August News 2003 Reviews by Dan Warburton, James Baiye, Nate Dorward & Nicolas Sharyshkin:



New on Palmetto: Matt Wilson / Bobby Previte / Ted Nash
New on Eremite: Jemeel Moondoc & Denis Charles / Marshall Allen, Hamid Drake, Kidd Jordan, William Parker, Alan Silva
On Nurnichtnur: Birgit Ulher
On Barely Auditable: Six Synaptics / Grand Mal featuring Kyle Bruckmann
Sound massages: Pascal Battus
On Creative Sources: I Treni Inerti / Assemblage
On Bridge: George Crumb
On Public Eyesore: Jad Fair & Jason Willett
Jazz & Improv: Goldsparkle Trio / Anders Gahnold / Remote Viewers / Karayorgis Maneri Quintet
Contemporary: Rhys Chatham / Robert Erickson / Pietro Grossi / Kari Väkevä
Electronica: Minamo / Leafcutter John / Kazumasa Hashimoto /
Last Month


New on Palmetto
Matt Wilson
HUMIDITY
Palmetto 2089
Bobby Previte & Bump
COUNTERCLOCKWISE
Palmetto 2091
Ted Nash
STILL EVOLVED
Palmetto PM 2092
by Nate Dorward
Palmetto Records has struck up a useful alliance with the musicians associated with New York's Jazz Composers Collective, notably drummer Matt Wilson, in recent years one of the most ubiquitous sidemen in jazz as well as a leader in his own right. Ted Nash's Still Evolved features a familiar JCC roster - Nash on tenor, Frank Kimbrough on piano, Ben Allison on bass, Wilson on drums - with guest stars Wynton Marsalis and Marcus Printup taking turns in the trumpet spot. The result is handsome if somewhat pasteurized hard bop, typified by the complementary, cultured reworkings of blues harmonies that open the album, "The Shooting Star" and "Jump Start"; Nash plays genial host by yielding the leadoff solo spot to Marsalis on the first track, Printup on the second. A few stylistic threads in the weave step outside stricter hard-bop orthodoxies. "Point of Arrival" is modelled on forward-looking Blue Note jazz of the 1960s, though Andrew Hill's Point of Departure is less directly sourced than Larry Young's Unity (the melody includes a lift from "The Moontrane"). Nowadays the Cool School has been "mainstreamed" a bit, perhaps due to the example of Mark Turner. Its influence is audible in Nash's steep-angled jumps into limpid high-register notes à la Marsh, in Kimbrough's Tristano borrowings on the title track, and in "Ida's Spoons", a serpentine gloss on "Stella by Starlight" which follows a Tristanoesque course even down to its final harmonized arpeggios. Despite the leavening of excellent work from Wilson and Allison, Still Evolved is somewhat airless, and it doesn't help that Nash virtually always voices heads in double or triple unisons: a little Mingusy expansiveness would have helped open out the arrangements. The temperature increase when the band shrinks to a tenor-bass-drums trio momentarily on "Ida's Spoons" also suggests Nash would make a stronger impression in a leaner format.
Matt Wilson's own new release, Humidity, is a lighter, more playful and protean disc, with an efficient two-sax, bass and drums format augmented sparingly with brass and fiddle. Saxophonists Andrew D'Angelo and Jeff Lederer tackle the miniaturized exotica of "Raga" and "Swimming in the Trees" with pungency, and draw cheerful scrawls over canonical bop material like "Our Delight" or the "Rhythm"-changes essay "Free Willy". "Wall Shadows" is wistful Americana intended as a tribute to the poetry of Carl Sandburg; somehow it's inevitable that D'Angelo and Lederer switch to clarinet for the piece (perhaps one could dub this the Law of Frisell). It's apparent from the liners that Wilson's children are a frequent musical inspiration for him - not in sentimental Victorian fashion, but rather because he values the destabilizing, intuitive surrealism of a child's sensibility. Though bop and Ornette are the main stylistic reference-points for Humidity, they coexist with charming toy percussion on "Raga" and the dinky sound of a vintage rhythm machine on the title track. All the pieces are colourful and attractively pocket-sized; a curmudgeon might quibble that the bright, ruffled surface of the music acts as a substitute for a more forceful approach the disc nonetheless hints at, but that would be too harsh a verdict: this is a smart, fun ride, well worth hearing.
Once known as Bump the Renaissance, Bobby Previte's regular band has had its handle cut down to just Bump for Counterclockwise. A similar economy of means is present in the music. The disc's backbone is the series of five "Soul" pieces, an endlessly permuting chain of riffs assembled on the fly, under the guidance of the leader's tireless kit-bashing and shouts to the band. By yelling out names of cities ("Chicago! ... Detroit, Detroit! ... New York!") he cues each riff, as well as pays homage to classic roll calls of American city-names from Chuck Berry's "Back in the USA" onwards. Marty Ehrlich is, as always, beseechingly eloquent on tenor; Curtis Fowlkes acquits himself well, though he's no Ray Anderson (trombonist on the band's previous disc Just Add Water); but the album's sound is largely dictated by Wayne Horvitz's prowling keyboards and the combined rumble of Steve Swallow's bass guitar and the leader's oversized drums. Previte could afford to let his best ideas breathe more freely - "Patricia" could have been a Simon Nabatov chart if it weren't for the drum kit thrash - but if you crank the volume up high enough you won't care about such niceties.


