July News 2003 Reviews by Dan Warburton, Nicholas Sharyshkin and James Baiye:



Editorial
Maria de Alvear
New on Ground Fault: Christian Renou / Tidal Chaos as Shelter Krutogolov / Eric Cordier / Vertonen
From Holland: Arnold Marinissen / Maarten Altena Ensemble
New on Absurd: Research Center for the Definition of Happiness / Ilios / Murmer / Mattin & Rosy Parlane / Gareth Mitchell
Eric Chasalow
Eliane Radigue
New on Crouton Music: Hat Melter / Collections of Colonies of Bees
Contemporary In Brief: Waschka / Michael Byron
Electronica Roundup: Reynols / Un Caddie Renversé Dans L'Herbe / Speedranch^Jansky Noise / Arc Lalove
Improv Roundup: Michel Lambert / Keune, Russell / Leonard ,Skrowaczewski ,Zappa / Tomlinson, Beresford, Turner /Riley, Tilbury, Tippett / Bosetti, Hotz, Fagaschinski, Mahall / Tetuzi Akiyama / Meeting at Off Site Vol.2 /
Last Month


Editorial
Welcome once again to the pages of Paris Transatlantic, where the hot sunshine of July in the French capital finds PTM publisher Guy Livingston locked away in a studio recording George Antheil's "lost" piano sonatas (to be released shortly on Wergo) and editor Dan Warburton burning off the hangover of a 40th birthday party by listening to his new release on Ayler Records (Return of The New Thing: "Traque"), and trying to reorganise his record collection at the same time. Many thanks to everyone who has sent (and continues to send) material in for review, and apologies to those whose work has not yet been covered. As ever, we can give no cast-iron guarantees that anything we get will be reviewed -that's the kind of dumb promise we used to make five years ago, and we're still paying the price - but it will certainly be listened to attentively, both here in Paris or in the more far flung reaches of the globe where our various correspondents hang out. Talking of which, if you yourself wish to contribute articles (CD and live concert reviews, or features of a more general nature), feel free to consult the FAQ page and contact us via the homepage. Providing that the material is well-written and hasn't already been published somewhere else, and that it has some tangible connection to the kind of music we feature in the magazine—we'll take a rain check on Massive Attack, Johnny Holliday (Happy Birthday Johnny), Celine Dion and the Rolling Stones (who?)—we're always open to suggestions. Surf's up.
— DW


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Maria de Alvear
LIBERTAD
World Edition 1
WORLD
World Edition 2
SEXO
World Edition 3
VAGINA
World Edition 4
LLENA
World Edition 5
BAUM
World Edition 6
by Dan Warburton
When respected Village Voice critic Kyle Gann describes someone as "the most original young composer in Europe", it's a lead certainly worth following up on, even if his hyperbole probably reveals more about his own tastes and sensibilities than it does the current state of European contemporary music (one would hardly expect a seasoned New Yorker to trumpet the achievements of Mathias Spahlinger or Richard Barrett, after all). Spanish-born Maria de Alvear (whose "Fuerzas" was reviewed in these pages back in February) has been resident in Germany since 1980 - she studied with Mauricio Kagel in Cologne until 1986 - and has certainly been prolific: her website www.mariadealvear.com lists over a hundred compositions, many of quite considerable duration, and her own World Edition imprint has so far released seven albums, six featuring her own music, and a seventh consisting in part of fascinating field recordings by Peter Ablinger.
An accomplished performer in her own right, de Alvear is a fervent advocate of the kind of shamanism that the European avant-garde tries desperately to bury under volumes of Hegel and Deleuze. On "Libertad" she sings her own charismatic setting of texts she describes as being "connected to the Spirit World in a very strong way", written by Cherokee poet and medecine-woman Tsolagiu M.A. RuizRazo, to whom the work is dedicated. She's joined by Enrique Lozano "Pescao", a truly astounding - and from the sound of it, not too young - Flamenco vocalist who has been performing since he was eleven with the likes of Fosforito, Menese, Jose Merce and Aurora Vargas, and an accompanying instrumental group consisting of two pianos (tuned a quarter tone apart in Pythagorean just intonation), trombone and percussion. The sheer scale of this 82 minute slow movement is something the European contemporary establishment probably couldn't comprehend - unless it came from the pen of a star like Stockhausen - though considering the "success" of his Licht opera cycle, even that is debatable. In similar vein, "Baum" is a 64 minute "incantatory ritual" in eight movements for voice (de Alvear once more) and four-piece percussion ensemble, Drums Off Chaos, founded in 1982 by legendary Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit. Its guttural wails and primal rhythms are the kind of stuff most genteel consumers of new music might accept on a so-called "ethnic" music album, but hardly something you'd expect them to dress up for and discuss over cocktails in the foyer of a plush concert hall.
If basic binary pulse is somehow taboo by dint of its sheer "primitiveness", works such as "Sexo" and "Vagina" probably strike pure fear into the heart of the staid bourgeois audience they seemed destined for. Herein perhaps lies the problem of de Alvear's music - instead of courting the non-classical audience (one hesitates to use the word "pop", as many of the musical subgenres whose aficionados de Alvear's music could appeal to are hardly big box office), she seems determined to take arms against the whole creaking edifice of The Tradition by presenting vast works for soloist (herself) and instrumental ensembles. "Sexo", a 68 minute monologue for speaker and orchestra, is another long lyrical slow movement (with an extended violin obbligato) over gently pulsing accompaniment. If de Alvear would just take a break for a while we might be able to hear a little more of what's going on; as it is, her non-stop declamation in German, Spanish and English is, to say the least, tiring (the texts in English are also, though presumably not intended to be so, somewhat amusing, thanks to her pronounced accent and certain errors of translation). Serious issues of sexuality - which de Alvear presents in its most global and generalised form: this is no cheap thrill bullshit - are buried under the sheer weight of the monologue; what could (perhaps even should) be an uplifting and genuinely transcendetal experience at times risks becoming as prima-donnaish as a Bellini aria. "Vagina" also features the composer's voice, this time alternating speech and singing, but fortunately leaves a little more space for the accompanying music to reveal itself -"accompanying" because de Alvear's dramatic persona, when present, immediately takes centre stage and tends to deflect one's attention from the intricacies of her instrumental score. At 46 minutes it's a more palatable and varied work than "Sexo", though once again one feels that seeing it in the conservative setting of a concert hall might somehow detract from its considerable potential power.
