MAY News 2004 Reviews by James Baiye, Nate Dorward, Richard Hutchinson, Vid Jeraj, Alan Jones, TJ Norris, Wayne Spencer, Dan Warburton:

Tetuzi Akiyama: Enha / Proletarian Drift / Meeting at Off Site vol.3 / Don't Forget to Boogie
In print:
Im Osten / In The East
Mythic Brit Improv:
AMM / People Band / Alterations
33RPM: Ten Hours of Sound From France / Sonic Circuits X
On Improvised Music from Japan:
Toshimaru Nakamura / Sachiko M
On Reify: Mount Washington / Team Up / Chris Forsyth & Chris Heenan
On Charhizma: Margareth Kammerer / Sabine Ercklentz & Andrea Neumann
Andrew Drury / 4Walls / Ivo Perelman / Mal Waldron & Marion Brown / Tony Malaby / Leap Seconds / Sakada / Conditions / Kurt Heyl / Kenny Wheeler / Evan Parker & Stan Tracey / Z'ev
Basil Kirchin / Mark Applebaum / Michèle Bokanowski
Rosy Parlane / Tom Hamilton / Paolo Raposo & Carlos Santos / Brandon Labelle / JARL / Alejandra & Aeron / Joel Stern & Michael Northam

Last Month


A warm welcome this month to three new writers from across the pond joining PT for the first time. Here's hoping you enjoy both the Supercollider syntax of the irrepressible TJ Norris and the fine penmanship of Richard Hutchinson and Bagatellen head honcho Alan Jones in what has turned out to be our biggest issue to date. Thanks also go out to Signal To Noise's Pete Gershon for financing my trip up to Amsterdam just before Christmas last year to interview the one and only Burton Greene. An edited version of our chat appeared in Signal To Noise's Spring 2004 issue (#33); here we bring you the extended remix. Thanks to Burton for the archive photos (including the one on the right). If you wish to submit articles to PT for use in the magazine, or discs for review to add to the precarious pile teetering on top of our respective stereo systems, or just moan about what you read in these pages - Wayne Spencer's Uchiage! review last month brought a lively response but none of the potential assassins who wrote in were willing to have their correspondence feature on our Letters Page :( - please consult the FAQ page in the "Home" pulldown menu, top left. Bonne lecture. —DW

>>back to top of May 2004 page

Tetuzi Akiyama

Tetuzi Akiyama / Josef van Wissem
BV Haast 0404
Various Artists
Improvised Music from Japan IMJ 515
Tetuzi Akiyama
Idea LP

