Laughter

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Review: Nagual, “Nagual” (Ergot Records)

The Avatamsaka Sutra—one of the best known of the Mahayana Buddhist sutras—teaches that the firm line between the ego and the rest of the world is an illusion. Likewise, every rock, river, hill, animal and person, held as distinct in the peanut shell of the mind, interpenetrates and reaches out into the universe. Their separateness is only an appearance. In reality, people and places—as well as ideas—intertwine and dance with one another in a shimmering mesh of light sometimes called Indra’s Net.

Now hold that thought and extend it to the apparent gulf separating, for instance, Hindustani classical music from rock-‘n’-roll, particularly the German kind of rock n’ roll produced by bands like Amon Düül or Popul Vuh in the 1960s and ‘70s. That’s the region of Indra’s Net in which Nagual play on their debut for the Chicago-based Ergot Records.

Read more…

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Review: Richard Youngs, “Summer Through My Mind”

When Richard Youngs agreed to record a country album for his debut on Ba Da Bing Records, it was like he had accepted a dare. “I haven’t got a country bone in my body,” he admitted to Ben Chasny in his 2012 BOMB Magazine interview. Label boss Ben Goldberg had given Youngs a whole list of dream records he’d like hear from him, which means other options must have been on the table, but the British singer-noisemaker elected to try his hand at America’s Appalachian offspring anyway.

What he ended up with doesn’t sound like Jimmie Rodgers or Hank Williams at all, though there’s more going on here than meets the ear. Youngs uses all the right tools—acoustic and slide guitar, banjo, harmonica—but his songs are looser and more exploratory than most things in the country canon. Looser because they sound as if they were committed to tape by osmosis; Youngs captures most of his ideas rough-hewn and leaves them that way. More exploratory because, without a drawl or a connection to the style’s traditions, and without a backing band to rein him in, Youngs is free to improvise on his idea of the country sound and free to ignore the usual conventions.

Read the rest at Dusted Magazine


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Review: COH, “Retro-2038”

Back in May, as the Daft Punk machine squeezed out its Steely Dan yacht rock tribute and bamboozled writers (“does good music need to be good?”) with their AM radio, disco-pop revival, COH quietly released a throwback record of his own on Editions Mego. Both the Punks and Ivan Pavlov name-checked Giorgio Moroder and both took dance music as a starting point for their endeavors, but the similarities basically end there.

Pavlov’s songs steer clear of most radio-friendly conventions and follow a much harder to define trajectory. They fly through the computerized sounds of Spiegel’s Expanding Universe, navigate the twisting textures of Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon and fall into orbit around Kraftwerk’s android funk and Pan Sonic’s crippling beats.

Read the rest at Dusted…


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Review: Helm, “Silencer”

luke_younger_photoMy first review for Dusted Magazine is up over at the new Dusted Tumblr site. I’m very excited to be writing for them and I hope you will check the site out, read some of the other reviews, then maybe grab a copy of Helm’s Silencer. I spent a lot of time with it and it was one of my favorite records of 2013. It definitely deserves your attention:

Luke Younger takes a risk on the Silencer EP, his first ever 12-inch and the follow-up to his well-loved Impossible Symmetry full-length on Bill Kouligas’s PAN imprint. Like other noise-minded artists before him, Younger has decided to add the power of a prominent beat to his already deep mix of altered gadget noise, tape collage and electro-acoustic miscellany.

Read the rest here.

I have much more lined up for Dusted, as well as reviews of Air Supply and Photographs in the pipeline for Brainwashed.com—hoping to get 2014 off to a strong start with lots of writing.


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Review: Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “The Breadwinner”

Imagine music resides everywhere that sound can travel. It flows from the faucet into the sink each morning, creaks out of the loose boards on the way up and down the stairs, and, incredibly, buzzes in your sweetheart’s mouth as he or she snores noisily at 3 AM on Monday morning. The difference between music and not-music then pivots on the attention and consideration different sounds receive. Record them to tape, amplify and manipulate them, or set them into new patterns and a surprising, sometimes beautiful music can emerge. That’s the music of The Breadwinner, the first album in Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet’s recently completed trilogy on Erstwhile.

Recorded in 2006 and ’07 at Graham Lambkin’s home in Poughkeepsie, New York, The Breadwinner claims to be a collection of “musical settings for common environments and domestic situations.” As it turns out, the music itself was derived almost entirely from noise captured around the house. Everything from water glasses to July 4th fireworks and squeaky hinges made the cut, so the music reflects the spaces and occasions for which it is apparently intended (tongue-in-cheek or not).

But the album isn’t just the product of two guys wondering about the kitchen, living room, and bathroom with various microphones and some magnetic tape. Besides the keyboard and piano used on “Listen, the Snow is Falling” and “Lucy Song,” the duo utilize their recordings as sound sources, deriving unearthly tones and igneous rhythms from the speeding up and slowing down of the source material. If the recording process doesn’t make itself obvious in one way or another, the quality of the various sounds still point to it. On “E5150/Body Transport,” a droning, out-of-body experience slowly resolves into a steady snore, suggesting that whole piece is actually an appropriated nightly annoyance. “Two States” compares and contrasts events that must have taken place at separate times. The mix is too solid, the balance too spot on for it to have happened without some tinkering.

Graham and Jason transform every room and make every object in those rooms new, whether by manipulation or by the arrangement of contrasting noises and complimentary sounds. Solid objects like the bedroom radiator or the fire place lose their rigid form and become malleable. That in turn gives the duo the freedom to re-contextualize everything, from mumbled voices to everyday appliances.

Mundane sources such as these typically keep emotional or communicative content well in the background. What we’re supposed to do is listen to the sounds as sounds, not look for a message from the composers. After all, how could a refrigerator possibly speak to a sane person?

Perhaps unexpectedly, Lambkin and Lescalleet have left something personal in the mix, so maybe the fridge does just that: speak. First, there’s the titles, which Graham and Jason probably understand better than the audience. But there’s a Black Sabbath reference in there, and maybe one fromThe Hobbit too, and the aforementioned “Lucy Song” sticks to the ears with its bittersweet melody. The music moves through several moods, some ominous, others calming, and the reason for either isn’t always clear. But the point is that the moods are there. So where are they coming from? “Listen, the Snow is Falling” can’t help but communicate with its stunning sense of stillness and beauty, some of which is generated by the simple presence of a flickering fire. Even if the song were called “Track One,” it would convey memories, feelings, and ideas.

