush was president, Twitter was the latest social networking innovation, Burial was a new buzz word on everyone’s lips, and James Brown was still alive and touring. The Knife were riding high on the success of Silent Shout and Brainwashed readers were placing records by bands like Wolf Eyes, Comets on Fire, and Xiu Xiu high atop the annual reader’s poll. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness won some recognition that year too. According to Plan nabbed a spot in the top five singles of the year and “The Owl” nearly beat out Boards of Canada’s “Dayvan Cowboy” for Brainwashed’s best loved music video of 2006. Then a seemingly terminal eight-year silence ensued. Now the band has returned with Dust, as if nothing happened. Their lineup is unchanged, Ministry’s Paul Baker is still behind the mixing board, and the artwork is as austere as before. And though much in the music is also familiar, the group’s focus has changed. They cast a wider net on Dust. There’s more variety and the songs are denser this time around, layered thick with circular melodies and crisscrossing guitars.

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness open Dust with “Faust,” a song they beat out with surgical exactitude. It’s fast paced, built on a thumping rhythm section, and driven by a simple guitar riff that winds in and out of the lead guitar’s meandering accents. The song twitches with energy, as if the band were just itching to play together again, but the performance is controlled, channeled into a concise, coolly played four minutes. “Come Undone,” and, to some extent, “Stay Awake,” feed on that same energy. A quick moving, tightly wound melody skips through the heart of all three songs, and on each the bass and drums add variety to the already rhythm heavy core. The lead guitarist extracts little hidden melodies from inside that wave of sound and spins them through the air, completing the illusion that these songs are all unspooling as they fall through space.

These are songs the band could have written in 2007 or ’08, after wrapping up their tour for Fear Is on Our Side. They’re white knuckle rockers that burn with the same fire as “According to Plan,” but they are far more insistent, far less translucent, and far from the norm.

(Read More… with sound samples)


Leave a comment

Review: FKA Twigs, “LP1” (Young Turks)

Tahliah Barnett’s first full-length record nearly falls apart just as it should be settling in for the long run. After an intro and two great songs that fill out Barnett’s previously restrained sound, no less than three additional writers and four producers show up for “Hours,” each one contributing to a bloated, awkward middle that feels out of touch with everything Twigs has ever touched.

The guilty party includes Eminem and Lana Del Rey producer Emile Haynie, Florence and the Machine cohort Dev Hynes, instrumentalist extraordinaire Michael Volpe, aka Clams Casino, and Arca, who was Barnett’s primary co-conspirator for EP2. With a bevy of bakers like that in the kitchen, “Hours” can’t help but sound aimless and over done, languid even. And unfortunately Twigs does little to help out as she lays some of her weakest, most blandly provocative lines over the top: “How would you like if my lips touched yours / and they stayed close baby till the stars fade out / How would you like it if I sucked before I bite? / But it wasn’t too hard so it felt alright.”

Paul Epworth, probably best-known for producing and co-writing “Rolling in the Deep” with Adele, surfaces next, notching a writing and production credit of his own into the liner notes. Unsurprisingly, his contribution gives LP1 a borrowed, polished, and radio-friendly sheen, one that veers disappointingly close to cheap AM soul-funk territory with its over-slick, faux-seedy guitar and keyboard licks.

(Read More)


Leave a comment

Review: SunnO))) & Ulver, “Terrestrials” (Southern Lord)

Six years in the making, SunnO))) and Ulver’s first collaborative record arrives at the end of a long stretch that saw members from both bands performing together in various configurations.

According to Stephen O’Malley, the basic tracks for Terrestrials were first laid down in 2008, shortly after SunnO))) performed at the Øya Festival in Oslo, Norway. A couple of years later, O’Malley, Daniel O’Sullivan, and Kristoffer Rygg met in Oslo again, this time with percussionist Steven Noble. Together they performed a series of concerts as Æthenor and released the results as 2011’s excellent En Form for Blå. Prior to that, Rygg had produced a track for SunnO)))’s White1 and O’Sullivan had recorded with O’Malley on Æthenor’s debut album, Deep in Ocean Sunk the Lamp of Light. Terrestrials represents the first time Greg Anderson, Jørn H. Sværen and Tore Ylwizaker have joined the party, but there’s a long musical relationship playing silently behind the scenes here.