, released in a hand-numbered limited edition of 500, includes seven individual woodblock prints by Yoko Naito and a CD containing fifteen brief improvisations by Tetuzi Akiyama for tape-delayed electric guitar, only two of which go beyond the five-minute mark. Connoisseurs of Akiyama's solo projects, notably Relator on Slubmusic and Résophonie on A Bruit Secret, will find much to enjoy in these miniatures; not averse to extending the vocabulary of his instrument (unlike Taku Sugimoto, who seems dead set on erasing much of his), Akiyama is perfectly content to make a racket in the process where necessary. The tape manipulations are discreet but gently disorientate the flow of the music, cutting off attacks and decays here and there and sprinkling the surface with a fine powder of acoustic grit. As in Naito's prints, in austere black and white with a few strategic dabs of red, the familiar becomes slightly strange, even mildly erotic.
Like both Sugimoto and his frequent playing partner Toshi Nakamura, Akiyama has been doing some serious travelling round Europe in recent months, hooking up and playing with a considerable number of musicians along the way. Curious and resourceful musician that he is, he manages to adapt his playing to suit the different orientations of his partners, from the "soft noise" of Eric Cordier's customised hurdy-gurdy to the frosty electronics of Bruno Meillier, while always sounding distinctly himself. One of the most successful and surprising collaborations he's undertaken is with Amsterdam-based renaissance lute virtuoso Jozef van Wissem; Proletarian Drift documents their encounter at Tokyo's Gendai Heights early last year, and is as delightful as its cover photograph of colourful life-size straw-stuffed dummies. Van Wissem is an unashamedly diatonic improviser (readers may be familiar with his blues-inflected duo album last year with Gary Lucas, also on BV Haast), and certainly not given to preparing his magnificent instrument with dangerous looking objects, as is Akiyama. "The Golden Mass" (in two parts, respectively 17'43" and 12'03" in length but not indexed separately on the CD) begins with an exchange of isolated pitches, ringing out like bells, from which the two musicians exchange chords, and ultimately melodies, gradually defining a common language. The leisurely pace of events recalls Taku Sugimoto's Old Fashioned Duet with Burkhard Stangl, but the music here is more overtly dramatic, like slowmotion flamenco. Van Wissem's resonant pedal points draw Akiyama into the best pitch play he's produced since Relator (there's no call here for the fearful steak knife he sometimes uses on the instrument). It's absolutely gorgeous, and riveting to boot.
Meeting at Off Site Vol.3 is the latest instalment in an ongoing series documenting Akiyama and Nakamura's concerts at the mythic Tokyo venue, each of which features one or two invited guest musicians (the visitors here are saxophonist Hakon Kornstad, trumpeter Masafumi Ezaki, laptoppers o.blaat and Paul Hood, electronicians Sachiko M and Günter Müller, and guitarists Oren Ambarchi and Keichi Sugimoto). Kornstad's introverted melodic figures and multiphonics catch the locals off guard somewhat; unlike static droners like Tom Ankersmit, he's not prepared to sit around playing the onkyo game. Akiyama can follow him into almost Derek Bailey-like territory, but Nakamura can't (or won't). With Ezaki, things are more consensual (i.e. sparse). Nakamura doesn't feature on the "July 5 2002" track, leaving o.blaat and Sachiko M to challenge Akiyama's resonator guitar. As is often the case, Sachiko's sinewaves freeze the music, and force both her fellow performers (and listeners) to investigate a microcosmos of tiny pitchless gestures. The kind of sonorous chords Akiyama floats out to van Wissem on Proletarian Drift would be singularly inappropriate here, though about halfway through these eighteen looong minutes one wishes something more eventful would happen. Akiyama's guitar trio with Ambarchi and Sugimoto is equally statuesque, but harmonically richer (thankfully). On this and "September 6 2002", where he's joined once more by Nakamura and visiting English electronician Paul Hood) Akiyama returns to the acoustic guitar, counterpointing Hood's squiggles with eerie rattles, while Nakamura's inputless mixing board hisses in the background. Despite sporadic attempts to insert a hint of pulse into the piece, the album's heartbeat has by now slowed alarmingly, and even the odd blast of (unwanted?) feedback and toy twiddles from Hood fail to dynamise proceedings. Fortunately, the album ends on a more convincing note with the appearance of Müller (who was in town for the AMPLIFY festival, and on fine form, as his appearances at those shows and his two Erstwhile studio sessions with Otomo Yoshihide and Nakamura testify). The volume level remains challengingly low, but Müller's arsenal of electronics and percussion adds textural variety, and elicits beautifully executed responses from the Japanese.
The odd man out of this batch is Don't Forget To Boogie, which Akiyama openly describes as an "ego trip", and a homage to "the greatest invention of the twentieth century" (though my vote would go for the washing machine). Erudite readers will no doubt recognise the title as being the same as Canned Heat's 1966 outing on Varčse Sarabande, and therein may lie a clue as to what possible connection might exist between the near-emptiness of onkyo and the noisy, fuzzy, scuzzy assemblage of r&b licks and riffs on offer here. The outer reaches of improvisation and free jazz might seem a world removed from the low-down dirty blues, but it's worth remembering that Albert Ayler cut the immortal "Drudgery" with Canned Heat's Henry Vestine back in 1969, that Cream's Jack Bruce was just as interested in playing abstract free jazz as stomping rock, that alt.sax hero Arthur Doyle cut his teeth playing r&b with Johnny Jones and the King Casuals.. and so on. There are plenty of guitarists who are as involved in songwriting and rock / post-rock as they are in austere free improvisation (Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, of course, but the list also includes Jim O'Rourke, Alan Licht and Oren Ambarchi). What's more surprising about Akiyama's album (vinyl only of course, and not exactly cheap) is not his choice of material, nor even what he does with it - the repetitive nature of the music is perfectly consistent with the textural and structural uniformity of onkyo - but the sound of the instrument. It's as rough and sweaty as Vestine or (early Zep) Jimmy Page or pre-Tejas Billy Gibbons. One could wax pretentious about recontextualisation of language, the Japanese tradition of reconfiguring artefacts of Western culture into something quite different etc etc, but surely the point of Don't Forget To Boogie is clearly stated in its title: music, even the cutting edge avant-garde stuff, can be both fun to play and fun to listen to.—DW