The most ambitious work on offer here is "World", a forty-five minute double piano concerto - "ceremony" is de Alvear's preferred term - dedicated to the Native American indians and performed by its dedicatee, Hildegard Kleeb (and Joseph Kubera) and Petr Kotik's SEM Ensemble Orchestra. Here, without the physical presence of the composer as performer, one can at last come to terms with her compositional skills. The work's odd melange of diatonicism and chromaticism is indeed noteworthy, as is its form, an open, splintered structure as weatherbeaten as a tree. As piano concertos go - and I suppose we are invited to situate the work somewhere in "the canon" along with Ligeti's concerto, Lachenmann's "Ausklang" and Xenakis' "Keqrops" - it's certainly original, and even after repeated listening leaves the impression that it is in some way a work in progress. Whether this is intentional or not is open to question, but "World" is a fascinating, sprawling work that demands concentrated and repeated listening.
Maybe it's because of my own personal conviction that the symphony orchestra belongs in the museum these days, but the works that capture my attention more completely and focus it on de Alvear's compositional craft are her chamber pieces. "Llena" is a 72 minute work for solo piano, beautifully performed by Reinier van Houdt, who stares meaningfully out from behind a table lamp inside the digipak. The liner notes, such as they are, refer to the "natural phenomenon" of de Alvear's music, providing little more than a brief description of the work rather than any analytical meat as such. While this is perhaps to be regretted - the composer's work could benefit from a bit of set theory analysis and yield some interesting results - it's probably deliberate. The piece unfolds almost as if it were improvised (maybe it was, in whole or in part, and subsequently transcribed: nothing wrong with that - Scelsi seemed to be rather good at it), soon settling into patient exploration of the instrument's middle register, an agglomeration of hundreds of tiny cellular phrases, like clouds. After about 18 minutes, the extreme registers are reintroduced with bell-like chords (Beethoven comes to mind) and the surface of the music becomes more unsettled. The work's architecture is more open and arboreal, and it needs your concentrated attention to reveal its many nuances. The same can be said in fact of all these releases, which are well worth seeking out. I won't go as far as Kyle Gann - if de Alvear is not the most original young composer in Europe, she's certainly one of the most original.


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New on Ground Fault
Christian Renou
FRAGMENTS AND ARTICULATIONS
Ground Fault GF 023
Tidal / Chaos as Shelter / Igor Krutogolov
INGATHERING OF EXILES
Ground Fault GF 024
Eric Cordier
DIGITALIS PURPUREA
Ground Fault GF 025
Vertonen
THE OCEAN IS GONE, THE SHIP IS NEXT
Ground Fault GF 026
by Dan Warburton
At his home base just outside Paris, Christian Renou's working method is, apparently, to feed pre-existing material (the first piece was sourced in a percussion solo recorded back in 1982, the second uses field recordings, and the third some "very dirty" frequencies generated by a homemade instrument) into the computer for processing. When the computer itself is slightly defective - we're told that the second piece owes much to a damaged CYRIX processor - the results can be quite intriguing, but a touch of editing along the way might not have been a bad idea: dense electronic music is often more easily digested in ten and twelve minute mouthfuls. Renou, now operating under his own name instead of the moniker Brume, which he used until recently for a slew of releases in the cassette underground, is another talented and unjustifiably obscure French electronic composer you're not likely to have heard of unless you're a diehard noise nut (hats off once more to GF's Erik Hoffman for releasing this).
"Listen in a dark room at average volume. Your soul might hurt, not your ears," it says on the booklet of "Ingathering of Exiles". Whoever wrote this pretentious twaddle must have been smoking some venomous tree bark or listening to too many Nurse With Wound albums, maybe both. None of the three collaborating artists - David Brownstead (aka Tidal), and Israel-based Vadim Gusis (Chaos as Shelter) and Igor Krutogolov - actually takes credit for the remark. The album title refers to the projected return of the Ten Lost Tribes to Israel in the Messianic Age, but if this is what they'll be listening to when they arrive I'd advise them to stay where they are, unless they're old Goths or manic depressives. Cutting these guys some slack, the sounds they use are certainly arresting, for a while - strange ethereal tinkles, mournful wailing stringed instruments and gloomy Russian-style basso profundo, wrapped in blankets of thick, queasy drone - but, as uncle Milton Babbitt once said, "nothing grows older faster than a new sound," and without a discernible sense of architecture one's attention quickly wanders, the album becoming not only uninteresting but irritating.
Sourced from recordings of multiple-loudspeaker installations in northern France between 1993 and 1997, "Digitalis Purpurea" is Eric Cordier's second outing for Ground Fault (he also forms part of the group Afflux with GF regulars Jean-Luc Guionnet and Eric La Casa). Original sound material for Cordier's works is culled from church organs, dulcimers and hurdy gurdy - he's one of the few practitioners of the instrument worth listening to (check out the trio Schams) - imparting a rich stringy texture to the sounds, which are then stacked up into dense but not impenetrable structures (cf both the title track and "Dactyle Aglomérée"). "Les Os Longs" is more varied in texture, originating as it does in diverse field recordings - though unlike his friend and colleague La Casa, Cordier goes to great pains to disguise the sources - and the final "Postface" ("no tape manipulation", the composer stipulates) is a weeping draughty smear of pipe organ. The same instrument, by the way, features on Cordier and Guionnet's "Tore" (Shambala 004), being the result of a particularly fruitful collaboration between the two composers and La Grande Fabrique in Dieppe, which also yielded Cordier's first solo album "Houlque".