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New on Eremite
Jemeel Moondoc / Denis Charles
WE DON'T
Eremite MTE 043
Allen / Drake / Jordan / Parker / Silva
THE ALL-STAR GAME
Eremite MTE 044
by Dan Warburton
Recorded back in 1981 when drummer Denis Charles was still on the planet, We Don't is a fine and craggy set of four pieces, three penned by altoist Moondoc (the title track is public domain). The difference between Moondoc's tone today - twenty years down the line, several fine releases have appeared under his leadership, most of them on Eremite - and what it was back then is immediately evident; the edge is harder, the attack more pronounced, but the innate sense of melody and timing is unmistakable. "Denis Charles he'd just chug-a-lug you for ever," Sunny Murray reminisced in our recent interview, and he was right. Add Ed Blackwell to the equation and you can clearly see just where Hamid Drake came from. There's a strange dull reverb to some of the tom tom crashes, though that's presumably an inevitable result of Jim Hemingway's remastering of the original recordings, made in a studio down in Alphabet City. This is a minor quibble though in the face of such glorious, strong, lyrical musicianship. One wonders what else might be lying around in the vaults awaiting the attention of Eremite's Michael Ehlers.
Anyone who dares say that Alan Silva's over the hill as a bass player just because he spends a lot of time these days sitting behind a synthesizer should be forced to listen to this baby through ten times in a row. He teams up here with William Parker to form the most dynamic two bass section since Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures (which featured, as you'll recall Henry Grimes and.. Alan Silva). For once even Hamid Drake sounds like he's being driven rather than doing the driving. Not surprising since there's another titanic duo out front, veteran Sun Ra alto saxophonist Marshall Allen and Edward "Kidd" Jordan on tenor. Actually, "veteran" is the kind of disparaging term that Ehlers has been fighting against since he started his label (so I'll tactfully withdraw the epithet): his artistic credo has always been to document the work of the earlier generation of free jazz pioneers who are still very much alive and kicking but whom few labels seem to want to record (the Ken Vandermarks of this world can fend very well for themselves, after all). This volcanic 75 minute live set recorded in Boston's ICA Theater on December 1st 2000 is glorious proof that Ehlers is on the right track. The combined age of these five gentlemen may be well past 300, but any one of them could go the full fifteen rounds with the young cats and probably floor them with a hook to boot.


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On Nurnichtnur
Birgit Ulher / Martin Klapper / Jürgen Morgenstern
MOMENTAUFNAHMEN
Nurnichtnur CD 1001030
PUT (Birgit Ulher / Ulrich Phillipp / Roger Turner)
UMLAUT
Nurnichtnur CD 1000425
by Dan Warburton
Peter Niklas Wilson, in his liners to Umlaut, is right to point out the considerable differences that exist between improvised music and (free) jazz, these two albums featuring German trumpeter Birgit Ulher being most definitely examples of the former. On Momentaufnahmen she's joined by bassist Jürgen Morgenstern and Martin Klapper (toys and electronics) for twelve tracks of scratchy, jittery, nervous improv. It's arresting and impressive, but exhausting stuff. After about half an hour of peeps, honks and splutters - not all by any means originating from Klapper's kindergarten arsenal of duck calls, ocarinas and kazoos, either - you feel like a break. I suppose you don't have the play the whole CD through from start to finish though. Klapper is certainly very good at what he does, but ultimately toys tend to sound like, well, toys. They also inevitably recall the anarchic generation of London-based improvisers that appeared on the scene at the end of the 70s, notably Steve Beresford and Terry Day, who put them to superb and subversive use in Four Pullovers and Alterations. It's probably not all that surprising then to find another British past master of this musical kung fu aboard here, in the form of percussionist Roger Turner, who joins bassist Ulrich Phillipp in the Put trio. In accordance with my customary practice, I recorded (selected tracks from) both these albums back to back on a C90 cassette to take out on the road. Not noticing that I'd inadvertently nudged the auto reverse button, I listened to a good two minutes of "ø", the first track on Umlaut (yes, strange characters abound, not only in the recording studio but also as track titles..) before realising it. There's the same rapid fire chatter, beautifully executed and predictably unpredictable, the same mastery of extended techniques (Ulher is on superb form), but just one of those Beresford raspberries, or an irreverent snatch of cheesy organ or lo-fi dub would somehow just add a little extra sparkle. Once more, an album as packed as this one is with myriad sudden changes of direction needs some concentration.