(Read more)


Leave a comment

Review: Michael Pisaro/Greg Stuart, “July Mountain (Three Versions)” (Gravity Wave)

Wallace Stevens wrote “July Mountain” in the last year of his life, suffering from stomach cancer. A recognition of mortality and imperfection hides in his poem’s first eight lines. They gently and beautifully remind the reader that life on earth is a fragmented thing, and that there are no conclusions, no full and final stops that shine a light on all the dark corners in the world. Instead we are all “thinkers without final thoughts in an always incipient cosmos,” forever watching the world and the stars spin themselves into new configurations. The poem explicitly uses music as an image for that interminable metamorphosis, and Michael Pisaro’s composition of the same name demonstrates just how apt an image it is. July Mountain (Three Versions) illustrates Stevens’s contention, combining field recordings with incredibly stealthy musical contributions provided by Greg Stuart. Bowed snare drums, piano, bird calls, jet engines, and numerous other sounds, from sine tones to insects, unexpectedly coalesce over its 21 minutes, forming a quivering and effervescent peak for anyone willing to make the ascent.

July Mountain first appeared as a single piece on a limited edition CDr released by Engraved Glass. To the “California Version” presented on that disc, the Gravity Wave release features two additional performances. One of them, the “Austin Version,” is a complete rendition, combining 20 field recordings unique to that city with 10 layers of percussion recorded by Greg Stuart. Instructions for how the field recordings are to be obtained are minimal (make 20 of your own, or get them from the composer, just make sure to point the microphones at mountains or valleys if possible), but their durations and their arrangements with respect to one another are very well defined. They are all ten minutes long, and there are only ever ten recordings playing simultaneously.

On the percussive side, the featured instruments include resonating surfaces teased by sine waves, vibraphones wrapped in tin foil, and “seed rain,” a steady stream of seeds, rice, or beans poured over crotales or a glockenspiel (the score gives the performer plenty of choices). Their timings and durations are specified by time markers—four bowed wooden blocks at nine and a half minutes, one projected sine tone at five and a half minutes, lasting for seven minutes and thirty seconds—and the methods suggested for playing them, including the exact qualities to be elicited from them, are described rather than strictly notated. For example, the instructions for the bowed snare drum read, in part, “Sounds may be created by bowing on any part of the instrument and by bowing on a drumstick or doweling with its tip pressed against the drum.”

(Read more… includes samples)


Leave a comment

Review: Marcus Schmickler & Julian Rohrhuber, “Politiken der Frequenz” (Editions Mego/Tochnit Alpeh)

Plenty of records get tagged with an experimental or exploratory label because they’re unconventional. Toss any combination of melody, rhythm or identifiable structure out the window, and you are bound to win a cocked eyebrow or two. Pound whatever’s left out on an old-fashioned synthesizer or slip some shred of musical theory into the mix and presto — you’ve earned yourself an investigator’s badge and maybe a bit more leeway than you might have otherwise had. Not that that is such a bad thing. Unusual instrumentation and perplexing performance strategies have led to many great and interesting places, but just as often they serve to mask fairly conventional and well-worn ideas, as loose and unfocused as they are open-ended.

Then there are records like Politiken der Frequenz, which asks numerous difficult questions and proceeds according to very particular — and potentially revolutionary — notions. Recorded by Marcus Schmickler and Julian Rohrhuber and released by Editions Mego and Tochnit Aleph, Politiken derives a good portion of its digital heat from the peculiar set of influences that burn beneath it. Philosophy, finance, politics, theoretical mathematics and history all meet in its liner notes and, at least to some extent, in the music itself, where prime integers, common denominators and set theory are all utilized as musical resources. The results run from pleasant computerized tones with ambient leanings to hard-edged noise driven by low resolution arcade sounds, number station test tones and glassy harmonies wiped clean by over-processing.

The brief essay that accompanies the record, and that serves as both the album’s artwork and its lyric book, references French philosopher Alain Badiou’s work with surreal numbers in Number and Numbers, German mathematician Julius Wilhelm Richard Dedekind’s theory concerning the nature of real numbers, and historical problems, both philosophical and musical, associated with Pythagorean ontology.

Read more (Dusted in Exile)


Leave a comment

Review: Coppice, “Vantage/Cordoned” (Caduc.)

Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer’s windblown recordings portray the inner life of their instruments. In the case of Vantage/Cordonedm, that’s a pair of prepared pump organs and various tape players manipulated to produce a bristly, granular stream of noise thick with debris; the clamor is evocative of industrial materials and broken mechanical bits like buzzing plastic frames, frayed wires, rusted brass reeds and over-stuffed bellows emitting air from all the wrong places. Their sound is broken and weathered and pocked with imperfections, but carefully controlled and recorded too, deliberately filled with the gritty life of distorted noise and malfunctioning equipment.

