Laughter

the human race has one really effective weapon


Leave a comment

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.

(Read More)


Leave a comment

Three Concerts: Michael Pisaro, Kevin Drumm + Jason Lescalleet, Joe Panzner + Greg Stuart

Photos from three shows in Boston, Massachusetts: November 6th, 7th, and 11th (2014). Music by Michael Pisaro, Antoine Beuger, Eugene A. Kim, Teodora Stepančić, Assaf Gidron, Adi Snir, Kevin Drumm, Jason Lescalleet, Joe Panzner, and Greg Stuart. Photos include program details. Click for larger versions.


Leave a comment

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)


Leave a comment

The Monthly List: September’s Top 11

polo_grounds_imgLots of new music shows up on this month’s list. And though there’s a new Autechre EP on the way (out October 28th; some of you probably have it already), I went back to Exai all last month. Definitely one of my favorite records this year, and one of the best albums Warp has released in the last few.

I also spent a lot of time with some of the new Mystery Sea releases from Belgium. Both Philippe Lamy’s Drop Diary and (G)W(3) from the duo of Bruno Duplant and Darius Ciuta are excellent records worth seeking out. I wrote a review of the former for Brainwashed and hope to cover the latter soon. Both can be purchased on the Mystery Sea blog.

William Winant’s Poon Village debut—incredibly it’s his first solo artist record too—will be released shortly. I’ve been lucky enough to work with PV on the release of the album and have had the chance to hear it many times over the last month or two. It’s as good as the reviews make it sound and I’ve fallen in love with Michael Byron and Lou Harrison’s music because of it. Plus the presentation is pretty mind-blowing. A ton of work has gone into it and I’m excited to see how people react, so be sure to check it out. Sound samples are available online and there’s already a lot of press covering it.

Last but not least are two releases from Kevin Drumm; one from 2012 the other new this year. Keeping up with this guy is virtually impossible, but I keep trying anyway. You can read my review of Earrach here, and I’ll try to get a few words about Humid Weather together before long. With so much music to cover, I’ll probably end up writing a few brief summaries just to catch up. I desperately need more time to write.

Be on the lookout for more great music in the coming months. Erstwhile already has two more releases out that I’d love to cover as soon as possible, including one gorgeous looking double CD from Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet. Lescalleet, like Drumm, is now on Bandcamp, and releasing new music there, as is Howard Stelzer and Intransitive Records. There’s also a new 3CD reissue of Eliane Radigue’s Adnos I-III out on Important Records, which is definitely a contender for reissue of the year.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


Leave a comment

Broadcast 01: September 15th, 2013

from a photograph by Clifton Church - the top of Gasson Hall at Boston College

from a photograph by Clifton Church – the top of Gasson Hall at Boston College

Below is a link to the WZBC Archives where you can listen to my September 15th radio show broadcast on WZBC 90.3 FM. This link will remain active until September 29th, at which point the audio will disappear and a new show with new music will take its place. I will not be uploading MP3s.

Besides a few technical goofs on my part, everything went smoothly. Finding a way to present some of the longer pieces of music in a two hour slot is one of the challenges I’ll have to think more about, because using short excerpts just wasn’t good enough, especially with recordings like Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones. I’ll either have to plan exactly which segments I want to use in advance (and stick to them, no matter the duration), or I’ll have to select shorter pieces better suited to radio programming. The show will be a little better organized next time.

Links to labels are provided in the playlist.  Any questions or requests, send me an email. Much of this music is still in print and available from the stores, shops, and distributors listed at the bottom of this page.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: September 15th, 2013 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. Autechre ‎, “Pen Expers” from Confield (2001) on WARP
  2. Helm, “Silencer” from Silencer EP (2013) on PAN
  3. Bruce Gilbert and BAW, “Rest/Reflection” from Diluvial (2013) on TOUCH
  4. David Sylvian, “Manafon” from Manafon (2009) on SAMADHI SOUND
  5. Tod Dockstader, “Water Music” from Dockstader: Quatermass (1992) on STARKLAND
  6. Philippe Lamy, “Une Autre Couche” from Drop Diary (2013) on MYSTERY SEA
  7. Kevin Drumm, “Earrach A (excerpt)” from Earrach (2013) on RECREATIONAL PANICK/BANDCAMP
  8. Bellows “Untitled 6” from Reelin’ (2013) on HOLIDAYS RECORDS
  9. Nmperign/Jason Lescalleet, “The Mystery Disease That Haunts My Town” from Love Me Two Times (2006) on INTRANSITIVE
  10. Howard Stelzer, “Bond Inlets 2 (excerpt)” from Bond Inlets (2008) on INTRANSITIVE
  11. Graham Lambkin, “The Currency of Dreams” from Salmon Run (2007) on KYE
  12. Michael Pisaro “Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones (excerpt)” from Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones (2011) on GRAVITY WAVE
  13. Keith Rowe/Günter Müller/Taku Sugimoto “Phase Two (excerpt)” from The World Turned Upside Down (2000) on ERSTWHILE