The offering from Vertonen, aka Blake Edwards, serves to remind us that it's not just a question of having good material but of knowing what to do with it. "Untitled for air organ and turntable motor" is reminiscent at times of the vast soundscapes of Jeff Wrench (aka Brutum Fulmen, whose excellent "Flesh of the Moon" appeared on Edwards' Crippled Intellect imprint last year), while "The last great circus of desperate heritage" sounds as if Edwards has dropped the stylus on a plate of porridge, but settles into squeaking gate groove by the time it checks out. Some sound sources are easily recognisable - "Four chambers plus the various fluids" ends in birdsong - others cunningly disguised. The sustained major ninth tonality of "Soma trio study (#2)" has me wondering whether the title might refer to the mind-numbing drug of the same name in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", while "Harbor surfacant" starts out sounding like one of those extraordinary fucked-up asymmetrical samples Tricky used to love (you half expect his phlegm-rattling voice and crashing backbeats to come slamming in at any moment) until the fragments of piano become progressively buried in a humid moss of drones and surface noise.


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From Holland
Arnold Marinissen
TRACES OF CULTURES
BV Haast 0303
by James Baiye
As anyone who's read James Holland's essential 1977 Yehudi Menuhin Music Guide "Percussion" knows, the arsenal of instruments a classically trained percussionist is called upon to play these days is vast, with many instruments originating outside Europe - not that you could ever argue that European classical music had a great interest in percussion to start with. Dutch percussionist Arnold Marinissen's well-rounded, satisfying and eminently accessible album sets out to showcase these extra-European influences by gathering together five works that feature sonorities as diverse as the zarb, Thai gongs and African slit-drums as well as "traditional" instruments such as the vibraphone, in keeping with a tradition, started arguably by the Kronos Quartet, of popularising - without demeaning - contemporary classical music. Mexican-born Javier Alvarez's "Temazcal" is a fast-moving virtuoso workout for maracas and tape (using both electroacoustic sounds and traditional Latin-American folk music). Alvarez is based these days in London, and there's a London flavour to Gunter Lege's "OH CLOCK" too, which is entirely based on the famous Westminster Chimes motive and scored for vibraphone, played not only with the customary mallets but also with bows, fingers and fingernails. Christopher Fox's "Phonogrammatische Inventionen" is an instrumental setting of a text from Günter Grass' "Tin Drum", part of the composer's ongoing research into the relationship between music and speech, and fragments of an oral tradition seem to permeate South African-born Kevin Volans' "She who sleeps with a small blanket", a virtuoso study for drums (and, briefly, marimba). Canadian-born Claude Vivier travelled widely in South East Asia a few years before his untimely death in Paris in 1983, and the "Cinq Chansons pour Percussion" are clearly and deeply influenced by the gamelan music that surfaced in his last extraordinary compositions.
Maarten Altena Ensemble
GENERATIONS
X-OR CD 013
by Dan Warburton
The Dutch contemporary music scene seems to have been breeding ensembles with odd line-ups for years (think of De Volharding, Hoketus, or more recently The Newt Hinton Ensemble). The Maarten Altena Ensemble - their relation to bassist Altena is curiously not explained on the disc - consists of voice, recorder, sax/clarinet, trombone, violin, bass, electric guitar, piano and percussion, often accompanied by recorded material on tape. The six composers featured here all studied at some stage with either Louis Andriessen, Gilius van Bergeijk, Martijn Padding or Diderik Wagenaar, influences of whose work (and, standing behind them all, Stravinsky) are evident throughout: a lot of the music is chunky, cellular, often diatonic and rhythmically direct enough to get your feet tapping. Cypriot-born Yannis Kyriakides bases his piece on the bridge from Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose"; Fats himself pops up on the backing track, which the ensemble follows slavishly. The result is kinda cute but somehow stilted, nowhere near as rewarding as Kyriakides' magnificent "conSPIracy cantata" on Unsounds, the label he runs jointly with guitarist Andy Moor (of The Ex). The delicate scoring of Alison Isidora's "No 6 (Nachtvlinders)" and the Hebrew incantations of the (at times Feldmanesque) "Be In Your Own World" by Rachel Yatzkan, who hails from Israel, serve as a lyrical interlude before Jan-Bas Bollen's "Zoab", which sounds like a strange cross between Reich's "Desert Music" and Conlon Nancarrow's player piano studies remixed by a techno DJ, transcribed and arranged for the Harry Partch band and recorded at the bottom of a dustbin. It's interesting stuff, and typically Dutch, but the grainy backing track tends to dictate the flow of the music too rigidly. The music of Ricardo Giraldo (born in Colombia) reveals the same upbeat influences - mainstream 70s US minimalism as filtered through Andriessen, with a generous dose of jazz and cop show theme tunes - but "W", despite a midtempo groove sustained throughout, somehow falls rather flat. The disc is worth the asking price for Piet-Jan van Rossum's "Are You Going Out?", a strangely disturbing 21-minute work for tape and ensemble. True, the tape is once more the central element (the composer admits as much), with its disembodied voices and disconcerting glitches and occasional clouds of noise, but the ensemble's commentary on it showcases the MAE's instrumentation to great effect.

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New on Absurd
Various Artists
RESEARCH CENTER FOR THE DEFINITION OF HAPPINESS
Absurd 23
Ilios
18102002
Absurd 24
Murmer
DEFINITION
Absurd 25
Mattin / Rosy Parlane
AGUR
Absurd 26 (3")
Gareth Mitchell
AUGUST; SNOW; PIECES
Absurd 27
Go to: www.anet.gr/absurd
by Dan Warburton
Nicolas Malevitsis's CDR label Absurd, with its beautifully designed artwork (he's especially fond of circular foldout cardboard covers) and its eclectic selection of defiantly underground musics - from ultraminimal improvisation to neurone-melting noise - is one of new music's best-kept secrets. That said, all but three of the first 22 releases on the label are sold out (that's the nice thing about releasing material in limited edition - 150 usually - hand-numbered copies), so all the more reason to jump on these new ones.
