December News 2002
Reviews by Dan Warburton and Nicholas Sharyshkin:
On In Tone: TOKYO 77
Subscribe now: Boulez Must Burn
On Unsounds: Grand Mal
Prime Time Sublime
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In Tone CD 8

Guitarist / saxophonist Rick Cox and pedal steel virtuoso instrument builder Chas Smith are both associated with the predominantly laid-back Californian label Cold Blue, but anyone coming to Tokyo 77 with a view to spacing out in the jacuzzi with a glass of chilled California Chardonnay is in for a shock: joining them are George Budd on phonograph, sampler, synth and Budd Box (a wooden resonator equipped with Piezo pick-ups and attached pieces of metal, wood, plastic) and violinist / pianist Tom Newman (best known for his soundtrack work on "American Beauty") whose nervous scratchy fiddling kick-starts the album in fine improv style. By the second track, "Sings Do Not Use", things settle down into a more Cold Blue mode, with Newman's gently Messiaenic piano underscored by plaintive guitar wails, but "Plastic Serrated Knife", as its title suggests, is a more abrasive affair. Maybe it's something to do with the weather, but West Coast improv is often more eclectic and less frenetic than what happens in Boston, Chicago and New York, but no less intense for it ("Freaks of Slumber" is a disturbing mix of cavernous reverb and ominous thuds and cracks), nor more prone to stretching out ("Farrago"'s three movements clock in at just 19, 57 and 131 seconds respectively). If Newman's piano work gazes nostalgically back to Europe, his violin playing here has a touch of the Blueridge Mountains to it, and the album's masterpiece, "The Strength and Beauty of Steel Bridges" combines all these diverse strands into a rich and wondrous tapestry - imagine an Otomo Yoshihide remix of a recording of Keith Rowe playing along with a John Luther Adams album at the bottom of a well - after which the hotchpotch of "3 Doors Two Windows" comes as something of light relief. By the time we get to "Surface Noise" things are getting a little predictable (a little less of the spacey guitars and more of the odd growls and grunts would have been appreciated) and the final "The Back Nine", to extend the golf metaphor, avoids the bunkers and returns to the clubhouse while surveying the landscape of the previous holes.

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Burning Boulez for Art's Sake

Once in a while we reprint an email that merits further attention: this definitely falls into that category! And yes, the project is legitimate. (I can hear some of you asking, ‘aesthetically legitimate?’ No comment.)
-the Publisher


Hello. My name is Josh Ronsen and I am a Mail Artist and musician living in Austin, Texas. I have embarked on a long term collaborative project that I have been calling the Pierre Boulez Project. Years ago, French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez wrote that "All art of the past must be destroyed." Before and since writing that statement, he has made a living in presenting many art works of the past, from Handel to Beethoven to Wagner to Stravinsky. In my project, I am collecting recordings of Boulez's work as a composer and a conductor. Once I have assembled a sufficient number of recordings (and books and scores), my comrades and I will destroy them through various means in a performance creating a new work of art of the Present.

I ask that you submit any unwanted Boulez recordings to my project. I will duly credit all submissions on my web site and as well as the programs and final documentation of the project. If you wish, I can keep your donation anonymous.

Please see the Pierre Boulez Project web site at You will find a list of current contributors as well as the most comprehensive index (in English) to online information about Boulez, including links to a number of interviews with him.

An article about my Mail Art activities can be found online here:

If you wish to
receive future updates about this project, please email me at If you would like a color flyer to post at your local record store/music department/hang-out, email me and I will send you one.

-Josh Ronsen
PO Box 7896
Austin, TX 78713

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Grand Mal

Unsounds 03

Grand Mal is a three-piece electronic improv trio consisting of British-born percussionist, sound designer, sculptor and educator Justin Bennett, Anne Wellmer on keyboards, drum machine and Powerbook, and vocalist Stephie Büttrich, and the sixteen tracks of "Perfect Fit" (ranging in duration from 1'33" to 6'52") form an accessible and thought-provoking introduction to the diversity of their work. Büttrich's multi-lingual texts range from strangled sound poetry ("Moeilijke bijeenkomst") to breathy and beautiful jazz (a wonderful cover of Charles Mingus' "Eclipse"), sometimes in the same song ("Peel me a grape"). "©" (the encircled "c" indicating "copyright") finds her reading extracts of copyright law over a gradually assembling triple time techno beat, while on "Schat" she sounds like a bizarre Dutch hybrid of an angry tomcat and Donald Duck. On "707" her standard airhostess safety routine speech, becoming progressively more feral and insane - imagine Laurie Anderson morphing into Shelley Hirsch - will have you running for the emergency exits. Not surprisingly, Wellmer and Bennett's percussion runs the stylistic gamut from the abstract to the tribal, and the electronics they lay down point all over the new music map from Bennink splatter drumming to Erstwhile-style electronica, tablas, zithers and ARP synthesizers combining to produce intriguing and highly enjoyable music. "Perfect Fit" is a fine and superbly recorded album that richly repays repeated listening, but if you organise your record collection along the same lines as I do (distinct sections for jazz/improv, rock/electronica and contemporary classical), you're going to have a hard time deciding which shelf to put it on. Get a copy now and worry about that later.

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Review by Nicholas Sharyshkin
Corporate Blob Records
Paul Minotto and the Prime-Time Sublime Community Orchestra

What’s this? Light, amusing, a pastiche if you will (and we will, if we can sit still long enough). A nervy kid’s take on Andriessen, or maybe John Zorn on a sunny day at the virtual beach. The hysterical titles and just-short-of-trendy-kitsch graphic design are highlights: the images recall 1960s LP cover art, with a surreal airport baggage claim hiding under the CD just to confuse us. “Holy war in your pants” and “Felini’s (sic) pickup truck” have titles far more compelling than their music (Don’t knock it: the art of composing titles is a venerable one, and Minotto is, as he claims, the instigator.). And in general that’s the problem with this disc: the externals are much funnier than the actual music, humorous though it might be. Because the music lacks cohesion, it might work as improv on a stage downtown (Amsterdam or Manhattan, take your pick), but is less effective on record. A ‘modern music’ encyclopedia of Shönbergian instrumental bleeps and Stravinskian melodical blonks is interrupted occasionally by electronic samples and bits of accordion with no rhyme nor reason.
At best this produces moments of hysterical inspiration. At worst it just frets along, like a lot of lost luggage.

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Copyright 2002 by Paris Transatlantic