Leave a comment

Review: Michael Pisaro, “Hearing Metal 2 (Le table du silence)”

It may be that hearing metal means something different than hearing music. Like the Constantin Brâncuși sculpture to which its subtitle refers, Michael Pisaro’s Hearing Metal 2 subsists more in the grain and shape of its materials and less in the will of its author. It is composed and performed, and has a beginning and an ending, but it doesn’t move from left to right like a song. It feels and sounds more like a space that I can walk through, my position and my frame of mind determining how—and what—I hear.

Inspired by Greg Stuart’s close recordings of the 60″ tam-tam used in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie I, Michael Pisaro’sHearing Metal series began as project dedicated to hearing the inner life of apparently uniform sounds. The association with Brâncuși sculptures came when he realized that the physical material of his chosen instruments expressed particular qualities or affects on their own—as if a sense of the material were coming through the music. As he explains on his blog, “Any sound, even the simplest, is already (ontologically) multiple. But the multiplicity requires a succession of events to be heard: by extending, repeating, adding and subtracting, one begins to experience the sound more like a verb than like a noun.”

I think of that last claim every time I listen to Hearing Metal 2. On the one hand, Pisaro and Stuart’s assortment of cymbals, gongs, brake drums, and various metal objects resound together like a single instrument. Listening is like watching a metal sculpture rotate in place. If I sit in one spot and watch it spin, different aspects of its form slide into view and fall away like a slideshow. But if I get up and investigate, peer at it closely, or fix my attention on one of its sides, new qualities pop out. They were always there, but finding them depends on interacting with the piece and not just letting it slide by the way songs typically do. Thanks to the way Pisaro has arranged his sounds, this sculptural feeling is sustained throughout the piece’s long, central metallic passage. There are no crescendos or obvious dynamic markers—just the varying qualities of different textures playing against the hum of a central, pitched core. There are quieter and noisier moments, but they don’t add up to something bigger and tip the composer’s hand.

On the other hand, Hearing Metal 2 unfolds in time and needs time to make sense. The music doesn’t resound all at once, and I can’t actually walk around it the way I would a sculpture, so I have to listen to what it does. That’s when the metal instrumentation begins to express something like an inner life: little networks of rhythm spill out of the otherwise chaotic jumble of junkyard sounds and apparently fixed tones wobble back and forth like they’re walking on a tightrope; odd sounds are cast to the periphery and others are pushed to the center as the metal rolls and twists in circles, something Pisaro’s stereo mix captures extremely well. But all this happens of its own accord, seemingly without Michael or Greg’s influence. The music stops progressing from beginning to end and starts acting, stretching out in different directions, and evolving. The illusion Pisaro and Stuart create is that they had nothing to do with it. The sound was there the whole time, all they did was capture it.

Framing the 40-plus minute core of Hearing Metal 2 are two blocks of field recordings and other seemingly non-metallic sounds. The longer, first section captures oceans and rivers tossing and bubbling in undisclosed locations. Strange, almost psychedelic test tones beam in from outer space. A church organ hums. Sine waves peak out of the silence and succumb to the movement of a stream down a muddy bank. The humming metal doesn’t start until over 16 mintes in, and by then it feels as if we’ve been guided down a waterway just to see this huge edifice Pisaro’s built. When it ends, we’re brought back to the sounds of running water and chirping birds. It’s a reminder that hidden sounds are all around us, and that how we listen is as important as what we hear.

Hearing Metal 2 is available on Gravity Wave
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


2 Comments

Michael Pisaro Live at Complice Gallery

GW009 art

A live performance of Michael Pisaro’s “hinwandeln (zwischen himmel und erd)” and “Transparent City (2)” has been posted on his Gravity Wave label page. I’ve posted the Soundcloud link below as well. From Michael’s description:

… performed in alternation and without breaks by Johnny Chang, violin, Koen Nutters, contrabass, Gary Schultz, sine tones and myself, classical guitar. hinwandelnis a trio – and for each of the four times it appears, we rotated amongst the musicians (i.e., a different group of three players each time). Transparent City (2) is a set of instructions for how to play live instruments with a playback of recordings from the Transparent City discs (Edition Wandelweiser).

Two new Gravity Wave discs—”The Middle of Life (Die ganze Zeit)” and “The Punishment of the Tribe by its Elders”—are scheduled for release in January 2013 and will be available via ErstDist.