The Research Center for the Definition of Happiness is a loose collective of noiseniks from the Phokis region (Malevitsis himself, Costis Drygianakis, Tasos Panagiotopoulos) and the compilation of the same name also features contributions from CM von Hausswolf, Ilios, Sons of God and Ralf Wehowsky. It's a wondrously strange mixed bag of field recordings (sourced from abandoned houses, Greek hillsides, and what sounds like furniture being dragged across a floor), mangled samples of twentieth century classics and ethnic pop, and various lo-fi devices (Wehowsky's track sounds like a cassette recording of someone melting an answering machine with a blowtorch). If I'd stayed long enough in the Boy Scouts to learn how to tie all the knots, I'd tell you which one it is that adorns the album cover, but you'll have to unravel that one yourself.
Ilios reappear on Absurd #24, a 43 minute slowburner laptop outing that's as austere and elegant as the plain grey cover it comes in, and which will give your woofers and downstairs neighbours a thrill. Shame they couldn't have edited out the applause at the end - did we really need reminding that this was a live event? I suppose they think we did.
Murmer, aka London-based Patrick McGinley, provides three extended compositions on "Definition", sourced, so we're told, from trumpets, synthesizers, water bottles, freezers, fluorescent lighting, burglar alarms and airplane landing gear (wonder how he got to record that last one). There seems to be a certain pleasure to be had on the part of several electroacoustic composers these days in telling punters what they used as sound sources, as if we're invited to marvel at how unlike the music sounds compared to the objects concerned. Personally, I prefer not to know (I've still not figured out what the hell Xenakis used to make "Bohor", and don't really mind if I never do) - the question of how the compositions unfold seems more important. McGinley's heartbeat is slow, and concentrated listening (headphones, perhaps) required to appreciate it, or the mind can tend to wander, especially in "Spoke Speak", sourced exclusively from a bicycle wheel. When the texture is richer and more complex, as on the final "Liquid Solid", things seem to work better.
Also based in London, laptoppers Mattin and Rosy Parlane contribute a more austere affair whose pristine ultra-high pings and whines occasionally recall the crystalline precision of Richard Chartier and Taylor Deupree (though things get decidedly more crunchy after a few minutes). Shame they couldn't have come up with the kind of beautiful packaging that characterises the 12k label: the unadorned 3" CDR (with brand name highly visible) comes in its boring blue mini jewel box, with (minimal) track info on a tiny sheet of transparent plastic which invariably falls out and gets lost. Though that just might be my promo copy.
Gareth Mitchell - aka Philosopher's Stone, whose Kranky releases are well worth checking out - offers three pieces on "August; Snow; Pieces", the first a tantalisingly mysterious assemblage of crackles, glitches and treated sound sources whose fragmented, pockmarked surface recalls Kevin Drumm's work with Ralf Wehowsky on their recent Selektion outing "Cases". The second track (am I right to refer to this as "Snow", or is "August; Snow; Pieces" the title of the album alone?) is more continuous and patient exploration of bell-like sonorities. If you do happen to nod off, the final track will rip your ears back into life for sure.
Since all of these are, as we mentioned above, limited edition releases, you'd be advised to move fast. In point of fact, by the time this review hits cyberspace some of them may have already sold out. I can think of few things as patently absurd as reviewing a disc that nobody is ever likely to be able to get hold of, but at the same time I can think of even fewer things that give me as much pleasure as Absurd. Go Greek.


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Eric Chasalow
LEFT TO HIS OWN DEVICES
New World 80601-2
by Dan Warburton
New Jersey-born Chasalow is Professor of Music at Brandeis University, so unsurprisingly the nine works presented on this varied and satisfying album reference a diverse range of influences and styles, from the post-modern reworkings of Beethoven and Brahms idioms (1998's string trio "Yes, I Really Did") to Jerome Kern ("Crossing Boundaries"), Dizzy Gillespie ("Out of Joint"), Eric Dolphy ("In A Manner of Speaking") and the doyen of American academia Milton Babbitt. Indeed, "Left To His Own Devices" would have been the title of Babbitt's last work for the fabled RCA synthesizer if the studio hadn't been burgled and the machine damaged; for his homage to Babbitt, Chasalow recreates a "virtual" RCA synth himself and uses it to play not only fragments of Babbitt's own music but also extracts of his speaking voice. No fewer than seven of these works feature electronic tape, which Chasalow handles with the painstaking precision typical of composers who can afford to take the time to master the medium. Most impressive is "Dream Songs", a song cycle setting five of John Berryman's poems of the same name, brilliantly interpreted by tenor William Hite and coordinated with the forces of the Boston Modern Orchestra with exemplary precision. Elsewhere, "Crossing Boundaries" collages fragments of speech (by fellow electronic composers as well as the composer's family and friends) and music into a fast-moving, highly inventive and accomplished nine-minute retrospective of just about everything worth listening to in twentieth century music. This album gives the lie once and for all to the old Downtown vs. Uptown myth (i.e. the hip and happening are no longer to be found in the dusty set theory textbooks of university music faculties); there's more life, energy and creativity in any one of these fine pieces than the dreary stodge Philip Glass is turning out by the diskful every week.