And memory seems to be part of what Graham and Jason are up to with these songs. They make the lowly spoon and water glass speak to sensations usually provoked by rock ‘n’ roll songs, familiar melodies, conventional rhythms, and good books. The whole microcosm of Lambkin’s house is laid bare for those curious enough to check it out. But, what about the experience of finding those noises, or the people who were around when they were made? There are obviously human noises on the record, but the figures themselves are conspicuously missing, or at least hidden. Which brings up a good question: is the breadwinner of the title the two musicians who made the record, or is it the house itself? Could it be the world at large, or is it maybe an unnameable something else?  That blank spot there between the lines, where the music echoes out from invisibly?

The Breadwinner is available on Erstwhile Records.
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Review: Songs: Ohia, “Magnolia Electric Co. (10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)”

Two forces define Jason Molina’s entire career: work—he was almost obsessively dedicated to his craft—and his band. In 2003 he brought these forces to Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago and, with nine other musicians, caught lightning in a bottle. Up to that point Molina had made a case for his being a great songwriter, but on Magnolia Electric Co. he became a great bandleader. Those nine other musicians share the spotlight with him on these eight songs, and rightfully so. They’re an integral reason Magnolia ended up one of the best rock ‘n’ roll records ever recorded.

From his debut 7″ in 1996 until 2003 Jason Molina’s band changed with virtually every new release. He played and recorded with Arab Strap, Richard Youngs, Geof Comings, Jonathan Cargill, Mike Mogis, Edith Frost, Dave Fischoff, Alasdair Roberts, and many others; too numerous to count here.

These are the people, as much as Molina, who made Songs: Ohia what it was. Jason knew this and admitted it in various interviews. With Magnolia Electric Co. he acknowledged it, and practically handed the album over this friends and fellow musicians.

The big themes come first: transformation, doubt, partnership, work, and fate—Jason’s magical lyricism rides on top of these concerns. He communes with spectral guides and ghostly conspirators; presents deserts, flowers, and ghost towns as trail cairns for lovesick wanderers; and draws Comiskey Park together with the ancient light of distant stars. He writes about broad spaces, thoughts, and inner experiences, and then brings them to life with these details. Until, in the album’s penultimate moment, as “John Henry Split My Heart” nearly flies off the rails, Molina reels the band’s energy in for just a few lines. In the equivalent of a rock ‘n’ roll soliloquy, he sings, “Boy what you gonna do with your heart in two?” He replies, “Only if it’s good enough, half I’m gonna use to pay this band. Half I’m saving, ’cause I’m gonna owe ’em.”

Jason Molina was undoubtedly a great songwriter. As his solo albums, numerous solo bootlegs, and the newly reissued Magnolia demos show, he could carry a song all on his own, sometimes just on the strength of his voice. For the 2003 recording session, he had worked out all the lyrics in advance, knew the basic chords and shapes the songs would take, and maybe even knew how everything would fit together. A few of those songs had been tested on the road the year before too, with a band in tow. But incredibly several of the album’s most memorable melodies aren’t there in the demos, or even in the pre-album live versions.

Jim Grabowski’s floating Wurlitzer accompaniment on “Just Be Simple,” Dan Macadam’s dancing violin on “The Old Black Hen,” Dan Sullivan’s angular guitar playing, even Mike Brenner’s lap steel lead on “Farewell Transmission”—they were all almost unbelievably invented by the musicians, in the studio, on the spot, without the benefit of knowing the songs well in advance, using overdubs to fix mistakes, or having rehearsal time. Jason wasn’t kidding about owing them.

That spontaneity gives the music its loose, anything-could-happen feel; the sort of rambling, improvisational quality that causes listeners to draw connections to country and gospel music when they hear the album. Molina’s ideas, what he brought to the table as a writer, pull the record in the opposite direction. He’s the one that makes the music sound tightly wound; it’s his ability as a leader that makes it all sound inevitable.

And that says nothing of the incredible rhythm section Jason had in Jeff Panall and Rob Sullivan, or of Jennie Benford’s haunting harmonies, or of spectacular start on side B, where he gives up the mic to Lawrence Peters and Scout Niblett on “The Old Black Hen” and “Peoria Lunch Box Blues.” Jason disappears into both of those songs, making it hard to say where he even is in the mix. They’re his songs sure enough, but it’s the team that’s making them sing. Other bands have worked in a similar way, but few have left so much to the fates and come out the other end with an album that sounds as confident and energetic as Magnolia Electric Co.

To the inclusion of the reissued demos, this 10th anniversary edition adds two studio recordings; one brand new, one difficult to find until now. Acoustic versions for both songs were featured on the demo disc in the album’s limited first edition, but the big draw for anyone who has those already are these studio additions. “The Big Game Is Every Night” was previously available on the Japanese edition of the album, but thank God it’s finally available domestically because it’s stunning, and almost perfectly embodies the entire album. Above a dark, swirling mass of droning strings, Molina delivers urgent line after urgent line of historical images, references, and self-accusations that only he could have imagined. Cutting it from the record must have been painful, but it’s such a massive black hole of a tune that it would have swallowed all the light around it. It makes perfect sense on it’s own, after the album has ended, or on the 10″ that comes with the vinyl version.

“Whip-Poor-Will,” on the other hand, falls a bit flat. The demo version is great, and the studio treatment it received on Josephine is heart-rending, but the Magnolia version simply sounds incomplete, as if Jason and Jennie Benford had a good idea, but couldn’t find a way to make it work with the time they had.

Hearing it reinforces just how perfect everything else is. Unbelievable is a good word for it, and maybe lucky too. But good bands make their own luck, and this band was as good as they come. As good as the ones Dylan had in ’64 and ’65, as rough and powerful as Crazy Horse, at times as heavy and as energetic as Hendrix, Redding, and Mitchell. Together, these ten musicians could go toe to toe with anyone, and that’s not hyperbole. Make no doubt about it, it’s a fact; true like the solid earth. All you have to do to know it is listen.

Magnolia Electric Co. is available on Secretly Canadian
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Review: FKA Twigs, “EP2”

Ambiguity hangs from every word that comes out of 25 year old Tahliah Barnett’s mouth. She sings about sex, love, craving, deception—and sounds direct enough doing it—but what she leaves out of her songs is just as important as what she keeps in them. Her accomplice, producer and Yeezus collaborator Arca, couldn’t be more sympathetic. He matches her terse, enigmatic professions and weightless melodies with a magic show of slow-motion rhythms and phantom effects, making the best possible use of repetitious forms to emphasize and heighten the drama in her lyrics. EP2 is a pop record, but FKA Twigs and Arca pull it off so spectacularly that it sounds and feels like more.