Coppice’s musical approach epitomizes what its name suggests: development, reduction and reuse. Among Cuéllar and Kramer’s numerous undertakings, past endeavors have included a performance on the Baschet Brothers’ Aluminum Piano at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art; a special exhibition of resonating sculptures made from galvanized steel, glass, foam and copper; and a handmade 12 CD-R redwood boxed set that doubles as a reed instrument thanks to the brass tube running through its center. As different as the works are, all three are part of the duo’sVinculum project, something they refer to as an “archive of sonic artifacts.” Those artifacts include pre-recorded sounds and compositional strategies that are as useful in one discipline as they are in another. Appropriately, the title connotes unification, though usually of the mathematical or anatomical sort. Musically, it describes how the duo goes about its work, both stylistically (how many bellows and electronics duos can you name?) and structurally.

Read more (Dusted in Exile)


Leave a comment

Review: Windy & Carl, “I Walked Alone/At Night” (Blue Flea)

A little more than 20 years ago, in the fall of 1993, Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren started the Blue Flea label together in order to release their first record. Pressed to black wax, or purple if you were very lucky, the Watersong/Dragonfly 7” was presented in a simple green sleeve with a picture of a tree on one side and, on the other, the image of three broad maple leaves. Last year, for Record Store Day 2013, Windy and Carl inaugurated their 20th anniversary celebrations with the release of a cassette documenting their 2009 performance at the Solar Culture Gallery in Tucson, Arizona, a single night on what they claim was their last ever tour. Then, in December, they reunited with Dominic Martin, who put out the Emerald 7” on Enraptured in 1995, and released the Calliope/Carnivale single. The cassette caught Windy and Carl somewhere between We Will Always Be and Songs for the Broken Hearted mode, but the 45 was a glance over their shoulders, with a surprise percussion-injected twist tucked away on the B-side. Pressed to red vinyl (the orange vinyl edition sold out in a flash) and adorned in bright, hand painted sleeves that resemble fossilized leaves, I Walked Alone/At Night concludes the celebratory trilogy with a pair of reflective beauties, cool and crystalline from a distance, but red hot at their core. It is a fiery return to that green-sleeved single from 1993, reinforced and refreshed by Windy’s new-found inspiration, Carl’s seemingly effortless playing, and 20 years of hard work.

Windy and Carl’s last two full-length albums saw them become an entirely new band. They’d never been as rock ‘n’ roll as the space-rock label suggested, but in the seven years between 2001’s Consciousness and 2008’s Songs for the Broken Hearted they had left the earthy orbit of their more song-based material behind entirely. By 2012’s We Will Always Be, they had tumbled through empty space and sailed straight into the sun, where Windy’s vocals turned to liquid heat and Carl’s weighty drones became streams of white hot light. The songs melted away, the bodies burned away, and all that was left was their sound: Windy and Carl. Think of it as one name, without the conjunction or the spaces.

Read more… (Brainwashed.com)
Samples here… (Bandcamp)


Leave a comment

Review: Jacques Lejeune, “Parages and Other Electroacoustic Works 1971-1985” (Robot)

Robot Records’ three-CD retrospective of Jacques Lejeune’s music from the early 1970s and 1980s contains over three hours of heady electronic noise, surreal acoustic transformations, deconstructed field recordings, and disorienting aural splutter. It is a collection that spans 14 years and six electroacoustic compositions: one composed for ballet and inspired by Snow White, another inspired by the myth of Icarus, and others by landscapes, symphonic form, and cyclical movement, among other things. They flash with theatrical flair, jump unpredictably through minute variations, and churn chaotically, tossing fabricated scree and instrumental slag into the air. A 28 page bilingual booklet filled with photographs, drawings, and program notes accompanies the set, along with a 32 page booklet of interpretive poetry. In them, Lejeune, Alain Morin, and Yak Rivais offer up remarkably precise interpretations for each of the pieces, but the writing works much better as a rough guide to the visually evocative clamor of Lejeune’s electric transmissions.