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Eliane Radigue
GEELRIANDRE -ARTHESIS
Fringes Archive 01
by Dan Warburton
Pianist Gérard Fremy, in his liner notes - in French only, so you'd better invest in a good dictionary - recalls the story of the world premiere of Eliane Radigue's "Adnos" in the Musée Galliera, Paris, on November 10th 1974, an event at which all the important music journalists of the time were present, and not one of them wrote about. A kind of anti-Rite of Spring, if you like. Fremy seems somewhat baffled at the (non) reaction, but it seems clear that the reason for their silence was that they were confronted by a music that was literally decades ahead of its time. Back in the early seventies the first musicians who worked with ARP and Moog synthesizers were more interested in sci-fi bloops and swoops, but Radigue was one of the few composers (perhaps even the only composer) who recognised and exploited its potential for extremely slow transitions of pitch and timbre. Though she'd long been associated with the French musique concrète establishment through her work with Pierre Henry, her music revealed no apparent interest in Schaefferian solfège or the jump / cut aesthetic of standard slice'n'dice electronic music. Filing her away in the minimalism drawer might be inevitable, given her long association with various American institutions and enthusiastic champions of her music such as Phill Niblock, but the mystery and magic of Radigue's music occupies a twilight zone of minimalism between the static drone world of Young, Conrad and Niblock and the gradual process aesthetic of Reich and Glass. With the former, we're presented with great blocks of sound that occupy the listening space, redefining our perceptions of its architecture - the music itself is unchanging (until the often abrupt transition to the next drone), but we are free to explore its inner nuances; with the latter, once the process is set up and loaded, to quote Reich, it's more a question of following its gradual development, as musical material changes either incrementally (Glass's linear additive and Reich's later block additive processes) or at a regular rate (Reich's phase pieces). Radigue's elusive music sits squarely between the two perceptual worlds - it is forever on the move, albeit very slowly (try loading one of her pieces into some music software and speeding it up fivefold, and you'll be surprised), but constructed so meticulously that it somehow slips out of time: change is perceived as having taken place rather than taking place. However many times you listen - and this is music you will return to on many occasions - you'll probably never quite figure out how she did it.
The release (at last!) of these two works dating from 1972 and 1973 is another major event in the (re)discovery of Radigue's music, after Table Of The Elements' landmark triple CD issue of "Adnos" last year. "Geelriandre" features Fremy on piano, gently inserting beautifully poised sonorities into Radigue's seamless textures - John Tilbury's work with AMM comes inevitably to mind. Originally premiered in Paris in 1972, this particular recording was made in Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum seven years later, and a few distant Dutch hacking coughs unfortunately manage to make themselves heard. "Arthesis", realised on a Moog synthesizer during Radigue's residency at the University of Iowa in 1973, is heard here in a recording of its world premiere in Los Angeles' Theatre Vanguard that year. It's utterly useless to describe either of these works: they simply must be heard to be believed. French musician and Metamkine label boss Jérôme Noetinger, who released Radigue's "Biogenesis" on his Cinéma Pour L'Oreille Collection a while back, has indicated that there remain several other pieces her early 1970s music that have so far not been released. It surely is only a matter of time: the world might not have been ready for "Adnos" in 1974, but thirty years later, Eliane Radigue's time has come. Anyone who seriously claims to be interested in new music simply cannot afford to pass this by.


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New on Crouton Music
Hat Melter
UNKNOWN ALBUM
Crouton Music Crou017 LP
Collections of Colonies of Bees
MEYOU
Crouton No.20
by Dan Warburton
"I love being underground, man. They get you into the mainstream, and it's not happening, trying to be commercial. I didn't want to play that. I'm happy underground. There's not much money, but I'm happy." Crouton's Jon Mueller would be among the first to agree with the words of Arthur Doyle: going underground means consciously avoiding the possibility of being gobbled up by a major label - unless you happen to be namechecked by an alt.music "star" like John Zorn or Jim O'Rourke (and those artists whose careers have benefited from a few kind words from Jim - Kevin Drumm, Thomas Lehn..- haven't felt the need to compromise their artistic integrity) - and hence being able to issue your work in limited editions destined for a small number of punters who you know will appreciate it. I'm especially happy to be able to feature two of the best underground labels in this month's issue, namely Crouton and Absurd. Mueller's Milwaukee-based label is a glorious example of high quality recordings of uncompromising creative music, beautifully packaged with painstaking attention to detail. The thirty-two minutes of music on the "Unknown Album" by Hat Melter (that's Steve Hess, percussion, Jeff Klatt, cello, Jon Mueller, percussion and Matt Turner, cello) are packed full of incident and detail, presenting a rare synthesis of the acoustic and electronic, i.e. a musical surface that manages to be both. The cellos remain cellos and the percussion percussion, but technology is brought to bear on the material in wonderful ways as cymbal and drum resonances are sliced up into soundfiles and scattered round the stereo space by Muller and his long-time playing partner Chris Rosenau. Like Mueller's excellent recent collaboration with Asmus Tietchens, "7 Stücke" (Auf Abwegen), "Unknown Album" is undisputable proof that challenging new music - take it from me, this stuff is about as far from EZ listening Space Age Bachelor Pad as Marilyn Manson is from New Year's Day Strauss waltzes in Vienna - is not only exciting to listen to, but actively sensuous and ultimately profoundly moving.
Mueller and Rosenau return on "Meyou", a twenty-one minute piece dating from October 1998 (at the time they were also working on the Pele album "Elephant", though as Mueller explains, "the people releasing the Pele stuff surely would not have been interested in this"). Recorded in the middle of a room whose perimeter was "filled with mics with the levels and gains absolutely cranked," it's an altogether strange but curiously affecting performance, with Rosenau bowing a lapsteel, whose hurdy gurdy-like sound, in conjunction with Mueller's strange nasal vocal wails, occasionally recalls Keiji Haino (on downers, or maybe after one of those deep fried Mars bars, or whatever it was that prompted him to cancel a gig in Scotland last year) jamming along with a Derek Bailey lp on 16rpm in a motel room once occupied by John Fahey. Resolutely, defiantly and gloriously underground to the last drop.


