Laughter

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2014 Year in Review, Pt. 1 (Dusted in Exile)

Normally I’d post a lengthy year in review here, but this time around I’m just going to link to the Dusted and Brainwashed year-end lists I was a part of, then maybe cap it off with a list of last minute records I heard or ordered that I think deserve some attention.

So, here’s a snippet from my Dusted writeup. Much more after the link. And take some time to look at what the other writers had to say about their 2014 favorites. There is lots of good stuff from everyone involved:

This year was filled with great music from start to finish. There wasn’t a single month that didn’t see the release of something exciting. As winter approached, the continuous flood of exceptional recordings became increasingly hard to follow. By June, keeping up had become little more than a laughable daydream, never mind everything that came out between October and December. Lots of people probably feel this way every December, but 2014 was the year I was swept away. 

Looking back at the time line, it’s easy to see why. Tara Jane O’Neil and Damien Jurado released their records in January, Anne Guthrie’s Codiaeum Variegatum bowled me over in February, and the Toshiya Tsunoda/Manfred Werder collaboration landed in March. Politiken der Frequenz rolled out in April and Carl Hultgren’s first solo album won me over at the end of May. I married my wife in June and shortly thereafter started new work, where listening to new music every day wasn’t part of the job. Erstwhile had already put out the Jürg Frey and Radu Malfatti 2CD by that time, in July. Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet’s The Abyss came out with it and a month later the new FKA Twigs was on the shelves. That one was less impressive than I had hoped, but it still spent a lot of time inside my head. 

And these are just the first albums that come to mind. Coppice, Florian Hecker, LCC, Machinefabriek, Poemss, Protomartyr, Sun Kil Moon, SunnO)))/Ulver, and Nicholas Szczepanik all issued new music in that same period, all worth hearing.

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The Monthly List: Jan + Feb’s Top 26 Albums

haptic_bandBetter late than never: here we go with a combined monthly list for the first part of the year. The last two months have been filled with tons of great new music, some of which I’ve had the chance to review, some of which I’m in the middle of writing about now. There’s lots more due out in the next few months too, which means I need to pick up the pace.

That said, here’s a list of what’s been in my CD player and on my turntable in the last couple of months. Links to my favorite sites for reviews and information are found at the bottom of the page. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.com, DustedJust Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat are good places to go if you’re looking for the more obscure stuff.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.

  • Tarab, Strata on UNFATHOMLESS (CD)
  • Haptic, Abeyance on ENTR’ACTE (CD)
  • Morton Feldman, For Philip Guston on DOG W/A BONE (4CD)
  • Morton Feldman, Piano and String Quartet on BRIDGE (CD)
  • Philip Corner, Italian Air: Wind, Water & Metal on RICERCA SONOROA (LP)
  • The Shadow Ring, Remains Unchanged on KYE (2LP)
  • Jacques Lejeune, Parages and Other Electroacoustic Works 1971 – 1985 on ROBOT (3CD)
  • Max Neuhaus, The New York School on ALGA MARGHEN (CD)
  • Michael Byron, Awakening at the Inn of the Birds on COLD BLUE MUSIC (CD)
  • Michael Byron, Music of Nights Without Moon or Pearl on COLD BLUE MUSIC (CD)
  • Anne Guthrie, Codiaeum Variegatum on STUDENTS OF DECAY (DIGITAL)
  • Machinefabriek, Attention, the Doors are Closing! on SELF-RELEASED (DIGITAL)
  • Joseph Clayton Mills, The Patient on ENTR’ACTE (CD/BOOK)
  • Michael Pisaro/Greg Stuart, Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds on GRAVITY WAVE (CD)
  • Joe Panzner/Greg Stuart, Dystonia Duos on ERST AEU (CD)
  • Jim O’Rourke & Christopher Heemann, Plastic Palace People Vol. 1 on STREAMLINE (CD)
  • Claypipe, A Daylight Blessing on MIE (DIGITAL)
  • Robbie Basho, Visions of the Country on GNOME LIFE (LP)
  • Rodd Keith, My Pipe Yellow Dream on ROARATORIO (LP)
  • Autechre, Amber on WARP/WAX TRAX!/TVT (CD)
  • Poemss, Poemss on PLANET MU (DIGITAL)
  • Venetian Snares, Doll Doll Doll on HYMEN (CD)
  • Venetian Snares, Winter in the Belly of a Snake on PLANET MU (CD)
  • The Orb, U.F.Orb on ISLAND RED LABEL (CD)
  • No Right Turn, No Right Turn on EM RECORDS (CD)
  • Ida, Will You Find Me on TIGER STYLE RECORDS (CD)


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On Field Recordings

photo by Jana Winderen

photo by Jana Winderen

Two great articles from Richard Pinnell and Patrick Farmer were recently published over at The Field Reporter, both concerning field recordings. They’re highly recommended for anyone interested in the Anne Guthrie album I reviewed over at Dusted, or in the Michael Pisaro records I’ve covered, or in any kind of experimental music whatsoever really. The Lambkin and Lescalleet trilogy on Erstwhile comes immediately to mind too.