Jacques Lejeune’s musical career began auspiciously, at the famous Schola Cantorum de Paris, a private music school in the city’s Latin Quarter whose alumni include Edgard Varèse and Erik Satie. From there, he moved to the Conservatoire National Supérieur, where Adolphe Sax had once taught and where Igor Wakhévitch would eventually study, and labored under the tutelage of Pierre Schaeffer. He finished his education with François Bayle at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, then joined the GRM in 1968 and became director of the Cellue de la Musique pour L’Image, or The Department of Music for Images, responsible for the production of sound and music for both theater and television.

By 1971 he had finished his first major composition, Cri, which premiered at the Royan Festival in 1972. It was Lejuene’s introduction to France and the first indication that his stint in the Images Department at the GRM had been as formative as the rest of his education.

Early on, Cri delivers brief, sometimes confounding glimpses of particular places and circumstances. Those images are held in focus just long enough to be recognized and then swept away: a marching band stomps through a busy street in the first movement, then disappears into the sound of French horns warming up before a performance; frogs croak in concert with crickets as sheets of tape noise flutter by imitating the sound of water; people laugh and conversations crash against bursting radio signals and gusts of analog distortion. In the second movement entire sentences survive, accompanied by reverse audio and a small gaggle of test tones. Exclamations leap out of the commotion and a radio transmission about Pakistan and the United States floats smoothly by, like a small town seen from the window of a passing train.

Read more… (at Brainwashed, includes sound samples)


Leave a comment

Review: Tarab, “Strata” (Unfathomless)

Eamon Sprod records music in the field, but don’t mistake the product of his labor for a field recording. In some hands microphones and tapes are used to capture the buzz of insects or the sound of rain pelting the land—whatever the subject might be—with the intent of faithfully reproducing those sounds later in a living room or in a pair of headphones. Replication is the documentarian’s craft. Sprod’s is magnification. He singles out particular noises, brushes them off and, like a geologist or an archaeologist, excavates them from the sediment of ordinary commotion. His efforts yield an enlarged world of microscopic rhythms and porous surfaces, small remnants that point to the unbroken environments from which they were culled. But Sprod re-purposes those extractions as musical vehicles too, for both re-hearing and re-imagining the world.

Strata is a telling title. Maybe the perfect title for this album, because, in order to get what he wants, Sprod has to dig into the dirt. He trains his microphones on the gritty crunch of busted concrete and loose gravel, buries them in the ground to pick up the vibrations of subway trains, and lets them loose over a wide surface where dogs bark and the hum of cars, planes, and other machines mingle chaotically. Most public spaces are filled with sounds like these, but they pass by unnoticed for a variety of reasons: visual distractions pull our attention away from them or other sounds roar rudely into our ears masking the quieter noises that smolder in the dark. Some sounds require special equipment to hear and other times there is simply too much happening to catch it all at once. Whatever the case, our senses fail to report the entire scene. Sprod’s method of recording and composing brings those silenced sounds back to consciousness, with a twist.

Read more at Brainwashed (with sound samples)…


Leave a comment

Review: Nicholas Szczepanik, “Not Knowing” (Desire Path)

Halfway through Nicholas Szczepanik’s Not Knowing things take a turn for the dark. It required a full 25 minutes to unfold them, but it takes only a few short moments for Szczepanik to stab his gilded melodies and let them die. First the strings lose their luster, then they grow still and cold, and finally they sink into icy cold waters. Afterward, all that remains of their swaying, sentimental song is a muffled harmonic echo and the barest suggestion that something warm still persists below the surface. But the music sweeps us along, and the symphony finally fades into a wavy blur of shivering tones. The transition is forlorn and paradoxically comforting, like recalling a happy memory and realizing you’re unlikely to experience anything like it ever again.

Not Knowing first saw the light of day in 2011, when it served as the inaugural disc in Szczepanik’s Ante Algo Azul subscription series. It was a brief 18-minute piece on a 3-inch CD-R, extremely limited, housed in a handmade sleeve and sealed with a dedication to Eliane Radigue, whose work served as an inspiration for the music. You can hear her at points throughout the album: in the patient introduction, in the pulsing analog tones, and in the directness of the elements employed. Her influence is clear, but Szczepanik does a lot more than imitate her work.

Read more… (at Dusted)


Leave a comment

Review: Poemss, “Poemss” (Planet Mu)

It has been 16 years since Aaron Funk first appeared as Venetian Snares on a split cassette he released with DJ Fishead titled Eat Shit and Die. Whether by accident or by design, that title turned out to be an almost perfect slogan for Funk’s music over the next decade and a half. His absolute dedication to intensity, choice of subject matter, and juvenile sense of humor have always added up to unnerving, hilarious and sometimes just plain disturbing records, filled with warp speed tempos, oddball samples, and a smorgasbord of unlikely references, from serial killers and sexual violence to Star Trek and Dadaism. Whether he’s serious about it all or hiding a smirk behind the world’s staunchest poker face isn’t clear, but he’s never broken character.