>>back to top of May 2004 page

In print: Im Osten

Susanna Niedermayr / Christian Scheib
Susanna Niedermayr and Christian Scheib's Im Osten/In the East started as a feature called Nebenan ("Next Door"), a radio series broadcast in 2001 by ORF Osterreich 1, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation's culturally-oriented radio station. It was later published in essay form throughout the year 2002 in the Austrian magazine SKUG, with chapters about Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The contributing writers are internationally renowned Austrian artists and journalists: Niedermayr has been working with ORF since 1996, and editing Zeit-Ton since 2000, while Scheib, new music editor at ORF since 1992, is a trained musicologist and former music curator for the Austrian Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs who has also lectured at California Institute of the Arts and Vienna University. It would seem that the writers of this on-the-road research project transcribed conversations in a kind of pidgin English, which was translated into German for the radio and magazine, and back into English again for the book's bilingual edition (which also comes with a CD, and contains additional web addresses, clearly demonstrating the creative ambition of the new countries). Not surprisingly, some mistakes have crept in - like calling Eugene Chadbourne a British guitarist - and some questions of method and integrity also arise, but it makes for an interesting read - not allegro vivace, however.
In the opening chapter, "Boy Wonders And Pop Plants - The Quest Of Musical Quality As A Fountain Of Youth For Various Generations In Hungary", the reader encounters the format in which all the book's chapters are written: electronica, the club scene, radio/Internet art and, finally, contemporary music. The Hungarian language, radically different from the Slavic, Romance, and Germanic language groups that surrounds it, presents an additional problem - isolation. This is something the heroes of this chapter have learned to live with and fought to overcome. Record collections smuggled in from the West during the 1980s shed light on the Central European love of contraband, one of the partisan-guerrilla strategies evolved by those living behind the Iron Curtain. Tilos ("Forbidden") Radio was founded in 1991, and slowly evolved toward Internet streaming over the following decade. "Boy Wonders" refers to the founding of record giant UCMG's Hungarian branch, and especially to young musician Yonderboi, whose success proved that Tilos' first steps weren't just marginal wanderings. Resulting investment led to the ParaRadio joint venture, a web radio / experimental workshop platform for new music, and the X-Peripheria Festival, inaugurated in 2000, which enables cross-pollenation between foreign acts and young Hungarian electronica artists. Whether CDR publication is a continuation of the samizdat tradition (the Russian futurists' term for self-released) or merely a cliché borrowed from Western underground circuits is a question not addressed by the authors. The older generation of artists, more concerned with art in relation to sound, remains critical; Tilos engineers Zsolt Söres and Pál Tóth (Franz Hautzinger's tabletop partners in the Abstract Monarchy Trio) explain the consequences of "freedom from", pointing to a situation in which "forbidden" radio "has turned into a station dedicated almost exclusively to entertainment and DJing, and thus has lost much of its political impact." (p. 25). Thereafter the text lapses into something that might be called PC, with Peter Eötvös, György Ligeti and György Kurtág conspicuous in their absence. Deliberately so, one imagines, as their inclusion would detract from the central role the book accords to László Góz of the Budapest Music Center, whose stated aim is to promote composers from the "lost generation", or "composers who won a losing battle": "We want to do whatever we can, so that these composers are no longer forced to leave Hungary, or die in the United States, like Bartók" (p. 30). The fact remains that the elite of Hungarian serious music lives abroad (even if Eötvös is still listed in BMC's catalogue) but the authors have chosen to include only artists working in-country. Is this really the case though with older avant-gardists like Kiralyi Erno and Katalin Ladyk, both of Hungarian nationality, yet refugees with