In interviews, FKA Twigs admits that she likes to work quickly. “I don’t like to labour over things,” she says. “In my experience, the first idea is usually the best one.” That dedication to immediacy is most obvious in her lyrics. On opener “How’s That” Twigs sings a total of about six lines, most of them delivered in fragments: one question, one incomplete thought that could be read sexually or spiritually, and five moaned exclamations, which are repeated incrementally over a voluminous bed of chromatic noise. With every repetition Twigs and Arca add a level of intensity to the sung lines, giving mundane statements like “you know everything” a cathartic insistence and a special emphasis.

That is basically how the duo operates for the entirety of the record. Arca builds a house of mirrors around Twigs’s sparse lyrics, anchors it with a heavy low end, and adds bits of psychedelic color to help play up the uncertainty and immediacy of the written lines. There’s lots of pitch-bending and lurching rhythms, pulses that build pressure and then fizzle out, and awkward movements that stutter and hesitate before finally getting in line. When the strong climaxes do come, they seep into the mix like an injection of molasses. “Papi Pacify” practically explodes during its chorus; strings spasm and double over the top of each other; the wavering melody of the verse turns suddenly confident and dark; the rhythm picks up a thumping persistence, and Twigs’s voice rises to match Arca’s wave of noise.

It all sounds ecstatic, but Barnett avoids the usual love song clichés and digs into the meat of her subjects, pulling out absurdity, contradiction, and bathos for the attentive. She plays on the violent connotations of pacification, leaves the usual inside-outside dichotomy to be read either perversely or transcendentally, and pens a strange encomium to free love, which might also be a condemnation of objectification and prostitution—sexual or otherwise. Her videos, most of which are either directed or co-directed by her, reinforce that multiplicity. In “Papi Pacify” it isn’t clear whether she’s being dominated physically or secretly pulling the strings, and “How’s That” treats the human form like an obstacle to something altogether more fluid.

Nothing is as it seems, which is actually a nice summary of the EP. Twigs and Arca are working with a formula everyone knows. It’s pop music. But the way they handle their material disguises that fact. They know the shape and extent of their art, and rather than playing by the rules or trying to bust it wide open, they’re walking a middle path, finding smart ways to stretch, dye, and warp it. It’s tempting to call EP2 experimental, but it’s clear that FKA Twigs knows exactly what she’s doing.

EP2 is available on Young Turks
Review originally published at Brainwashed.com, with links to the full songs.


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Review: Philippe Lamy, “Drop Diary”

Daniel Crokaert’s Mystery Sea label challenges artists to produce music inspired by and infused with the mystique of “liquid states,” whether that means using the sound of amplified water or catching the unpredictable flow of human perception on disc. French musician and painter Philippe Lamy comes at that challenge from both directions on Drop Diary, using the sound of water to focus on the way various environmental and synthetic sounds interconnect. Each piece is stacked with tiny sounds, but the way he weaves them all together gives the album a beautiful, supernatural quality, as open and as alive as the environments used to make it.

Lamy treats the sound of water like a constant in his otherwise stream-of- consciousness productions. In some instances it echoes nakedly, in others it drones on almost inaudibly, masked by waves of digital refuse and processed noise. But it’s always there. Philippe pours it into metal pans and glass cups. He captures its fall from branches and awnings during and after a storm, and he records its sibilant singing as it splashes and cuts down streams and over surfaces.

He combines these noises with other environmental and synthetic sounds, forcing his listeners to imagine each element as part of a larger web of events and motions. Those motions propel his music forward and reshape the rigid digital sounds into a less definite, more accommodating state. The crunch of broken glass mingles with a horse trotting down a brick road, which then rubs elbows with the sound of water trickling through pipes, which tumbles into a burst of digital noise before coming to rest in a still room, with a light storm passing by outside.

Lamy presumably took these sounds from places he knows well, and he uses the proximity of those places to arrange the music. He connects horse hooves to lawnmowers to throbbing, Badalamenti-esque synthesizers in a kind of four dimensional sound photo; not because there’s a secret narrative running between them, but because these things exist side by side somewhere in France, where the album was recorded. That continuity calls into question whether the spaces Lamy recorded are distinct and individual locations at all, and not artificially determined segments of one uninterrupted space. Is it the sound that flows or does the flowing come from the consciousness that connects all the dots?

As the album progresses Philippe removes many of his sound sources. Instead of tumbling over one another, events start to come one and two at a time. Birds sing in the far distance, insects chirp and buzz with them, the sound of water echoes ever clearer. By the time it’s over, Lamy has slowed time down and reduced the music to an almost meditative hum. As the field recordings intermingle, an exciting sense of scope materializes; a feeling that the very smallest things in the world are all connected, and that something much bigger is waiting just over the horizon.

Drop Diary is available on Mystery Sea
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Review: Keith Rowe/Graham Lambkin, “Making A”

If Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin haven’t produced one of the most mind-bending records of 2013, they’re at least high in the running. Making A shares its name with one of Cornelius Cardew’s Schooltime Compositions. Written in 1967, these pieces were designed to help musicians and non-musicians develop their own methods of interpretation and music-making. Continue reading


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Review: “EDM A2” and “EDM B2”

Rephlex is almost definitely behind EDM (Electric Dance Music) A2 and B2, but they’re not owning up to it. Neither disc sports a label, neither comes with liner notes, and except for a few Jodey Kendrick aliases, most of the 13 featured artists are unrecognizable. Alain Kepler, Rob Kidley, and Trevor Dags could be anyone, but with electronic music as hyperactive and acid washed as this, the first anyone that comes to mind is Richard D. James.