Instead, Funk has consistently raised the ante in one way or another: by tossing Trevor Brown’s beaten and molested dolls onto numerous album covers, or by making music from noises captured while having sex with his then-girlfriend Rachael Kozak, or in the case of Filth, by poking fun at his own perverse predilections with song titles like “Crashing the Yogurt Truck” and “Chainsaw Fellatio.” It’s all been unapologetically idiotic and exciting.

And, at times, despondent and beautiful too, as with Rossz Csillag Alatt Született andMy Downfall (Original Soundtrack). But even Funk’s more muted, less obscenely hostile material shivers with an irascible energy, as if everything he does could erupt at any minute into a storm of nuclear snare rolls and leaden bass kicks, or at least into a cloud of gnarly dissonance. That is what makes Poemss, the first fruits of his collaboration with fellow Canadian Joanne Pollock, such a shocker. Funk hasn’t exactly gone soft, but his always dependable aggression has been put away in favor of something altogether stranger: a collection of delicate instrumentals and catchy pop songs with lyrics about ancient pony hair follicles, glass organs and tenderness.

Read more… (at Dusted Magazine)


1 Comment

Review: Anne Guthrie, “Codiaeum Variegatum” (Students of Decay)

Since about the time musical theory was first written down, musicians, scientists, mystics and philosophers have sought to discover and explain the presence of harmony in the natural world. One of the most famous products of that endeavor is Pythagoras’ music of the spheres, a theory that ascribes a constant tone to each of the planets based on the period of their transit through the sky.

For Pythagoras, the harmony wasn’t merely mathematical. It had an audible component even if humans couldn’t hear it. Johannes Kepler devised a more sophisticated picture of that heavenly music more than 2,000 years later when he calculated the differences in planetary motion at perihelion and aphelion. The ratios yielded by their combination produced musical intervals that he notated in hisHarmonices Mundi. Jupiter and Mars didn’t just hum as they plowed through the ether; they sang in major thirds and octaves.

Four hundred years later, we’re less interested in the metaphysical connotations of astronomical symphonies, but we’re still fascinated by the sounds of the universe. Interest in the sub-surface growl of geological events and in the sound of Saturn’s magnetic activity betrays a continued love affair with the idea that harmony persists in the cosmos despite all the terrestrial evidence to the contrary. Anne Guthrie knows that it persists, albeit in a form different than anything Kepler might have dreamed, and she gives us a strong example in Codiaeum Variegatum.

Read more…


Leave a comment

Review: Tara Jane O’Neil, “Where Shine New Lights” (Kranky)

Records hide so many things in their grooves.  We often forget about the time and effort put into them, and about the trials behind them. The platter spins, the needle drops, and the music issues effortlessly from the speakers. What could be easier? But for Tara Jane O’Neil five years, five studios, eight musicians, Hurricane Irene and a Kickstarter program came between her last solo album and Where Shine New Lights, her debut for Chicago’s Kranky record label.

Not that you’d know it from listening. If most performances seem effortless coming from a stereo, O’Neil’s latest sounds inevitable, as natural and as spectacular as a sunrise. Five years gave her time to carve the excess from her songs and instill them with a fragile, suite-like continuity. They range from cloudy, barely-there instrumentals to pop songs painted in shades of white and shimmering yellow.

Read More


1 Comment

Review: Machinefabriek, “Attention, the Doors are Closing!” (Self Released)

The list of Rutger Zuydervelt’s collaborations runs long and crosses disciplines the way most Bostonians cross the street. From records with Will Long (Celer), Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick to soundtracks and scores for Chris Teerink (Sol LeWitt) and Alexander Whitley (The Measures Taken) to sound installations for the Museum Oud-Amelisweerd and Schouwburgplein in Rotterdam — one would be forgiven for thinking the Machinefabriek name covered the work of an entire artists collective and not the output of a single Nederlander from Apeldoorn.