Yugoslav citizenship? Kiralyi explores the rich world of folkloric string instruments, preparing them and confronting them with various objects in a way that would definitely arouse the interest of the New London Silence artists (if only he had better luck on Google - check out And what about Bela Marias, ethnomusicologist, absurd poet, and organizer of Budapest's Big Ear Festival? Similarly, mention might also have been made of AE Bizotsag, aka The Committee of Albert Einstein, a Hungarian art-rock band from the 1980s, who are never mentioned internationally or historically (not even in the same breath as Plastic People of the Universe, the Zappa-like Czech underground heroes whose reputation lives on long after the band's demise, maybe due to Vaclav Havel's charming PR, both bohemian and Bohemian) but whose members now live in the US, making experimental films in poor conditions (and not complaining about it).
From the very first chapter, we see that the book quite easily employs a sort of snapshot approach, a kind of historical amnesia, especially as far as Eastern Europe is concerned, where an individual could change countries four or five times during his life and still not be far from his place of birth. The chapter on Slovenia is entitled "In Statu Nascendi - A Survey of Art in Resistance on the Slovenian Way to Capitalism". During and after the Croatian war for independence which followed the fall of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Slovenia was toured continuously by a number of musicians and bands from other post-Yugoslav countries that could not play at home. Being especially adept at promoting their work abroad, Slovene groups like Laibach, Videosex and Borghesia are not names that readers will skip over for lack of recognition; Laibach's early actions and ideas, which remain a case study for theoreticians of the postmodern, have been developed today as back-up for Slovenia's techno output. (Wire readers might want to refer to the Teknika Slovenika compilation published by the magazine in 2000.) Laibach's spokesman Novak here recapitulates his prophecy: "Whatever Laibach said in the early eighties, and it probably sounded very utopian then, has become reality - collective production for instance: to me it seems quite absurd to still speak of authorship. Today copy-and-paste processes are the rule." The greatest advantage of this chapter is that it showcases individualistic creators of world music, sound art, and electronic music whose work enjoys great international acclaim, while they are anonymous legends at home. Slovenia's provincialization over the last decade emerges as the greatest problem. The homegrown new breed is represented by Ljubljana's Radio Študent, a very well-organized urban unit that doesn't face the same problems as Tilos, managing instead to keep a balance between specialization and wider acclaim.
"How Glad I Am That No One Knew - The Hidden Vitality of the Slovakian Music Scene", reveals a scene apparently unconcerned with getting established internationally; remaining relatively anonymous is not considered a drawback (though fans of Australian violinist Jon Rose know from his website that he has been a frequent commuter to the Slovak village of Violin). The group of radio program editors centered around Radio Ragtime, founded in 1993, have forged strong links with ORF, whose programs they had been listening to since the 1980s, and also shown the enthusiasm necessary to build an alternative cultural and music scene under the new conditions of expanding capitalism, now that culture is no longer free, as it once was. Here, as everywhere throughout Eastern Europe, techno has changed everything: even music festivals now have to be presented as parties or no one will show up. The rest of the article explains how enthusiasts have to fight to make up for lost time; notably the Experimental Studio of Slovak Radio, once frequented by the Darmstadt composers, where the spirit of Fluxus lives on in the productions of theorist/artist Jozsef Cseres, and DeadRED Records, which is trying to define a truly Slovak sonic identity.