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On Barely Auditable
Kyle Bruckmann / Scott Rosenberg / Michael Zerang
SIX SYNAPTICS
Barely Auditable BAR 333
Bruckmann / Diaz-Infante / Shiurba / Stackpole
GRAND MAL
Barely Auditable / Pax BAR 1234
by Dan Warburton
You wouldn't expect the music that appears on a label with a name as good as Barely Auditable to make any concessions, and it doesn't. On Six Synaptics Rosenberg (one of two good reasons for buying the 4CD set of Braxton's Ghost Trance music on Rastascan, Gino Robair being the other) plays sopranino, alto and tenor sax, flute and contrabass clarinet, while Kyle Bruckmann forsakes his usual double reed instruments to concentrate on minimoog and live processing. Michael Zerang, perhaps the only percussionist whose name sounds like the noises he makes, completes the trio to perform six intense and acerbic improvisations packed with virtuoso listening and playing recorded in Chicago in June 2001. Bruckmann, whose electronics also featured on the recent excellent EKG outing on Locust with Ernst Karel, Object2, and who's also the accordion-wielding crazed lead singer of Lozenge (along with the Flying Luttenbachers one of the most criminally underrated outfits in alt.rock) is one of a growing number of Moogsters out there who are taking the instrument even further out than Sun Ra did. Anyone interested in improv with balls and brains ought to check this one out.
Six months later, Bruckmann, this time armed with his oboe, English horn and suona, was out in Oakland CA where he teamed up with local guitarists Ernesto Diaz-Infante and John Shiurba and percussionist Karen Stackpole to record Grand Mal (not to be confused with Justin Bennett's trio of the same name on Andy Moor's Unsounds label, though that's worthy of your attention too). Curiously enough, on "Catatonic Posturing I", Bruckmann's reeds sound more like a Moog than anything else. Shiurba's electric guitar work is especially vicious on "Nervous Tic" (imagine Heinz Holliger jamming with Borbetomagus) and contrasts nicely with Diaz-Infante's acoustic scrabblings. Stackpole's percussion work is attentive and imaginative throughout. On "Big, bad" Bruckmann's microtonal phrases are brilliantly punctuated by shards of guitar and percussion in a track that says more in 1'45" than most albums manage to do in fifteen minutes. All in all, Grand Mal is solid and uncompromising proof that the Bay Area improv scene has really taken off. It's up to you to make sure Barely Auditable's balance sheet does likewise.