His latest work, Attention, the Doors are Closing!, was produced for the Dutch-Spanish choreographer Iván Pérez, who conceived and developed this piece for the contemporary dance division of the Moscow Ballet. Pérez’s stated intent was to mine the social and psychological complexities of living in Russia, and to do so by placing a special emphasis on the role of intimacy, a concept that he understands rather broadly: the intimacy of taking the bus to work, of hearing your neighbors through the walls, of bumping into someone at work, and the usual suspects, too, like falling in love.

If the music is any indication, the unspoken subtext of the ballet is all tension, fear and paranoia. Zuydervelt taps into these uncomfortable states for the duration of his score, a knife-like, often pitch-black affair that will probably strike most listeners as being unsuitable for dance.

Continue Reading


Leave a comment

Review: Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Photographs” (Erstwhile)

After amplifying their homes and magnifying the subconscious; after reshaping kitchenware into instruments and finding voices in the buzz of computer fans, distant traffic, and the crunch of dirt; after transforming the spaces around them and constructing a space-time of their own, Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet finally turn the microphones on themselves. And not just on the noises they make, but on the places they grew up, on the people they’ve known, on the ideas that have driven their work, the sounds they love, and ultimately on the past and their memories. Don’t come to the show expecting self-portraits though. OnPhotographs Graham and Jason make enigmas of themselves. We get to see a shadow of them in these pictures, but everything they do and every event they capture points to a subject somewhere outside the frame.

Photographs work by suggestion. Take any photo off the Internet and start asking questions about it: Who is that in the picture? What is it that they’re standing in front of? When and where was it taken, and why from that angle? Who is behind the camera? What we see in them and what they show are inevitably unequal. The image presents the viewer with an apparent set of facts, but without context or witnesses or some personal experience bringing everything into focus, the subjects fail to take definite shape. Something is missing.

So it is with Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet’s music. The apparition of familiarity presents itself to the listener by dint of the material employed: intelligible conversations, fixable locations and precise directions to them, a loop from Kiss’s “Great Expectations”—our acquaintance with sights and sounds such as these, plus the incredible artwork with family, friends, place names, and the images of Graham and Jason as children—it’s as if they’re opening a door into their personal lives, or pointing us to a keyhole through which we might spy a handful of their private thoughts. How could it be otherwise?

To answer that question it’s best to ask another one: what is it that we actually see and hear in these songs? Disc one in this two-disc set begins with “Loss,” in which a pair of anonymous voices explain what the word “loss” means to them. One of the respondents discusses the loss of their grandparents, the other describes a feeling of daily disorientation: he wakes up and is unsure of where he is despite a firm mind, familiarity with the local geography, and a copy of this year’s calendar. As he elaborates, the audio suddenly cuts out. We hear clicking, a compartment opening and shutting, as if the tape needed changing mid-sentence, and then the conversation continues.

Continue Reading


Leave a comment

Review: Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Air Supply” (Erstwhile)

A strange spectacle murmurs unceremoniously just beneath the familiar hum of daily life. It’s filled with little dramas and peculiar collisions that sneak by unnoticed—in the empty spaces of the room, out of the corner of your eye—small bits of information slip through the senses’ fingers and fall into the subconscious where they become fodder for dreams. These unremembered fragments are a part of every environment and every observation, but would we recognize them if given a second chance? OnAir Supply, Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet resurrect such mental refuse and put just such a question to the test. They may have pointed their microphones at computer vents or the back yard, but what they pulled from those sources is utterly bizarre, to the point of being completely alien.

“Because the Night” starts the show with an illusion. It’s cold outside. Someone is walking down a crunchy dirt road in heavy boots, the fabric of his thick winter coat audibly brushing against itself as he goes. He picks up an old shovel and begins digging a hole, or maybe shoveling snow. A chilly hum floats in the air, a substitute for the icy temperature outside. As he digs, a slow, warbling howl suddenly and shockingly pierces the scene. It moans, then fades, then retreats into the distance. The perspective shifts. Someone tinkers with a plastic box, presses a button, and the activity stops. There’s only that transparent blue tone in the air, and a few quiet noises beeping somewhere in the distance. Winter at the Lescalleet home in Berwick, Maine, where Air Supply was recorded, seems just a tad frightening.

Only the liner notes tells us that the album was recorded in late May of 2010. It’s unlikely there was any snow on the ground to shovel. The fabric noise could be coming from torn sheets of paper, the crunch of boots on gravel might actually be the sound of someone walking through piles of leaves, and who knows where the animal moan came from, but it doesn’t sound dubbed in. Whatever it was, it was right there, in range of the microphone.

Continue reading