Pinnell and Farmer start their discussion with the latest Tarab album on Unfathomless, which I’m in the middle of reviewing now. You can listen to a sample and read some more info about that release here, if only to get your feet wet before diving into the discussion.

Here are the links: Strata, Part I – Strata, Part II

A couple of key quotes follow, but I highly recommended taking the time to read both posts thoroughly. There are some great insights there:

Eamon [Tarab] here seems to do so much more than take a couple of nice sounding field recordings and see how they sound juxtaposed over one another. He seems to begin with a sense of structure and then applies the material to it, rather than the reverse. Certainly I wouldn’t say that this is the only way a composer can successfully work in this field, but currently, and I think increasingly, it seems to be the most likely to be successful, to my ears at least. All too often the structure of releases in this area seems to be shaped by the found material. Sometimes, such as for instance in the work of Vanessa Rossetto, or parts of your own Pictures of Men album with David Lacey this can work simply because the field recordings used are so original or striking in themselves, but then all too often we are also presented with perfectly pleasant but quickly forgotten collages of pretty textures. Harsh generalisations perhaps, but it really does begin to feel that way. It takes a strong compositional voice to stand out from what is currently an overcrowded but underdeveloped corner of the musical world, and I think to a large degree Tarab achieves that with Strata.

Material is often synonymous with structure, indeed it becomes structure, just as structure can become material, for a time. The important thing to remember, for me, is that it is indeed material, I don’t consider my recordings to be representative, I don’t consider them to say something poignant about a location, not on their own anyway. I think that unedited, whatever, field recordings, can be wonderful, just look at Marc and Olivier Namblard’s new release, and I think that, timed correctly (again, whatever that means at the time) a field recording can be utilised wonderfully during a live performance – I’m thinking of Pisaro in particular here. But this takes me back to my previous point, about so much of the responsibility lying in the camp of the one listening to the CD – which is not something the person who made the release has much, if any, say over.

There is, on some level, little difference in many ways between what Tarab does on this album and what Luc Ferrari and the GRM required a room full of equipment and the privilege required to access it to achieve.

 


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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.

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Broadcast 09: Persists Into Winter

helm-the_hollow_organ

Below are two links to the WZBC Archives where you can listen to my Super Bowl Sunday (February 2nd) radio show, broadcast on WZBC 90.3 FM in Boston. Those links will remain active until the 16th of February 2014, at which point the show will disappear and be replaced by a new one.

Lots of new music on this program, including two new songs from one of Joseph Clayton Mills’s most recent projects, The Patient. It’s an incredible record paired with a fantastic book that serves as a loose score for the music. The book includes notes written by Franz Kafka to his friends while he was suffering from tuberculosis of the larynx. The notes include common questions and observations that you might expect from someone unable to talk, but they’re also filled with peculiar fragments that seem designed to confuse. Mills takes advantage of their intensity and ambiguity and uses them as inspiration for recommended musical (and maybe non-musical) actions. The performance of those actions in whatever combination constitutes The Patient.  I talk about it a little on the show, but you just have to see it in order to appreciate how amazingly well it’s put together. Anyone interested in Kafka should definitely pick this one up. I have a review of that in the works, but if you want some information now, go here.

I also played a new piece from Anne Guthrie’s latest, Codiaeum Variegatum, due out on Students of Decay the 18th of this month, along with a composition by Jacques Lejeune,  who has a new 3CD collection out on Robot Records. Both are excellent, but I’m particularly in love with that Guthrie record. It’s one of my favorite albums of new music so far this year.

There’s a new song from Helm tucked in there and a new one from Machinefabriek too, plus a superb, low-key piece from Philip Corner. Italian Air: Wind, Water & Metal, the album it’s from, might be a little hard to find, but is worth seeking out. If you can’t find one at a local shop, copies are still available from Forced Exposure.

Any questions, comments, or requests, please send me an email or just drop a message into the comments section below.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: February 2nd, 2014 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. The Shadow Ring, “The World Phone” from Remains Unchanged (2012) on KYE
  2. Anne Guthrie, “Rough Above with Uneven Base” from Codiaeum Variegatum (2014) on STUDENTS OF DECAY
  3. Philip Corner, “Ear Wave” from Italian Air: Wind, Water & Metal (2012) on RICERCA SONORA
  4. Joseph Clayton Mills, “Part III” from The Patient (2013) on ENTR’ACTE
  5. Helm, “Analogues” from The Hollow Organ (2013) on PAN
  6. Aaron Dilloway & C Spencer Yeh, “The Hydra” from The Squid (2008) on HANSON RECORDS
  7. Jacques Lejeune, “Cri (Bursts/The Earth is Telling the Dead What the Living are Saying)” from Parages and Other Electroacoustic Works 1971-1985 (2013) on ROBOT RECORDS
  8. Baudouin Oosterlynck, “Le Point et la Ligne” from 1975-1978 (2008) on METAPHON
  9. Machinefabriek, “Manipulation” from Attention, The Doors are Closing! (2014) SELF RELEASED
  10. Joseph Clayton Mills, “Part I” from The Patient (2013) on ENTR’ACTE
  11. Zeitkratzer, “Four6” from John Cage [Old School] (2010) on ZEITKRATZER