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Contemporary Roundup
Rodney Waschka
SAINT AMBROSE
Chamber Opera for Saxophone and Electronics
Steve Duke, Saxophonist/Actor
Capstone CPS-8708
by Nicolas Sharyshkin
Ambrose Bierce, now a mostly forgotten character of American history, was a living legend in his own time. A curmudgeon of epic proportions, he was the author of the notorious Devil's Dictionary as well as a Civil War hero, whose reports on the war earned him plenty of fame and not a little hatred. Composer Rodney Waschka's astonishing chamber opera, scored for electronics, voice, and saxophone, is based on Bierce's writings, narrated by Steve Duke in a slightly ironic manner (not as cynical as one would expect of Bierce, but strikingly charismatic all the same). Although I had mixed feelings about the toy-like computerized part of the music, Duke's melodious saxophone playing drew me instantly into the drama of Bierce's philosophy, which Duke, and Waschka tie handily into current politics (freedom, liberty, and the war in Iraq). This is an intriguing CD, with a strong narrative flow right through to the end, in the manner of the golden age of radio drama. Let's hope for future collaborations from this duo, with lots more of the surprises found for example in a fogged electronic rendition of "Oh My Darling Clementine". As the warped Clementine song finishes, a little girl's voice is heard in the background: "That's not the way it goes!" Of course not, but I bet Bierce would have approved.
Michael Byron
AWAKENING AT THE INN OF BIRDS
Cold Blue CB 0012
by Dan Warburton
Michael Byron's "Continents of City and Love", for two pianos, string quintet (and possibly synthesizer, though it's hard to make out - a precise listing of who's playing what on each track never goes amiss) is a fine illustration of the problem facing much of the music on the Cold Blue label, namely deciding where to draw the line between the restful and the soporific. On paper, Byron's music, like that of his contemporary up north in Alaska, John Luther Adams, partakes of the structural and contrapuntal rigour associated with "mainstream" classical music, but its unremitting prettiness can cause it to veer dangerously close to Windham Hill (that said, the frontiers between soft minimalism and New Age have often been hard to locate - Wim Mertens being a case in point). You could quite easily stroll into a health food restaurant in Bolinas CA and find this, or the album's gentle epilogue "As She Sleeps", playing in the background, and it wouldn't ruin your appetite. The same applies to "Tidal" (which in fact dates from twenty years earlier, though you'd probably never guess) but not, however, to "Evaporated Pleasure", which ruffles the surface with angular bitonality and extreme registers, even though its gimmick (the bottom line is the mirror image of the top - you could presumably play the score upside down) soon becomes apparent. The folksy strains of the title track recall Terry Riley's recent forays into the world of the string quartet, and though it doesn't exactly explore the timbral potential of the medium (shame, as Byron used pizzicati to wonderful effect on his previous Cold Blue outing, 2000's "Music of Nights Without Moon Or Pearl" - a hard act to follow), it at least gives the members of the excellent Flux quartet something more consistent to get their bows into than the static chords of the two openers.

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Electronica Roundup
by Dan Warburton
Reynols
RAMPOTANZA GRODO REMPELENTE
Locust Location Sound Series L28
"Field recordings" it says here, but in fact the tapes used in the title track (don't ask what it means, it's another one of Reynols' guru drummer Miguel Tomasin's inspired verbal creations) were made in a busy Buenos Aires street in 1994, with jackhammers and roaring traffic. Had to laugh when I heard this for the first time, not because I had the pleasure of meeting Alan Courtis and Roberto "Moncho" Conlazo recently, but as much of my listening tends to get done on the way to and from work using a trusty old Walkman, it transpires that I was checking this track out while walking past a group of jackhammer-wielding construction workers. It's the kind of blurring the difference between Life and Art, between the commonplace and the magical, that Reynols are uncannily gifted at. The second track, dating from July 2002, remixes the street sounds into an atmospheric grainy mist before a crazed psychedelic jam session kicks in at 4'33" (coincidence? I hardly think so..). The ensuing eleven minutes find Tomasin's utterly original and totally wonky drumming steering the ensemble into all kinds of odd corners, with hilarious and wonderful results. The Reynols discography is chaotic, huge and sprawling, especially if you include all the compilations they've appeared on, but if you're a fan this is one you won't want to do without.
Un Caddie Renversé Dans L'Herbe
NOW THERE'S A WEIRD TASTE IN MY MOUTH
Dekorder 001 3"CD
This intriguing and disarmingly naïve (not in the pejorative sense of the word) little three incher presents the work of Barcelona-based Didac Lagarrida, originally from Sao Paulo in Brazil. Its six tracks feature a variety of instruments from thumb pianos and balaphones to cello and guitar, and possess that homemade experimental quality that made landmark albums such as Steve Beresford's "Bath of Surprise" so endearing; none of the pieces really adds up to much, nor seems to want to - each goes on its way without apparent need to arrive anywhere. Satiesque piano samples are overlaid with tiny balaphone pings and melodica toots - minimal, if you like, but not so much Steve Reich as John White. If you used to enjoy the Penguin Café Orchestra this'll suit you just fine.
Speedranch^Jansky Noise
MI^GRATE
Planet Mu ZIQ71CD
Quite apart from having the best track titles I've come across in a long time ("Bring Me The Ear of Celion [sic] Dion" indeed), including possibly the longest I've ever seen (number 13 and I won't bother typing it all out), this is forty minutes of non-stop fun. Fun, that is, if your idea of fun is having your ears slashed to bits with B-movie soundtracks, trash metal, trashed metal, screams, squelches, buzzes, rips, uncontrolled and uncontrollable digitized bowel movements and all manner of cultural ejectamenta. Personally, after a boring day's work in a hot office, this is just what you need on the trusty old Walkman during rush hour to transform me into an axe-wielding homicidal maniac. According to the press release Speedranch's real name is Paul Smith - funny, I seem to remember it was Paul Richard (cf The Wire #176, October 1998 - who's right here?) - but I don't suppose it's the same Paul Smith who makes those trendy suits. Shame, because a blast of "Mi^grate" in the local haute couture boutique would work wonders for turnover. This is great stuff. Specially recommended for people of a sensitive nature who grew up watching "Trumpton". Look at the photo of the bloke on the back cover and see what destiny awaits you. Rock out.