Anonymity cuts like a double edged sword, especially for IDM producers or anyone else in the general vicinity. It drummed up a good deal of attention for The Tuss and Steinvord, but the question of authorship can overshadow whether a record is any good or not. Unfortunately, A2 and B2 suffer that fate, if only a little. Nearly every song is exciting and memorable, and there’s plenty of diversity here. Artists like Rob Kidley and J.K. obviously have some bubblebath in their blood, but Kepler, Heidi Lord, and Trevor Dags pull both records though smears of ambience and clubby pastiches that break away from the braindance bill. The familiar throb of drum ‘n’ bass shows up too, followed by the quiet sizzle of micro-sculpted dance and the analog hum of droning waves. Not everything inspires dance, but the title feels appropriate nonetheless.

va-EDM_B2That variety makes it hard to believe that one person could be behind every song, but both discs play more like albums than compilations, and they flow into each other as if they were one album assembled by one hand. A2 begins with a solid beat and keeps it going for more than half the album. Abrupt samples and distorted fragments cut in and out of the mix, and multi-threaded melodies criss-cross each other in jumbled chunks, but always in service of a syncopated rhythm. The songs also stick close to a four and a half minute limit, leaving an impression just by their blur of their movement. Repeat plays help to solidify the impact.

In the last 12 minutes, the music mellows into a series of relatively low-key ambient shorts. That leads naturally into B2, which proceeds at a more relaxed pace. These songs rely less on glitches and more on instrumental color. A few are just electric sketches, others are longer, more hypnotic tracks, but they caress more than punch. The artists blend beat with atmosphere and toy with acoustic samples, and J.K. tosses a fragment of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue into the mix on a song called “Man Hunt 1”; I can almost hear him laughing behind it. By the time Heidi Lord kicks the second half of B2 into full gear, everything’s very cool, blue, and chilled out. The record is still playful, but it loses much of its dance-y flavor and drifts into more ambient, psychedelic territory. It ends in a much different place than where it began, but the shift is gradual enough to keep the records linked up.

Maybe old man A-F-X shows up somewhere in the middle, or maybe that’s what Rephlex wants you to believe. Either way, it’s a frustrating game. Whether or not he’s releasing music is less interesting than the music itself. Does Heidi Lord have another record out there somewhere? Has TX81Z—aggravatingly named after a Yamaha synthesizer—produced anything else as trippy as “Googol?” Is Jodey Kendrick secretly one of the best electronic producers out there and the sole man behind this series? For now, nobody knows.

EDM A2 and EDM B2 are available from places like Forced Exposure and Boomkat
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Review: youAND:THEMACHINES, “Behind”

In his March 3rd interview with Ibiza Voice, Martin Müller proudly lists the synths, drum machines, and effects units he used to make Behind, his first album without youANDme partner Daniel Stroeter. Among others, he names: the Waldorf Microwave 1 and Roland Alpha Juno 2, the TR-808 and TR-909, the Jomox Xbase 888, a Verona DRM, a Moogerfooger, a Sherman Filterbank, and various other resonators, compressors, and equalizers. He loves his gear, and every song on Behind begins and ends with it. Whatever the results— jet black Detroit house, dub, ambient noise, or some other variety of electronic music— Martin’s machines matter most. Everything else comes second.

Müller underlines his focus on color and texture from the get-go. After the brief, weightless wash of “Entrance,” “Perception” hits with wave after wave of staccato synthesizer sound. Over and over again, the same emphatic pulse pushes through the air, throbbing insistently for every second of the song’s almost six minutes. Riding on the crests of those electrical waves is a foamy mix of vocals, percussive accents, and other sound effects, like field recordings. Some of them pop off the rhythmic background and fizzle out, others get tucked into the mix and work away secretly beneath or within the persistence of the bass drum. But the elements are always simpatico, in some cases just a hair’s breadth removed from each other.

This is how Martin works. He hypnotizes first with hammering rhythms and catchy melodies, then woos with slick, but seriously deep textures and sound effects, wrapping them all together in a way that makes taking them apart impossible. Nearly every song proceeds that way: the beat provides the canvas and the textures provide the color, as well as the energy and intrigue. Müller pulls it all off by concentrating on the smallest units. He builds his songs thinking less about form and more about how and where sounds will mingle. All the repetitive passages, small variations, and mirrored rhythms, techno-flavored as they are, pay more homage to tone color, texture, and density than to the almighty beat.

Ambient passages help break the album up and give it some formal variety, although they feel secondary to the rhythm-centric productions. Müller definitely shines brightest when he’s messing with club-approved fare, adding depth and subtracting flash in favor of subtlety. The way he handles the vocal tracks still amazes me. The first time through those vocals were the biggest obstacle to my enjoying the record. Repeat listens quickly removed that obstacle. Thinking about it now, they are a little corny, but Martin uses them to such good effect that it doesn’t matter. By the end of the record they have disappeared into the machines that Müller so adores.

Behind is available on Ornaments
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Review: Anonymous, “Inside the Shadow”

Anonymous emerged from a group of friends who played at each other’s houses in and around Indianapolis in the early ‘70s. They recorded their debut and sole album in a garage in Milwaukee in 1976, the same year that the Ramones and Blondie released their debuts. They pressed approximately 300 copies, but never played a gig, never promoted the album, and released only one follow-up, albeit under a different name and with a different lineup. That one record is remarkable though, a private press gem with excellent musicianship, beautiful vocal harmonies, and imaginative songwriting from their front man, Ron Matelic.

Inside the Shadow was recorded in just a couple of days, but it sounds like it should have taken much longer. Matelic’s songs are lithe, unpredictable things that jump from one time signature and one style to another seamlessly. He juxtaposes colorful choruses with tricky rhythmic patterns and contrasts lilting vocal harmonies with hard edged guitar solos, hiding the seams as he goes. The band’s performances match Matelic’s nimble writing with energy and precision, sounding equally at ease whether they’re drawing out a slow, bluesy chorus or riding on the wave of an electric 12-string’s melody.

As it turns out, Shadow’s eight songs were written over a period of several years; starting perhaps as early as 1972, when Matelic befriended bassist Glenn Weaver. Vocalist Marsha Rollings and drummer John Medvescek were old friends who shared a mutual love for Buffalo Springfield, the Beatles, and groups like Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane, so there was a rapport between them all before they ever rehearsed a song or stepped into the studio.

Their long friendship translated into magic on record. Marsha and Ron’s harmonizing and singing are two obvious highlights, but Medvescek and Weaver make for an impressive rhythm combo. They rarely just keep time, and Ron’s songs give them plenty of room to show off their virtuosity. When Matelic takes off on longer solos or rips into his 12-string, they drive the music forward, accenting it with snappy about faces, big crescendos, and sudden left turns. On the slower songs, they anchor Ron and Marsha’s lighter moments with heavier material, whether that means hitting the skins harder or laying down an extra layer of melody on the thicker strings.