In "Of Short And Long Waves - What Happens When Polish Giant Stirs", veteran Polish composers such as Marek Choloniewski and Krzystof Knittel criticise the apparent apathy of younger musicians, comparing today's situation to the dynamic scene that existed under communism when the perpetual threat of government crackdown and persecution helped focus the creative energy of a generation. The Warsaw Autumn festival, which was founded back in 1956, used to be an important showcase for composers working outside the post-Adorno lingua franca - Lutoslawski, Gorecki, Serocki, Penderecki, Kotonski, Krauze..- but lost much of its political significance once the wall came down in 1989. Poland's legendary Yass scene is scantily covered in an interview with its historian Bartek Felczak, whose observations concentrate on groups rather than individuals, notably reed improviser Mazzoll, whose full potential was probably never realised (despite help from Tony Oxley) and bassist / singer Ryszard "Thymon" Tymanski. Tymanski's work with the quartet Milosc is mentioned, but not his seminal role in Yass, whose impact on subsequent developments in Polish new music seems to take second place here to one-off events like Penderecki's conduction work with Don Cherry, Peter Brötzmann and Tomasz Stanko. The current Polish electronica scene is now hard to distinguish from that of any other Western country, though its diverse manifestations still partake of that peculiarly Polish chill dating back to Komeda's 1960s soundtracks for Polanski. That said, the book also predates the emergence on the scene of Robert Piotrowicz's excellent Musica Genera label, based in Sczeczin.
"The Multiple Palimpsest - How Even Bulgaria's Latest Trends in Music Reflect Traces of Various Pasts" explains how individual initiative is still marginalised, with folk groups couching New Age "mysticism" and "genuine" folklore in the language and ideology of post-Socialist Realism. There are some interesting developments in the software domain ( and, but Bulgarian techno has never sought to make political capital. Those who challenge such escapism - notably Sofia's Art Hostel community: go to - are considered "experimental", and experimental doesn't sell. Younger composers and improvisers (Valentin Gerov, Rossen Zahariev, and Roumen Toskov..) head abroad, while older established names stay behind (including composers Vladimir Djambazov, Dragomir Yossifov, Georgi Arnaudov, and Julia Tsenova, and musicologist Andi Palieva, who publishes the fortnightly Musica Nova magazine). Meanwhile, the members of the Legendary Poptones, a group that has in the past collaborated with Uchihashi Kazuhisa and Chris Cutler, choose to remain anonymous.
"The Return From Years of Desert Exile - After Times Of War And Nationalism, Croatia's Music And Cultural Scenes Rebuild Their Trans-National Forces" forms the book's final chapter. The featured interviewees complain about post-war Yugoslavia's loss of political impact, and those artists and philosophers who chose exile during the war instead of staying at home and silently witnessing the events also complain of battles lost to rural guerrillas who migrated from the provinces to the cities and took over their positions. (Concert activities in smaller regional centres are a relatively recent development.) The Zagreb Biennale Of Modern Music, part of the charismatic legacy of Yugoslavia, survived its three wartime editions, and continues to this day, but since it takes place only every other year, the gap between is filled mostly with occasional gigs at the local KSET club by the likes of ToRococoRot, Pita or Vladislav Delay (but also, happily, the Nu Ensemble and the Georg Graewe Octet), none of whose appearances are covered by the local press. Musicians involved in new music can hardly be called active, and those involved in promoting concerts tend to be enthusiasts who have hardly ever picked up an instrument. The New Media Lab [mama], whose fluffy puppet symbol has luckily landed on "Im Osten"'s cover, periodically invites foreign lecturers (David Toop, Riccardo Dominguez and Robert Adrian, who produced a notable festival dedicated to Tesla), but only DJs seem to receive active promotion - Zsolt Söres' criticisms of Tilos Radio above apply equally well here.
As someone actively involved in the scene myself, I'll be the first to admit that it's often hard and unflattering to look closely at oneself in the mirror, but if there is to be continuing interest in the development of a distinctly Eastern European cultural identity, now that the region is opening up to the wider world, this book - provided it is frequently updated and coherent in its ideological stance - could yet prove to be a milestone.—VJ