Arc Lalove
EGO CONSUMIMUR
Pricilia P-REC 019
www.pricilia.com
This is the work of one Sylvain Gauthier on laptop, using Audiomulch (and a whole host of effects boxes, all of which are listed, presumably to impress us) to play audio and non-audio files. It's hardly user-friendly stuff, consisting more often than not of knotty, spastic glitches, crunches and short loud buzzes being swatted in your earhole like digital flies. I could imagine it working well to accompany film or dance, but on its own it's a pretty tough listen, though a welcome sign nevertheless that the Nancy-based label is making NO compromises to the mass market.

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Jazz & Improv Roundup
by Dan Warburton
Michel Lambert
OUT TWICE
482 Music 482-1019
These eleven tracks, recorded on two separate dates, one in Los Angeles, the other in the south of France, are based on drawings (reproduced in part on the CD booklet) by Canadian percussionist Michel Lambert. These range from notated lines, chords and rhythms to maps and expressionistic swirls - "graphic scores" might be an appropriate description (further illuminating information is available at Lambert's website, www.michellambert.com). On the LA date he's joined by pianist Milcho Leviev and bassist John Giannelli, while the French session features bassist Barre Phillips and local saxophonist Lionel Garcin. Not surprisingly therefore, the music, though improvised, is closer in idiom to (free) jazz than it is to outright free improvisation, and is propelled forward by Lambert with a loose but nevertheless distinct sense of time, recalling both Barry Altschul and Sunny Murray. Superbly recorded and as fresh and colourful as Lambert's watercolours.
Stefan Keune / John Russell
FREQUENCY OF USE
Nurnichtnur Improvisers' Series
Though it certainly won't win any prizes for its "artwork" (what a godawfully drab affair - whatever happened to Nurnichtnur's metal boxes?), "Frequency of Use" is a superb, if a little on the long side, set of duos between London-based guitarist John Russell and the young German alto and soprano saxophonist Stefan Keune. Recorded in London by Emanem's Martin Davidson, two of the tracks live at the Red Rose, it's a passionate and cogently argued set. Though largely self-taught, it's clear who Keune has been listening to (these days, however, the work of the post-Evan Parker generation is often fresher and riskier than the prolific output of the master himself). Russell's music is, as ever, a joy: you get the impression he's just as agreeably surprised by what he's doing are we are listening to it. Somebody at the label, however, should really be taken to task for the appalling cover - nobody in their right mind would ever even pick up such a dull-looking disc, let alone buy it.
Leonard / Skrowaczewski / Zappa
VISIONS
Archive Edition 110 1971 4
c/o Stanley Zappa (ihammy@hotmail.com)
This is a strong debut recording by a trio of ex-Bennington students, bassist Mark Leonard, percussionist Nick Skrowaczewksi and tenor saxophonist and clarinettist (and sometime Bananafish journalist) Stanley Jason Zappa, with liners by Ben Young and cover art by Bennington professor Bill Dixon. Somebody should figure out a way to get these guys together more often (they live respectively in California, Oregon and Minnesota), because they've certainly got something to say: none of the twelve pieces overstays its welcome - the longest clocks in at 4'34" - and each manages to explore a wide range of textures and moods. Zappa once wrote an extended polemic for Bananafish on the much-criticised award of the MacArthur Fellowship to Ken Vandermark (I happen to remember this as my own album came in for a good swatting, though I was flattered to be compared to the Ganelin Trio), not surprisingly suggesting the cash should have gone to Dixon (I'll have to part company with him on that one, however). Thankfully he can play just as well as he writes, articulating strong ideas with clarity and precision. I like to think even KV would approve. Bassist Leonard is rugged and muscular, and drummer Skrowaczewki, who presumably passed through the hands of Bennington's other notable educator, Milford Graves, is fantastically inventive. If you're getting fed up of the tired New York and Chicago-based cliques of American free jazz (it ain't all that free anymore), do yourself a favour and get a copy of this.
Alan Tomlinson / Steve Beresford / Roger Turner
TRAP STREET
Emanem 4092
This is trombonist Alan Tomlinson's first full-length album since a long out-of-print offering on Phillip Wachsmann's Bead label (which I've never seen.. if you're reading this, Phillip, how about a reissue?), and the fact that his work on the alto and tenor instruments seems to have gone unrecorded for so long is to be regretted, as it's outstanding. On "Trap Street", each of whose eleven tracks takes its title from a London postcode and whose booklet art is a map of the venerable city taken from an 1888 Baedeker, he's joined by the ever surprising Steve Beresford (electronics and objects) and the ludicrously inventive Roger Turner (percussion) in a fine example of what the London scene is particularly good at: strong personalities meeting and playing together without feeling any need to upstage each other. Beresford's objects might be pocket sized, but he can easily match Turner's seemingly limitless energy and Tomlinson's lungpower. At time raucous and ebullient, at times introvert and ghostly, "Trap Street" is another terrific outing from Martin Davidson's excellent label.