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Doing to you in your earhole
Pascal Battus
MASSAGES SONORES #2
Pink P05 CDR Contact: pink.rec@free.fr (www.pink-rec.fr.st)
by Dan Warburton
These days the kind of stuff I get in the mail more or less forces me to listen on headphones, either because it's too damn weird and disturbing to inflict on family members, or because it verges on the inaudible (sometimes both), but here's a disc that I don't have to feel guilty about putting the cans on for, because it's specifically designed for headphone listening. "Short-circuit the medium in which the soundwave propagates and divides: air", writes guitarist Pascal Battus in his liner notes, "and substitute skin, bone and flesh". Battus plays table guitar - he actually prefers to call it "guitare environnée" ("surrounded guitar"), but it amounts to the same thing - and excites it with all manner of objects familiar to devotees of Keith Rowe's work (and several that would be more at home in a dental surgery or iron foundry), capturing the resulting sounds with contact mics and, in performance, transmitting the signal directly to an earpiece inserted in the listener's lughole. Performance, then, is a one-to-one consultation; lie down on Dr. Battus' couch, close your eyes and let him operate. Battus performed his sound massages at last year's Musique Action festival (the other sound doctor on hand was trombonist Thierry Madiot, whose own disc of Sound Massages on Pink comes with a box of objects for DIY use.. I'll hopefully be reviewing that one shortly) and subsequently recorded them in Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy's CCAM studios. The sounds he gets from the instrument, or rather from the objects placed on and near it, are extraordinary; a crumpled ball of paper becomes a forest fire, a small wooden rod rubbed vertically into the resonating body of the instrument a vast booming cavern. Best of all, and this is somewhat rare these days, the soundworld he creates is just as interesting as the concept behind it, and its attendant implications - this music becomes a uniquely personal experience, especially when Battus does it to you in your earhole, calling into question the whole notion of performer and public, and replacing it with something more akin to a medical consultation. The idea of trust comes into play, then: just as you implicitly trust your doctor to act in your best interests, you keep your fingers crossed that Pascal won't accidentally nudge the volume switch and blow your bloody eardrums to smithereens. For the record, it also sounds perfectly wonderful at high volume through the speakers. That admittedly isn't the guitarist's intention, but, hey, I can do what I want with my CDs - I like to play ultra-lowercase stuff like bernhard günter with the volume cranked up (so incidentally does he) and it's also quite pleasant to listen to earwax-melting noise à la Merzbow played at the threshold of audibility. There's not as much difference as you might think between Masami Akita and Taku Sugimoto. Anyway, enough of that, time for a massage.


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On Creative Sources
I Treni Inerti
URA
Creative Sources CS 006
Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Manuel Mota / José Oliveira
ASSEMBLAGE
Creative Sources CS 007
by Dan Warburton
It seems Portugal has really exploded into life since it hosted Expo in 1998 (someone should write an extended English language feature on the subject, until which time you'll have to swot up your French and get hold of Rui Eduardo Paes' occasional articles in Revue & Corrigée), and in the domain of jazz and improvised music it's decidedly one of the most happening places in Europe right now. At least that's the impression I get on discovering the wealth of great new music on fledgling jazz / electronica / improv labels such as Clean Feed, Sirr, Headlights and Creative Sources. This latter, run by violinist Ernesto Rodrigues, is solid proof that when it comes to superquiet, lowercase, reductionist - delete as appropriate - strategies in improvisation, there's as much going on in the Iberian peninsula as there is in Somerville MA, Tokyo's Off Site and phosphorescent East Berlin. Assemblage features Rodrigues and son Guilherme (cello, pocket trumpet), José Oliveira (percussion, inside piano and acoustic guitar) and Manuel Mota on electric guitar, hailed by none other than Derek Bailey as one of today's most original performers on the instrument. Its three tracks, entitled respectively "Assemlage" I, II and III (no "b", but it's just a typo, I'm assured) unfold at a leisurely pace, with nobody pushing anyone else around, and judiciously avoid the "thou shalt not play loud or fast" dogma that has made several other notable lowercase improv outings in recent months somewhat tedious and predictable. With its meticulous attention to detail, Oliveira's percussion work recalls John Stevens' finest moments, and Mota's gentle flecks of sound counterpoint the woody scrapes of Rodrigues père et fils to perfection, to produce one the richest and most rewarding examples of the genre since London-based Assumed Possibilities Rossbin outing last year Still Point.
There's another connection here; Assumed Possibilities' cellist Mark Wastell and harpist Rhodri Davies frequently collaborate with trumpeter Matt Davis (in Broken Consort, and there's also an Erstwhile release in the pipeline with Phil Durrant), and Davis is one of two trumpeters featured in I Treni Inerti, the other being Ruth Barberán. The third member of the group, Alfredo Costa Monteiro, plays accordion, but if you think a two trumpet / accordion line-up sounds like a recipe for some knees up TexMex, you'd damn well better think again: Ura, recorded and mixed along the coast in Barcelona in July 2002, is one of the most challenging and austere explorations of extended techniques since Davis' own extraordinary solo outing Mute Correspondences CDR on Confront a while back (now completely unobtainable.. reissues anyone?). The trio's unswerving dedication to charting the nether regions of their instruments' potential as sound sources is such that "normal" trumpet and accordion sounds, on the rare occasions they actually appear (there's a killer moment at 9'43" in "Osso"), sound as otherworldly and alarming as a blast of Merzbow might in the middle of a Mozart slow movement. Of course, strange new sounds for their own sake don't make for good music, a fact that Barberán, Davis and Monteiro are well aware of. Each of the four pieces on offer here is as structurally solid as the metal gantry depicted on the album cover. Ura is certainly not something you'd want to put on the beatbox to accompany your barbecue, but there's certainly just as much meat to get your teeth into here. Strongly recommended.