>>back to top of May 2004 page

AMM / People Band / Alterations

Anomalous ICES 01
People Band
Emanem 4102
Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 239CD
At The Roundhouse is the first instalment of what will hopefully be a series of releases documenting Harvey Matusow's International Carnival of Experimental Sound festival at London's Roundhouse in 1972 (the story of which is told by Eric Lanzillotta in his liner notes), and a major release it is too. Two brief extracts from this concert, which took place on August 22nd that year, were released as a 7" single on Incus, but this is the first time the performance has been available in its entirety. Mention AMM to most folk today and the names of Keith Rowe and John Tilbury will probably spring to mind, but it's worth recalling that in the mid 1970s the mythic English free improvisation group consisted of just two musicians: percussionist Eddie Prevost and tenor saxophonist Lou Gare. When Rowe rejoined AMM in 1976, Gare bowed out - "I could not go back after the freedom of the duo", he writes in a brief postscript to Prevost's notes to this disc. Gare continued to perform in and around Exeter (where he moved in 1976), and even rejoined AMM briefly later, but in recent years has tended to concentrate on other interests, notably teaching Aikido and making and repairing stringed instruments (if you're in Devon and your fiddle needs a twiddle, go to ).
Prevost is right to describe the duo's work as "decidedly non jazz"; true, apart from the instrumentation itself (Interstellar Space inevitably comes to mind), one can find certain points of comparison - Prevost plays his snare drum like Sunny Murray uses his cymbals (think of "Real" on the BYG Actuel album Sunshine) to set up complex fields of vibration, extending the concept of rhythm far beyond the traditional confines of time-keeping - but as Wayne Spencer has pointed out, Gare and Prevost are at their most radical when not playing. Or, rather, when the level of volume and event-density drops to something more akin to today's lowercase improv. "In the silences and pregnant pauses that were a characteristic of our performances you can hear doors swinging open and closed, a child's voice echoes in the distance, and there are other indistinguishable human murmurings and nameless isolated clonks", writes Prevost. "At the end of our performance - nothing. No applause, no cat-calls. Merely the empty sound of indifference."
Small audiences for improvised music are nothing new, though it's hard to imagine music of this quality being greeted with stony silence today - not that one could expect a tenor saxophone / percussion duet to sound anything like this anymore. This particular incarnation of AMM (also documented on the Matchless album To Hear and Back Again) was neither ahead of nor behind its time, but quite simply not of its time. The high-speed clatter of Pauls Lovens and Lytton (not to mention Roger Turner and numerous others), which has become the accepted - I'm tempted to say "traditional" - way of playing percussion in a free improvised context, is notably absent from Prevost's vocabulary. Similarly, Gare's tenor playing bears absolutely no relation either to his immediate predecessors in free jazz (Coltrane, Ayler et al.) or to the then emergent extended techniques of Parker and Brötzmann. Nor is it a precursor of today's saxophone language: multiphonics, key clicks, breathy flutters and splutters are conspicuously absent, as are cathartic blasts of screaming noise. If Prevost had frisbeed his cymbals at the ceiling or destroyed a potted plant or two ŕ la Han Bennink, or if Gare had blown his saxophone through his nose (to quote Zorn) and burst a few blood vessels ŕ la Brötzmann, perhaps the handful of people present in the cavernous space of the Roundhouse would have reacted. But that's not what AMM music has ever been about. Prevost and Gare make no concessions to popular fads and fancies. "It is perhaps difficult for people now to appreciate how important the music was to us", Prevost writes. I seriously doubt that anyone listening attentively to these 47 minutes of extraordinary music could fail to appreciate the importance of this magnificent document.
Along with AMM and John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the People Band -originally called the Continuous Music Ensemble - is one of the pioneering groups of British free improvisation, but their work was only documented on one album, a 1970 LP on Transatlantic (TRA 214) produced by Charlie Watts (yes, that Charlie Watts). With his customary zeal for documenting the scene past and present, Emanem's Martin Davidson has, for this long overdue reissue, tracked down not the original master tapes, which remain with Transatlantic, but duplicate versions of three tracks on the album and three hitherto unreleased titles. These were rescued from the bin outside Olympic Studios, after someone in the Rolling Stones office remembered seeing some tapes marked People Band. The rest of the album has been remastered from copies of the original LP (belonging to David Toop and Steve Beresford).