Howard Riley / John Tilbury / Keith Tippett
ANOTHER PART OF THE STORY
Emanem 4088
What on paper looks like it should be a British Pianists Dream Team turns out to be about as confrontational and dangerous as afternoon tea at Harrod's. These three titans (none of whose careers needs summarising here) are more concerned with peaceful and respectful cohabitation - witness the eminently listenable "Equanimity" - than with wrestling with the problem of finding common ground between their highly diverse backgrounds and approaches to the instrument. There must be a way to accommodate both Tilbury's gently acidic clusters and Tippett's chunky octaves, and even the snatches of boogie and sub-Bartók, but somehow this doesn't seem to find it. As Nate Dorward perceptively noted in his Victoriaville review last month, multiple instrument meetings "will inevitably throw up some good music but are mere sideshows to the players' oeuvres". As such, anyone interested should seek out Tippett's recent work with his longstanding quartet Mujician, the two splendid Riley reissues on Emanem - "Synopsis" (Emanem 4044) and "Improvisations Are Forever" (Emanem 4070) - and his superb quartet outing with Tony Wren, Larry Stabbins and Mark Sanders, "Four In The Afternoon" (Emanem 4067). As for Tilbury, if you haven't already rushed out to buy "Absinth" (Grob 435) and "Duos For Doris" (Erstwhile 030-2), then I must be failing somewhere along the line.
Alessandro Bosetti / Gregor Hotz / Kai Fagaschinski / Rudi Mahall
BERLIN REEDS
Absinth 001 4 x 3"CD
Released in a limited edition of 200, this is a beautiful piece of work, with four 3" CDs (one for each player) exquisitely mounted into a 20 cm² gatefold. Buy now or cry later, though I suspect they're already down to the dozens, as Captain Beefheart would say. If you only know Alessandro Bosetti's work from the arch lowercase group Phosphor, and the breathy minimalism of his trio date for Potlatch with Bhob Rainey and Michel Doneda ("Placés dans l'air"), you'll be in for a bit of a surprise when you pop the first disc in the machine. Bosetti uses two cassette recorders and a soprano saxophone - apparently unplayed - to set up some monumental slabs of feedback noise. Gregor Hotz' "Friendly Fire" is a patient and meticulous exploration of slowly shifting multiphonics on the bass saxophone, interspersed with pregnant silences. Hotz's work recalls Thomas Ankersmit in its single-minded determination to explore one technical problem; if your definition of what music is doesn't stretch this wide, let's call it acoustic research. Kai Fagaschinski's "I'm afraid of Americans too" starts out in similar vein, before abandoning the continuous tones in favour of tiny key clicks and breath noises, and with it Fagaschinski joins the ranks of the few brave souls who are trying to take the saxophone to the next post-nmperign level (in France, watch out for Stéphane Rives and Bertrand Gauguet). To reassure us - perhaps - that all Berliners aren't completely out there, disc four kicks off with a burst of applause for bass clarinettist Rudi Mahall (and his tapping feet), who delivers three pieces of what I suppose can still be described as free jazz, recorded live back in 1998. Recorded so close in fact it sounds as if Mahall is blowing his horn right in your earhole. It's a superb performance, and a great way to round off a challenging and highly original set. Hats off to Absinth's Marcus Liebig for putting out such an ambitious and beautiful project. Here's to the forthcoming "Berlin Strings".. go to www.Absinthrecords.com
Tetuzi Akiyama / Greg Malcolm / Toshimaru Nakamura / Bruce Russell
INTERNATIONAL DOMESTIC
Corpus Hermeticum Hermes040
Bruce Russell, despite being somewhat isolated on the South Island of New Zealand, has managed to keep up very well with the times thanks to his activities as a guitarist, journalist (Opprobrium) and label manager (Corpus Hermeticum). This album was recorded live during guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama and no-input mixing board whiz Toshi Nakamura's recent tour of Australia and New Zealand, and features Akiyama in three duets recorded with, respectively, Nakamura, guitarist Greg Malcolm and Russell himself on electronics and clavioline. Though Akiyama is an active player in the onkyo scene (that sounds rather like a contradiction in terms, but never mind), he's certainly not averse to producing the odd blast of gut-wrenching noise, and does things to his guitar pickups with a steak knife that would have a sushi chef sweating. Nakamura's work is more disjointed here too, and their 14-minute duet packs a few nasty surprises. The duet with Malcolm sounds more like what you'd expect to hear in Tokyo's Off Site, but Russell, who clearly has little time for some of the ultra-lowercase stuff that's appeared over recent years (his Opprobrium review of Radu Malfatti's Erstwhile "dach" with Phil Durrant and Thomas Lehn was positively withering), is more confrontational, not necessarily vis-à-vis Akiyama, but with the world at large. Their duet emerges out of a babble of audience noise, the (poor unsuspecting?) punters in the Physics Room evidently not realising the show has started until Russell takes their scalps off with some deafening squiggles that Sun Ra would be proud of. The audience titters, but it's nervous laughter - the piece exists in a permanent state of impending catastrophe, building a fantastic sense of tension that's all too often lacking in Japanese-style micro-improv. Another great release from a great label.
Various Artists
MEETING AT OFF SITE VOL.2
Improvised Music In Japan IMJ 506
Curated by Tetuzi Akiyama and Toshimaru Nakamura, whose guitar, turntables, air duster (!) and no-input mixing board appear on each of the seven tracks, this is the second volume of material recorded between December 2001 and May 2002 at Tokyo's tiny but highly influential Off Site venue. The additional musicians include guitarist Taku Sugimoto, cellist Mark Wastell, percussionists Sean Meehan and Tim Barnes, laptopper Kaffe Matthews, turntablist DJ Peaky, Andrea Neumann on inside piano and Aki Onda on cassette recorder, none of whom, with the exception of Sugimoto, appeared on Vol.1. There are welcome signs that the ultra-quiet aesthetic associated with Off Site is evolving into something a little more active: the overall pace remains slow and chess-like, but Akiyama and Nakamura seem more willing to roughen up the surfaces. The second of the two tracks featuring Aki Onda is positively spiky, and Nakamura's mastering throughout boosts the decibel levels and makes no attempt either to filter out the ambient room noise or to fade out the tracks. It's gripping stuff - check it out.

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