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George Crumb

70TH BIRTHDAY ALBUM
Bridge 9095
WORKS VOLUME V
Bridge 9113
by Nicolas Sharyshkin
Crumb's debt to Ives is obvious and blatant-and he is the first to acknowledge it-in "Star Child", a work of spatially-distributed music, which frankly, it does not belong in the category of the great works (one thinks of Boulez, Brant, Xenakis, Stockhausen, not to mention Ives himself) of architectural/spatial music. Too much is derivative, far too much is obvious. Perhaps Crumb is at his best after all in chamber music, in small works that stretch the idiom to epic and undiscovered proportions. Slather on the players, and much of the detail that makes his music so captivating becomes lost in the shuffle-and no composer is more interested in detail than Crumb. Any pianist who has laboured (in the "Makrokosmos") to distinguish between six types of pizzicato while confronted with a dizzying array of glass rods, thimbles, and plectra will appreciate Crumb's compositional precision, verging on fanaticism. A mark, then, of his genius is that this type of obsessive writing should actually lead to some of the freest and sweetest music of our time. "Star Child", however, loses in the expansion. And Ives' unanswered question works better in the original. Crumb definitely does not have the answer. You can't stop listening to it though…I'll admit it's endlessly compelling (has Crumb ever written a movie soundtrack? He would be so good at it.).
Crumb is a vigorous and optimistic composer. Although much of his music deals with the ethereal, the spiritual, and the memorial, he nonetheless retains an eager and genial outlook on life. Yet his works can be powerfully wrenching. Despite his good-natured personality, he has not hesitated to write protest music: political music, which most composers seem too wimpy to create. "Black Angels" is one of the most appallingly beautiful pieces of art to depict the Vietnam war, and the "Vox Balaenae" is that rare eco-work that does not lose itself in sappiness. The complexity of the scores probably helps ensure intensely committed performances. One could say that perhaps also of Ferneyhough or others whose music is dauntingly complex: no amateurs need apply.
Most wonderful and awe-inspiring on Volume V is "A Haunted Landscape", in whose program note Crumb writes that "places can inspire feelings of reverence or of brooding menace. Sometimes one feels an idyllic sense of time suspended." Nothing could better describe this astonishing performance by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. I argued above that Crumb was not always at his best in large ensembles, but this is wonderful, and the performers deserve congratulations for such vivid tone painting. Obligatory references to Debussy and Stravinsky only serve to heighten the effect, sinister and truly haunting, played by a spectral-certainly not spectrale- ensemble. As with all the albums in this series from Bridge Records, the recording quality is excellent with great clarity and depth.


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Jad Fair / Jason Willett
by Dan Warburton
Jad Fair / Jason Willett
SUPERFINE
Public Eyesore 67
In case you haven't been keeping up with the Jad Fair / Half Japanese discography (a more or less full-time job), here's something to help you catch up. Superfine contains no less than 155 (!) songs, 20 on the album itself and 135 more in mp3 format. Now that's what I call value for money. As always, Fair seems to be able to reference almost everything worth listening to in indie rock and leftfield insanity from the Residents to Devo to Contortions to Sun City Girls to Sun Ra to Hasil Adkins while always managing to sound quite like nobody else. Quite how he and Willett managed to choose what would make it to the album proper and what would remain in mp3 format is a mystery, since some of the best stuff is buried in the latter, from the fucked up 7/4 weirdabilly of "You're Out Of Sight", via the appallingly lo-fi garage grit of "Marshmallow World" to the wonderful "Hot As A Match", which sounds like a home recording of the Arkestra trying to play early Hüsker Dü with lyrics by Mayo Thompson. The recording quality is refreshingly cruddy throughout, with cheap electronics battling it out with biscuit-tin drums, touchtone phones, surfcore guitars and all manner of bleeps and gurgles. "Neon Sunrise" sounds like a medieval shawn recorded on a dictaphone, while I was understandably drawn to "Vampires of Paris". As Fair intones on "Head In A Jar", "When will we ever stop it?" His voice is as distinctive as Eugene Chadbourne's, and he's about as prolific and probably even crazier. Yes folks, there's enough on this disc to fuck you up for the rest of the year.
Check out http://www.sinkhole.net/pehome for further details.