Stylistically Anonymous may wear their influences on their sleeves—Matelic admits to borrowing ideas and melodies from The Byrds and the Mamas and the Papas—but the band integrates everything they borrow so completely that I can’t boil the record down to a particular style or a single source.Inside the Shadow sounds of its time, is maybe even a little anachronistic, but it isn’t just another psychedelic record or rock ‘n’ roll curiosity.

So maybe Anonymous weren’t following the trends of ’76 when they recorded Inside the Shadow, but they weren’t living in the past either.

Inside the Shadow is available on Machu Picchu
Review originally published at Brainwashed.com

Listen to “Pick Up and Run”:


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Review: Miles, “Unsecured”

Miles Whittaker can’t be stopped. As one-half of Demdike Stare, as Suum Cuique, and now as Miles, he has released a string of records that have vanished almost as soon as they have appeared. Unsecured follows his first full-length under the Miles moniker, rounding out its low-key tones and subdued colors with four coarse and heavy techno productions. Like his other records, it’s also likely to disappear soon—and for good reason.

Faint Hearted, Whittaker’s first full-length for Modern Love as Miles, was sold out and unavailable almost before it was released. On it, atmosphere and dusty effects take precedence over melody; and stiff, sputtering rhythms—that remind me of Plastikman’s “Spastik” —constitute the music’s driving force. There aren’t many hooks and there isn’t much to dance to, but the album’s quiet magic won me over with repeat plays. It was the first techno record to win me over this year.

Unsecured is the second, and it blows Faint Hearted out of the water. It leaps out of the gate with “Blatant Statement,” an explosive production propelled by sizzling percussion and a slippery 303 pattern catchier than anything on the full length. Miles beefs it up with the kind of cold synthesizer chords I’m absolute sucker for and keeps the tension running high for the next six minutes. The song doesn’t stop so much as it falls over. The melody sputters and trips, and falls head over heels.

The momentum carries into “Technocracy” —a cooler, but still forward moving dub track with an off-kilter rhythm and a hip-commanding low end— and on to the second side, where “Infinite Jest” erupts with a massive four-on-the-floor rhythm and a synth lead almost dirty enough for Pan Sonic. There is nothing subtle about it. It just pounds away for seven and a half minutes in full-on caveman glory.

“Plutocracy” winds the EP down with a darker atmosphere and some more of those cold synthesizer chords. This time they actually cool things off, as the record ends to the sound of their ominous moaning. But I’d honestly rather hear more like the first three songs. Faint Hearted is a good record for chilling out. Unsecured is great because it rocks so damn hard.

Unsecured is available on Modern Love
Review published at Brainwashed.com
Listen to the entire EP here:


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Review: Songs: Ohia, “Hecla & Griper (15th Anniversary Edition)”

In 1997, as the last of the tenth generation Thunderbirds rolled off the Ford assembly line in Lorain, Ohio, Jason Molina released his debut album and first EP for Secretly Canadian. The Lorain native had two 7″ singles to his name when his self-titled debut arrived in April. Hecla & Griper snuck in before Christmas that year, loaded with terse songs, a bigger bottom end, and a tougher sound for the winter. Secretly Canadian’s 15th Anniversary Edition tacks on four new-ish songs, two of them exciting, previously unreleased Hecla versions of “Heart Newly Arrived” and “One of Those Uncertain Hands,” which both first showed up on 1998’s Impala.

There’s nothing in Songs: Ohia’s first recordings that point to where Molina would end up on albums like Ghost Tropic or Didn’t It Rain. Early on, he had somewhere to be and he wanted to get there fast. No nine minute serenades with bluesy flourishes, no long instrumental passages with droning organs and bird calls —just a small band, some peculiar verses, and maybe a chorus or two where the lines bear repeating. “Pass,” Hecla’s opening song, lasts just one minute. Jason sings for about half that time. It’s more like a punk song than anything in the Americana/Palace-worship catalog, and it’s catchy as hell. “East Last Heart,” the longest song on the EP at four minutes, ends precisely when it needs to, and with very little ornamentation: some dramatic piano chords to complement the bottom-heavy crawl of the tenor guitar and bass, and Jason singing “rich kid I’m talking to you.” That’s it. Cut, next song.

Even the slow tunes are fleet of foot. “Reply & Claim,” a re-purposed version of “Citadel (Tenskwatawa),” is just a hair longer than the original, but passes with more momentum thanks to the extra instrumentation. The instrumentation is only bass and drums, but it sounds more like a rock song now and Jason’s delivery is a touch more urgent too, to keep the energy in proportion with the duration. Plus there aren’t any saxophones or clarinets brightening things up, so there’s no airy relief from Molina’s frequently dark lyricism and insistent delivery. The closest Hecla & Griper gets to relief is a cover of Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin’,” which is almost funny, but still badass. Jason talks through some of the lyrics, sounding proud and resigned simultaneously, and half-amused that he’s recording a Conway Twitty song.

The bonus songs are an odd bunch. “Pilot & Friend” is a slightly different version of “The Arrogant Truth” from the Our Golden Ratio EP (1998), and “Debts” is actually “To the Neighbors of Our Age,” which first saw the light of day on Songs for the Geographically Challenged Volume 2, released by Temporary Residence in 1997. “Debts” points the way to Impala with its quiet organ melody, but still fits the Hecla bill just fine. I assume “Pilot & Friend” was recorded around the same time, but without liner notes all I can do is assume. It isn’t out of place, but why put a song from another EP on here?

But I’m being grumpy about a great song from an EP I don’t have anyway. For fans already acquainted with everything Jason did, the new versions of “Heart Newly Arrived” and “One of Those Uncertain Hands” are worth getting excited about. They feature the Hecla & Griper instrumentation and are more cleanly recorded, without echo or reverb. Instead of being moody and atmospheric, they’re lean and propulsive—mean sounding songs with a touch of heavy metal in them. The Thunderbird may have left Lorain in ’97, but Molina was still representing, dishing out some thunder of his own.

Hecla & Griper 15th Anniversary Edition is available on Secretly Canadian
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com

note: I failed to mention in my review that this is the first time Hecla & Griper has been available on vinyl. It was originally issued on compact disc.