The People Band, unlike AMM and the SME, was a real group of musical anarchists. With no overriding ideology as such, and certainly no restrictions as to what could or could not be accepted regarding musical content (a lot of this is furious free form jamming, but there are several disarming major chords and even a few touches of tacky vibraphone chinoiserie), the resulting music is dense, chaotic and fun, if not always successful. The nucleus of the band, a trio consisting of pianist Russell Hardy, drummer Terry Day and bassist Terry Holman, started working with free forms as early as 1960 (Day is also arguably the first drummer who started using a small kit - predating John Stevens). By 1968 the group had ballooned to a ten-piece band, also featuring Mel Davis (keyboards, trombone, cello), Lyn Dobson (tenor sax), Eddie Edem (congas and trumpet), Tony Edwards (percussion), Mike Figgis (trumpet and guitar), Frank Flowers (bass) and George Khan (reeds and flute). Holman and Day also doubled on saxophones and other instruments, and Hardy on accordion ("possibly" it says here - of course, it's often hard to make out who's playing what). Three of the pieces were conducted by Davis.
At its best the variety of instrumentation and diversity of approaches to material is headscratchingly delightful. It's no surprise that the People Band formed strong links with the Dutch - the benign anarchy of parts of "Skip to Part 3" is not far removed from the wackiness of the early ICP recordings by Mengelberg, Bennink and Breuker. Figgis, who of course went on to become a rather well known film director, is especially good at throwing spanners in the works. Unfortunately, the ending of this track is an example of how anything goes improv can all too easily slip into mannerist plonking and tribal jamming. Curiously enough, it sounds more like some of today's so-called post-rock (play 1968 back to back with Volcano The Bear or The Blithe Sons and you'll be surprised how much they have in common). By 1970 the good people of the People Band had more or less gone their separate ways; Day went on to explore the outer reaches of inspired crackpot improv with Alterations (see below), while Hardy teamed up with Ian Dury in Kilburn and the Highroads (Dury was present at this session, by the way). Holman is still playing "with friends", including Hardy. Flowers joined the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, Edwards worked with Big Chief, and Kahn with Mike Westbrook (for a while). Dobson eventually moved to Spain, Figgis to Hollywood, and Edem unfortunately disappeared without trace. Happily, the music they made back on October 1st 1968 didn't - and very enjoyable it is too.
Alterations first convened in London in 1977, at the instigation of guitarist Peter Cusack. Featuring Terry Day, David Toop and Steve Beresford (principally on percussion, flutes and piano respectively, but also a bewildering number of instruments, conventional and unconventional), the quartet was active until 1986, and anyone with a penchant for the wild and wonderful should make a point of seeking out their releases. The group's back catalogue is, however, hard to track down, which makes the appearance of this collection all the more welcome. Culled from performances in Bracknell, Tilburg and Berlin in 1980 and 1981, it's a fabulous collection of adventures, a snapshot of a chaotic and intensely creative period in improvised music the like of which may not be seen again for some time, since today's scene looks like it's becoming frighteningly orthodox and hidebound.
Though all four musicians were - and still are - open to any and all influences from musics as diverse as 1950s exotica, cheesy doo-wop, mainstream pop, Satie, and of course the whole accelerated history of free music itself, Beresford is especially dangerous. Even back then, several notable musicians, specifically Anthony Braxton and Leo Smith, flatly refused to play with him (that was reason enough for Eugene Chadbourne to seek him out on his first visit to the UK at the end of the 1970s). It's not hard to see why: the pianist is able to move from vicious forearm clusters to toytown Grade III ragtime within seconds, and, more importantly, sees no reason why he shouldn't. It's easy to see why John Zorn appreciates Beresford's work (and has graced him with a couple of outings on Tzadik in recent years), but where Zorn sliced his idioms vertically and juxtaposed them with clinical precision - the Morricone and Godard tribute pieces and especially the Naked City songbook are ferociously difficult and require split second timing - Alterations' modus operandi was to throw as many diverse elements into the test tube at the same time, ending up with grotesque genetic mutations that lived brief and colourful lives before self-destructing spectacularly. Not that Beresford is the only culprit; Toop, Day and Cusack are just as good at throwing spanners in the works (so much so one wonders after a while where the works actually are). It's hilarious stuff, but, as Toop writes in his splendid liners, "the constant clash of idioms and personalities had its dark and vengeful side. In a sense it was like a public x-ray of normal social relations: awkward, clumsy, rude, embarrassing, seething with suppressed and overt anger, tender, sentimental, nostalgic, stereotypical, surprising, supportive, undermining, full of bathos and pathos, usually a good laugh but sometimes really fucking horrible".
Merely describing what happens in each of these fifteen tracks, though an entertaining exercise, hardly prepares the reader for the listening experience. Today's improvised music (as opposed to improvisation - there's a crucial difference) is relatively goal-oriented and straightforward to follow in terms of its structure; "start quiet, build to climax, fade out" still remains the standard procedure, though "start quiet and stay quiet" is rapidly taking over. In stark contrast, Alterations' music redefines itself from moment to moment, both in terms of its overall structure and the material used to build it. Nearly a quarter of a century on, its power to captivate, infuriate and have you falling off your chair in hysterics is entirely undimmed. —DW