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Jazz & Improv Roundup
by Dan Warburton
Goldsparkle Trio
THUNDER REMINDED ME
Clean Feed CF009 CD
Hailing originally from Atlanta GA, altoist / clarinettist Charles Waters and drummer Andrew Barker are now well settled in Brooklyn and have integrated themselves into that thriving jazz community curated (amongst others) by indefatigable bassist and Vision Festival organiser William Parker. Like Rob Mazurek's Chicago Underground projects, Goldsparkle sometimes appear as a duo, sometimes as a band, but it's perhaps as a trio with the superb underpinning of bassist Adam Roberts that they're best appreciated (it's a shame Roberts couldn't have taken part in Waters and Barker's recent Drimala outing with Matthew Shipp). And appreciated they certainly were on the evening of May 29th 2001 in the Knitting Factory's Old Office, where they played as part of that year's Vision Festival. Barker and Waters share the songwriting credits, both providing strong heads and punchy structures that reveal a debt to (and enormous love of) Mingus, Coleman and Dolphy, not to mention a whole host of great players that have come this way since. Barker gives the game away a little calling one of his pieces - a solo - "For Billy Higgins", but it's clear he's been checking out everyone else too. Waters dances as gracefully as Eric, with a similar fondness for angles and corners, and Roberts anchors the set beautifully. Another fine release from Pedro Costa's superb new Clean Feed label, this one sparkles indeed.
Anders Gahnold Trio
FLOWERS FOR JOHNNY
Ayler aylCD 017/018 (2CD)
A while back, reviewing …and William Danced, a superb studio encounter between Swedish altoist Gahnold and the extraordinary rhythm team of William Parker and Hamid Drake, I expressed a wish that Ayler's Jan Strom might unearth some of Gahnold's recordings with bassist Johnny Dyani and drummer Gilbert Matthews. Well, sometimes wishes are granted. This release of a 67 minute live concert recorded at the 1983 Umeå Jazz Festival and a 33 minute set at Stockholm's Jazz Club Fasching two years later is great news for several reasons. Firstly, the artists featured here have recorded comparatively little, which is unfortunate in the case of Gahnold, a superb post-bop stylist with a strong tone and ideas to match, but nothing short of tragic in the case of South African-born Dyani, a bassist of monumental stature throughout a career that took off upon his arrival in England with the Blue Notes and continued until his death in October 1986. Drummer Matthews is best known for his work with Chris McGregor's groups (his trio and the fabled Brotherhood of Breath), but on the strength of this he should be right up there with the aforementioned Drake in the Guild of Master Drummers. With the exception of an infectiously foot-tapping "Summertime", all the material here is penned by Gahnold, who proves himself to be as able a composer as he is saxophonist, and thanks to Ayler Records' exclusive AYVI system, you can also access a fascinating collection of visual documents at the label's website by using the code printed on the discs themselves. Go check it out - it seems pretty clear that Anders Gahnold is the best thing to come out of Swedish music between Abba and Mats Gustafsson.
The Remote Viewers
SUDDEN ROOMS IN DIFFERENT BUILDINGS
GE5
Contact: davidpetts@yahoo.com
After five albums on Leo, the Remotes have decided to go it alone with Sudden Rooms.. - though Leo Feigin assures me they haven't left the fold for good - which kicks off with another extraordinary cover version (to add to the Madonna and Portishead masterpieces on their preceding outings): this time it's David Sylvian's "Ghosts" that gets the Louise Petts treatment, her silky smooth voice accompanied by husband David's weird swoony harmonisations. One imagines that Mr Sylvian, who's now hooked up with such avant heroes as Derek Bailey and Christian Fennesz, will appreciate the homage. Elsewhere, the outlandish microtonal synth work and positively disturbing saxophone arrangements might give you a clue as to why the Remotes opted to release this themselves. Five years on from their Leo debut they're still one of the most original and as a result under-appreciated outfits around, and it's ironic that they're based in the city with perhaps the liveliest improv scene in the world, London. Unless there are some seismic changes in the world cultural map, The Remote Viewers are rather unlikely to be playing in a venue near you in the foreseeable future, so you'd be advised to email Mr Petts forthwith and procure yourself a copy of this little treasure.
Pandelis Karayorgis/Mat Maneri Quintet
DISAMBIGUATION
Leo CD LR 334
by Nate Dorward
This 2002 disc co-led by the prolific Mat Maneri seems to have slipped under the radar of alt.jazz fans, at least in comparison to the buzz surrounding two contemporary Maneri releases, Sustain and Going to Church. Maneri plays unamplified viola on the disc rather than his electric six-string fiddle, and it suits him, allowing him to work quietly around the fringes of each note, bending or feathering it with the bow; he uses a disconcertingly gradual attack rather than biting into a phrase, as if fading up on it note by note. It's a fine display of how to make your own time within time, and his companions - pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Michael Formanek, drummer Randy Peterson - all possess the same combination of poise and mobility. Karayorgis is the composer of the five pieces on the disc, oblique boppish heads that drift in and out like spectres, independently of their surroundings. The improvisations are left free to find their own pace and mood, the players developing intricate dialogues precisely because they leave each other a great deal of space. Silence is internalized in the music, giving it a fluidity and openness to change which is the reverse of how silence functions on an ECM disc (as a mirror held up to each note). A quietly innovative disc, Disambiguation provides food for thought as well as enjoyment.