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Review: Phil Minton + Audrey Chen Quintet, “Four Instruments Two Voices”

The fundamental elements of singing and vocalizing are easy to miss in most music. All singers, even the very worst, unconsciously coordinate the various processes required to sing musically, so that respiration, phonation, resonation, and articulation collapse into sung phrases or wordless melodies. Phil Minton and Audrey Chen work to undo that coordination. They break their voices down, emphasizing the dental clicks, nasal hums, and various fleshy noises typically masked by melodies and lyrics. Many of the sounds they produce as part of this quintet—which features two basses, percussion, and cello—are the kind most singers would try to play down. By giving them the spotlight, Phil and Audrey are forced to express themselves the same way instruments do.

Four Instruments Two Voices is one of two Audrey Chen and Phil Minton albums released this year by Sub Rosa, both of which focus on extended vocal techniques. This one matches their voices with Guy Segers’ electric bass, Peter Jacquemyn’s double bass, and Teun Verbruggen’s percussion. As might be expected from instrumentalists who have worked with the likes of Peter Brötzmann, John Butcher, and William Parker, the music is improvised and mostly chaotic. But because Chen and Minton’s vocal contortions lead the group, and because there isn’t another wind instrument around, much of the record has a loose and open feel. All the vocal frying and plosive noises they make with their mouths come through loud and clear, from the spit-filled vibrations of their lips to the raspy hiss of their closed windpipes.

Such physical noises make for tense music. When Chen and Minton choke sounds out, my body involuntarily seizes up, and their moans have a way of drawing my shoulders up against my neck. When the band reacts to them in sympathy, the effect is darkly atmospheric and unsettling, as on “Eight” and “Nine.” But not everything is quite so serious. On “Three,” Minton and Chen’s gaseous vocalizations are paired with a squealing cello and a wobbly rhythm section that sounds absolutely lost. It’s hard not to laugh at how ridiculous it all seems, and at times I think it sounds like the musical version of a slapstick comedy.

For “Six” their growls and wordless interjections are recast as part of a quiet drama filled with bird-like whistling, ominous bass melodies, and flitting percussive sounds. The band’s muted performance fosters a calmer atmosphere, and Phil and Audrey both sound more subdued throughout, but it’s hard to tell whether the band is responsible for controlling the mood or if they’re following the vocalists’ lead. Later in the album Segers plays several naked melodies, and I think those color the way I’m hearing the voices. Either way, though the techniques are unconventional “Six” is a relatively pretty song. It’s a solid example of how extended vocal techniques can be used to produce musically pleasant and expressive results without relying on a singer’s vocal quality or resorting to familiar melodic techniques.

In the liner notes Minton writes, “This music is first a matter of extra-linguistic expression, the idea of going beyond the word’s meaning, an exploration that doesn’t stop at letters… but extends to all in-between-sounds made possible by the tongue/oral cavity/breath configuration.” I don’t know if Phil or Audrey’s performances go beyond words, but their fragmented noises and stripped down vocal utterances do get at feelings and expressions differently than conventional singing does. Rather than going beyond anything, I get the sense that they’re digging down, drilling into the voice and looking for meaning and expressiveness where most would hear nonsense. Whatever the theoretical framework is, the content is unique and varied—the kind of music that encourages lateral thinking and hearing ostensibly familiar sounds anew.

Four Instruments Two Voices is available from Sub Rosa
Sound samples are available at Brainwashed.com


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Review: Magnolia Electric Co., “Black Ram”

In 2005, when Camper Van Beethoven’s gear was stolen on tour, Jason Molina ran into David Lowery and offered to lend him some of Magnolia Electric Co.’s equipment. They became friends and, later that year, met in Richmond, Virginia to record some new songs Jason had in the works. Before he could finish, Molina’s mother suffered a stroke. He completed what he could and returned in 2006 to finish Black Ram, one of the four recordings that finally surfaced as part of 2007’s Sojourner boxed set. Backed by musicians not in the touring Magnolia lineup, it’s one of the darkest and most distinct albums Molina ever released—closer to his Songs: Ohia days in spirit and tone, and overflowing with some of his best writing.

Secretly Canadian and Magnolia Electric Co. had a difficult choice to make in 2006. I’m still not sure they made the right one. Jason Molina and company had recorded three albums and two EPs worth of new music in about the span of a year. Faced with so much music, Secretly Canadian inexplicably froze up. Much of what was recorded would appear on the Sojourner box a year later, but at the time they felt they couldn’t release everything at once. Instead, they put out a Jason Molina solo record, assembled Fading Trails from songs found on each of the four Sojourner CDs, and quickly followed everything up with a tour.

I still like Fading Trails, but after hearing Black Ram for the first time, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t released instead. Had it not been tucked away in an intimidating box set of all new recordings, it might have received the attention it deserves, being one of Molina’s best albums. Maybe Jason wanted to focus on the touring Magnolia band instead, or maybe Secretly Canadian planned on releasing Black Ram later. Either way, it half disappeared into the monolith of Sojourner and the fruits of Molina’s tireless work ethic. Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go kept me occupied for a long time, and before I could absorb everything on SojournerJosephine was on the way with the Molina and Johnson record not far behind.

A couple interviews in 2006 hinted at how special Black Ram was to Jason. In a Q&A on the official Magnolia site, he listed it among his best albums, calling it a concept record about a ghost. In a Chicago Reader interview from that same year he referred to it as “high-impact” and strongly emotional. There’s no doubt it’s a haunted record. That clue about the ghost concept won’t solve any of Jason’s many lyrical puzzles, but it does clarify his mindset. Lyrically, Black Ram is populated with images of death, dark riders, and an ancient landscape populated by mysterious and dangerous spirits.

It opens with “In the Human World,” invoking the “mountains of the dead” and a despair that is better heard than described. It follows with “Black Ram,” a song built up from apocalyptic dream images and magic rituals, and from glimpses of ghostly worlds that reside just at the edge of perception. There’s a lot of remembering and yearning, and ruthless self examination that admits guilt and holds on to hope and forgiveness with the same trembling breath—just listen to “What’s Broken Becomes Better” or “Kanawha”; Jason fits it all into tightly written, tersely performed four minute songs that hit as hard as anything on Didn’t It Rain or Magnolia Electric Co.