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Contemporary Roundup
by James Baiye
Rhys Chatham
AN ANGEL MOVES TOO FAST TO SEE
Table Of The Elements 57 Lanthanum 3CD
The release of this lavish 3 CD box set, which resembles nothing less than the NY skyscraper depicted in Robert Longo's artwork, complete with a 142 page book, has been much trumpeted, but Chatham collectors will already have four of the seven works: "Die Donnergötter", "Waterloo N°2" and "Guitar Trio" were released on Dossier in 1987, and "Massacre on MacDougal Street" appeared under the title "For Brass" on Factor X (Moers) in 1983. That leaves "Two Gongs", a 62-minute piece for, well, two gongs, dating from 1971, 1982's "Drastic Classicism" for five electric guitars and drums, and the title track, 1989's "An Angel Moves Too Fast To See", scored for no fewer than 100 guitars. As the gong piece is interesting but not exactly earth-shattering and the 100 guitar piece frankly anticlimactic - quite apart from its harmony and voice leading, which are what one might expect from a twelve-year old, there's little here that couldn't have been executed perfectly well by ten guitars - it's up to you to decide if you want to invest big money in the packaging, especially since Chatham's writings (including pieces with titles like "The Late 1970s and 1980s, Report from NYC - Music in Crisis: Catastrophe of Meaning") are as repetitive and mildly megalomaniac as his music. It's to be regretted that the set couldn't have included his other works for the 100 guitar ensemble, "Warehouse of Saints: Songs for Spies" and "Tauromaquia", or some of his more recent chamber music, rather than the tepid militaristic boredom of "Waterloo N°2".
Robert Erickson
PACIFIC SIRENS
New World 80603-2
Robert Erickson (1917 - 1997) escaped from Michigan to settle in California in the 1950s, where he passed on what he'd learned from Ernst Krenek to several generations of university students. As one can imagine, the music he produced throughout his career was accordingly well written, earnest and academic. "White Lady", written in 1975 for that perennial institution of American music school academia, the wind ensemble, is a fine study in klangfarbenmelodie but displays its set theory chops all too readily. "Garden" is also pretty easy to figure out (one imagines Erickson's copies of Schoenberg and Forte accompanied him on his walks in the high Sierra), but the oriental-tinged lyricism of the solo violin part, ably executed by Laura Martin and sympathetically accompanied by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, is touching. Equally atmospheric is "Pacific Sirens" (1969), which invites the performers to play along - the score consists of graphic instructions rather than notes - with pre-recorded tapes of waves breaking on Pescadero Beach, but the real fun on this album is the inclusion of a 1974 concert recording of Erickson's 1963 "Piano Concerto", which features pianist Keith Humble going ballistic with a seven-piece ensemble. Written at a time when composers were beginning to check out free jazz and try to find a way to incorporate its brute force into their work, the piece stands along with Ralph Shapey's "Rituals" as one of the best examples of the genre.
Pietro Grossi
BATTIMENTI
Ants AG 03
Take ten frequencies (395Hz = 1, 396 = 2 etc. up to and including 405), combine two (ten permutations), three (25 permutations), four (31) and five (28) at a time, allow about thirty seconds for each permutation and then move on to the next one. Sounds like a mathematical exercise? So does the music. Interesting acoustically it may be, claiming it as "one of the most fascinating works of music of the last century" (as does Albert Mayr, whose own tedious "Hora Harmonica" came out on Ants earlier this year) is frankly pushing it. It depends what you listen to music for, I guess. Remind me to take this one along with me next time I have to get my ears tested as part of the annual medical check up. In the meantime, pass the Eliane Radigue.
Kari Väkevä
TUNING IN
Computer Music CD 001
I'm not sure if Computer Music is the actual label, or just the musical genre, but it's certainly that, and Finnish-born Väkevä doesn't spare us the gory details of how each of the ten pieces on offer here was created in a press release that abounds with HRTF spatializations, granular synthesis and SCM, whatever that is. It's technically very accomplished (as one might expect) with all its bleeps and whooshes in the right place, but rather frosty stuff, and not well-served by a frankly unimaginative cover depicting what seems to be a radio telescope pointing at a night sky.