The subject matter gets so heavy and personal that the album sounds like a journey through the underworld in places, especially on the title track and “Will-o-the-Wisp,” two of its most intense songs. Two of Jason’s best from Fading Trails—”A Little at a Time” and “The Old Horizon”—are here too, sounding better and more natural alongside their proper brethren, which were all recorded with Miguel Urbiztondo behind the drums and on Harmonium, with David Lowery on bass, and with Alan Weatherhead responsible for guitar, pedal steel, Mellotron, and engineering duties. Filmmaker Rick Alverson, Andrew Bird, and the mysterious Molly Blackbird also lend a hand.

Musically, the band follows Jason’s lyrical lead. The instrumentation shifts from thick and soupy to sparse and skeletal depending on the song, but is always held together by the rhythm section. David Lowery’s bass swells and shakes on every song, providing shades of black and purple color for the guitars to shine against. Miguel Urbiztondo’s drumming pushes the music forward on one or two songs, but otherwise unfolds patiently, not keeping time so much as marking its passing. Even on the more rock oriented material, he keeps things smoky and indistinct, preferring tension and texture to a driving beat. The Mellotron and Harmonium help in that department too. I notice them most when they’re used to create a surface on which the melodies can skate. There is something almost creepy about the sounds the Mellotron makes, as if it were playing back samples from EVP sessions, or broadcasting noise from outer space.

Despite the slow pace and the dark themes, Black Ram uses contrast extremely well, making the darks darker and the light colors that much brighter. Melodically, the album is carried by Jason’s voice and just a few lead instruments. When guitars do take the lead, they do so in a big way. “What’s Broken Becomes Better” has an eviscerating electric solo that cuts so hard it turns the song around, giving it a hopeful finale. “A Little At a Time” also puts a guitar solo front and center, using it to add color and deliver the song’s dramatic climax. But, most of all, I hear and feel the weight of the rhythm section, murky and hot, and the pull of Jason’s singing. When he intones “goodbye, my love / goodbye” on “Will-o-the-Wisp” I can almost see the scene he’s painting; and when “The Old Horizon” finally hits, it chills to the bone—the feeling of isolation and being lost comes on strong, and Jason’s use of piano and bowed percussion only amplify that loneliness.

With such strong musical performances, great songs, and such potent lyrical references, Black Ram accumulates a very believable and almost magical atmosphere. Deciphering all the allusions and personal references is probably impossible, but unnecessary anyway. Each time it ends, I leave the album thinking that all the places and spirits Jason mentions are real, that they’re not just fanciful representations of personal thoughts, and that I might be able to hear them too if I listen hard enough.

So when the album starts and Jason asks “mountains of the dead are you listening?” I wonder if he is talking to me.

The Sojourner boxed set is available from Secretly Canadian
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Review: Autechre, “Exai”

For every stubborn fan who thinks their best period ended with LP5, there are plenty of others who have found something to love in Autechre’s post-Confield run. Expectations and ideas about what Autechre should sound like aside, there’s actually plenty there to love. But Exai is one of their best albums, period. Forget about their past work. Without the shadow of Tri Repetae hanging over them, these 17 songs prove to be among the most hypnotizing and dynamic the duo has ever made.

Nevermind that Exai, Autechre’s 11th proper album, comes on two CDs and four LPs. It’s neither too long nor too taxing, and anyone with an attention span longer than a goldfish’s will find it easy enough to appreciate. Listen to it one disc at a time—or one side at a time—if going through two hours of music all at once sounds unappetizing, but don’t trust anyone that says it is poorly edited or too difficult to swallow in one go. Exai is littered with catchy melodies, intricate rhythms, and unexpected twists that make listening to it fun. It’s also beefier and more tightly woven than anything Autechre’s produced over the last couple of years. Instead of treating them as separate elements, Brown and Booth once again bind their melodies, rhythms, colors, and textures together, creating a geometric sound that gives their songs depth, structure, and a sense of completeness that’s long been missing from their music.

Even when songs like “irlite (get 0)” turn on a dime and meander into weightless, pixelated wastes, the duo maintain a feeling of cohesiveness by sticking to the palette and logic they’ve developed to that point. Exai leaps and turns in on itself this way, jumping freely from tightly wound passages to looser ones without falling apart. Not that there are many places where it could fall apart. Beats resolve into airy, stuttering loops and melodies disappear into a storm of snapping drums, but through all the twists and turns are familiar sounds and signposts: bright synth pads reminiscent of Aphex Twin take center stage on “T ess xi” and “cloudline” bounces with a rubbery melody and vocal effect funky enough for Squarepusher or Daft Punk. Autechre make it their own by using density and unpredictable variation to move the music along rather than tension or the usual structural devices.

But Sean and Rob have never relied on big builds or easy payoffs to make their music exciting. On Exai they’ve struck a middle road through the roaming looseness of their last two albums and the mechanical logic of well-loved classics like LP5 and Tri Repetae. Finding this road has obviously inspired them, or I don’t think they’d present two full of hours of music at once. Not everything on the album is equally excellent—the second disc is definitely the stronger of the two sets—but there’s nothing I’d want to cut. Digging into this music, stumbling on its nuances, and letting it work its magic is part of the fun. At two hours long, there’s plenty of time to get lost and forget about expectations and preconceived notions. Repeat listens offer up hidden patterns, previously unseen red threads, and a better lay of the land. Exai offers some upfront pleasures, but needs a little time to fully sink in. Once it does it sounds even better.

In fact, Exai’s biggest problem isn’t its length. It’s that albums like LP5 and Tri Repetae came long before it. They’re 15 and 18 years old now; as old or older than most people’s favorite pets. But these records aren’t going to die on us and we can listen to them anytime we want. In the meantime, it’s worth giving this new dog some time and attention. It knows a few tricks the old ones didn’t.

Exai is available on Warp Records
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Review: Nate Wooley, “The Almond”

Good luck pinning down New York’s Nate Wooley. He’s an Oregon-born trumpeter with solo, duo, and quintet projects that deal in free improvisation, extended techniques, feedback, noise, and jazz. He has played with Yoshi Wada, John Zorn, and Anthony Braxton, held residencies at ISSUE Project Room and Cafe OTO; he curates the Database of Recorded American Music online and is editor-in-chief for its quarterly Sound American journal. For The Almond Wooley flies solo, using carefully looped and layered tones to sculpt a beautiful and imposing 72-minute composition for trumpet and voice.

At low volumes or in passing, The Almond might sound like a drone record, and I guess that’s accurate to the extent that it is a long, unbroken piece of music composed of sustained tones. But played at louder volumes, as recommended in the liner notes, or given more attention, it sounds less like a drone and more like the audio equivalent of a bas-relief. Each of the looping pitches Wooley uses to build The Almond are made up of several recordings utilizing different tunings, mutes, mics, and environments. By adding and subtracting elements to and from these loops, he transforms apparently smooth and simple tones into layered things with shifting textures, contrasting vibratos, and undulating hues. The bright, relatively smooth grain of his trumpet breaks into grooves, crevices, crests, and furrows, and is joined by other similarly built sounds, which flash and shiver against each other. Nate carefully mixes these, generating harmonies, melodies, textures, and throbbing rhythms in a constant state of flux.

The construction is ingenious and easy to admire, but so are the results. The brassy pitches shimmer beautifully against the finer patterns that cut along its surface. Sections expand and contract as naturally as if they were breathing, but also swell to roiling crescendos. By midway through the record, the very shape of the trumpet comes through in the music: the fleshy buzz of the mouthpiece, the sonorous ring of the bell, even the mechanics of the valves sing. A massive low end, which I cannot identify as a trumpet at all, submerges the brighter sounds in shadow and fills out the thinner places with some muscle. When it drops out, the music is unmoored and floats away lighter than air. It doesn’t stop there though. Wooley continues to work and transform his material, shaping it into newer configurations, some of which are quite beautiful. At 72 minutes long, this is still just an excerpt of a longer piece, but I would be happy to follow along for another 72 minutes should Wooley ever think a longer version worth releasing.

The Almond is available on Pogus Productions
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Review: Aaron Dilloway/Kevin Drumm, “I Drink Your Skin”

After 12 years and two very small cassette editions on American Tapes and Hanson Records, Dilloway and Drumm’s I Drink Your Skin is available on CD. Dressed up in cheesy horror movie duds and packed tight with overblown noise, Aaron and Kevin each dish out a 25 minute ribbon of goofy loops, obnoxious high-end squeals, and blathering garbage sounds. It is gruff, but invigorating stuff—and more carefully put together than it at first appears. Continue reading

erstlive 010 cover


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Review: Christian Wolff/Keith Rowe, ErstLive 010

Keith Rowe and Christian Wolff have been playing together since 1968, when Wolff first performed with AMM in the UK. Their history together goes back further, a part of the turbulent musical and political eddies set in motion by the New York School and Cornelius Cardew in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. But this performance, recorded live at NYC’s The Stone as part of Jon Abbey’s AMPLIFY 2011 festival, marks their first recorded appearance as a duo. It’s an inspired pairing. Together they produce quiet, sharp, and surprisingly gorgeous music that exemplifies the still radical ideas they started exploring over 40 years ago.

The political side of Rowe and Wolff’s music isn’t always apparent, but it’s there, hidden in plain sight. Looking for it can be enlightening, but is unnecessary. The music they make together on ErstLive 010 stands all on its own. It is by turns gossamer thin and concrete, whisper quiet and abrasive, lucid and impenetrable. Keith’s contributions consist of physical noises drawn and scratched into the strings of his table-top guitar, along with live radio broadcasts and the buzz of electrical signals emanating from various electronic devices. Christian’s contributions are on the piano and guitar. He hammers on the piano’s keys, pulls and mutes the strings, and drums on its body, preferring to play around the piano rather than directly on it—the way pianos are typically played. At the guitar he makes small sounds; plucks a solitary note here, draws a bow across the strings there, and then sits quietly back waiting for the next move.

Both musicians punctuate their performances with these (near) silences. Their pauses break the performance up and keep it from coalescing, which means all the focus is on the discrete cells of sound they produce. Ideas are ventured and tweaked, and then left behind. Seconds pass and only the tiniest sounds are made. Keith sketches out an idea, and Christian climbs over it with the occasional crescendo. It all sounds very deliberate in retrospect, but as it’s happening, anything seems possible. Wolff the composer and Rowe the improviser make the line between their methods difficult to spot.

The quiet and deliberate pace of the music also calls attention to the performance space. September 4th was a hot night at The Stone, but the air conditioning and fans in the room were turned off while Keith and Christian played. With those noises out of the way, I wonder what other sounds were audible in that room. The recording itself, helped by Joe Panzner’s excellent mastering job, is clear and close to the musicians; many of the tiniest sounds they make are audible, but I’ve yet to catch a noise from the audience, or from outside.

And that strikes me as odd, because each time I have listened to ErstLive 010, some environmental sound has crept covertly into the music: the sound of clothes tumbling in the dryer downstairs, wind and rain pressing against the windows outside, the low hum of traffic in the distance. Even with headphones on, I’ve mistaken sounds coming from the neighbors upstairs for something in the mix. Without Rowe and Wolff physically present to contextualize the music, my neighbors and environment unwittingly participate in it, and I think that must have been true at The Stone that night, too.

After I noticed this the first time, the music transformed for me. It bled into the walls and out into the neighborhood. In his April 1998 interview withPerfect Sound Forever, Christian Wolff remarks that he has “a strong anti-rhetorical feeling – I don’t think that music should be manipulative. It should be there and people should be able to do with it what they can and what they want… So there’s that kind of attitude about a musical work. It should just be itself and relatively free from manipulation and calculation to the extent that it’s possible.” ErstLive 010 exemplifies this. At the right volume, in the right circumstances, it can hide in book shelves, seep into the wood floors, and camouflage itself in sounds as small as a breath. Rowe and Wolff’s receptiveness to these tiny sounds, maybe even to subconscious and unintended ones, makes this effect possible. And the more open the music is, the deeper and more remarkable I perceive it to be, and the easier it is for me to spy the political and social ideas that have, at times, influenced their writing and performing.

The album ends unexpectedly, to the tune of humming amplifiers. I failed to notice it ending the first time. And the second. And even the third. In fact, I always fail to notice when the album ends unless I pay attention to the track time. Eventually the performance stops, but the sounds continue. They just happen, the way that many environmental sounds seem to. It’s as if Rowe and Wolff are disappearing into the music as they go, using it to get past or away from themselves. By the end, it’s as if they’re not there at all.

note: Joe Panzner’s name was initially misspelled “Panzer.” Sorry about that. Jon Abbey also writes that this was Wolff and Rowe’s first full-length performance together, not just their first full-length album. They’d played together once before, during the 2010 Christian Wolff festival in Boston, but that was only a short set. 

ErstLive 010 is available on Erstwhile
Audio samples available at Brainwashed.com