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Electronica Roundup
by Dan Warburton
Minamo
SHRINE | NEST
Mr Mutt Mlive03

Having been mildly disappointed by the last Minamo that came my way, it's deeply gratifying to report that this outing, regrouping two performances by the Japanese quartet in October and November 2002 (live, in conformity with the ethos of the Mr Mutt label, of which more later) is absolutely enchanting. "Shrine" was recorded in the Suwa shrine, Nishi-Nippori (Tokyo) and it's clear that guitarists Keichi Sugimoto and Yuichiro Iwashita in particular were breathing the same quiet holy air that made "Opposite", the magnificent HatNoir outing by another Sugimoto - Taku, so special several years back. Within minutes keyboard player Namiko Sasamoto has picked up on the vibe, and the tiny, exquisite flurries of notes he inserts to embellish the glowing F# major tonality are picked up by computer whiz Tetsuro Yasanuga and transformed into something rich and strange. By the eleven-minute mark the music has modulated to C#. It's perhaps a question for faculty types to ponder, but I think we can actually speak of modulation for once, with the caveat that we're no longer dealing with functional tonality in the nineteenth century sense of the word, i.e. a titanic Beethovenian struggle on the structural level which attributes patently heroic characteristics to various keys and lets them battle it out in the macro-form, but rather a sense of place, a colour even, for the music to inhabit for as long as it feels necessary. It's rare in these troubled times, especially in the world of Japanese improvised music that is subject to such scrutiny by the alt.music press, to come across something as poised, as settled as this. "Nest" inhabits the same territory, but feels somehow slightly more active; Sasamoto's gently repetitive piano loops seem to dominate somewhat, imposing a sense of pulse (admittedly nebulous) that "Shrine" managed to avoid. Here one senses the real danger of the live event: seeing how easy it is these days to load a recording of the gig into the machine and edit out the rough spots, it's admirable that Rossano Polidoro and Emiliano Romanelli (aka Tu m') have chosen to adopt a warts'n'all live policy for their Mr Mutt label. Go to www.tu-m.com
Leafcutter John
THE HOUSEBOUND SPIRIT
Planet Mu ZIQ061 CD
This third album from London-based John Burton moves away from the glitch hop of his earlier outings on Tigerbeat6 towards a more eclectic mix of digitised pop balladry, musique concrète, dub and easy listening, edited and assembled with consummate panache. It's a technically impressive but, in its stylistic plurality, aesthetically confusing package that I'd be tempted to qualify it as postmodern, were that word not so unfashionable these days. The surface of the music, with its myriad pans, fizzes, bubbles and gurgles is extremely seductive but somehow can't completely make up for the rather mundane nature of the compositions lurking underneath.
Kazumasa Hashimoto
YUPI
Plop PLIP 3007
This debut album from Tokyo-based multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Hashimoto is a highly listenable if somewhat sugary collection of unashamedly tonal doodles, whose snatches of birdsong (real or digital?) and delicate midtempo minimal montage - think late 70s Reich / Glass / Eno rearranged by Simon Jeffes - make it one of those perfect summer holiday albums, light and refreshing as a fruit juice cocktail and similarly guaranteed not to give you a hangover. A dash of vodka and bitters might spice it up somewhat, but presumably that wasn't Hashimoto's intention.

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