>>back to top of May 2004 page


Various Artists
33 RPM
23Five / SFM 903
Various Artists
Innova 119
33 RPM, which follows on from Ju-jikan, documenting the Japanese scene, and Variable Resistance (idem for Australia), represents a brief snapshot of the recent 33 RPM: Ten Hours of Sound from France exhibition at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art. The elegant and informative booklet lists all the participating works in the exhibition, whereas the CD features work from ten composers / sound artists / groups (delete where appropriate): Kasper Toeplitz, Kristoff K. Roll, Jean-Claude Risset, Lionel Marchetti, Christophe Havel, Laurent Dailleau (who also provides the extensive liner notes, of which more later), Mathieu Chamagne, pizMO, Jean-Philippe Gross and Mimetic. Attempting to convey the diversity of the scene on one disc - let alone in ten hours - is quite a task, and it's relatively easy to find things to complain about, notably the conspicuous absence of many older generation GRM musique concrčte pioneers and the more media-friendly practitioners of "French touch" techno, but the selection is rich and rewarding nonetheless. Dailleau, whose work on theremin and electronics is well worth seeking out for those unfamiliar with it (start with Triolid's Ur Lamento on Potlatch, with Isabelle Duthoit and David Chiesa), has an evident familiarity with the electroacoustic improvisation end of the spectrum, hence the inclusion of Metz-based Jean-Philippe Gross, whose work with printed circuits you will definitely be hearing of in the years to come. The most "traditionally" concrčte offerings here come from Risset, as might be expected, three superb miniatures entitled "Resonant Sound", which feature the kind of delicate transformation of objets trouvés that the French have long been famous for. In comparison, Topelitz's bombastic "PURR#2", though impressively executed, sounds heavy-handed; just as well it opens the disc, because it makes the Kristoff K. Roll offering "Zocalo masqué" right after sound even better than it is. Lionel Marchetti, perhaps better known to readers as an improviser, contributes an early (1989) piece, "A rebours", that builds up ghostly strands of bandoneon into a dense and thrilling climax, and contrasts spectacularly with the digital roadkill of Christophe Havel's "excerpt / metamorphosis". Dailleau's own "It Was Too Dark to Hear Anything" is more sedately paced and beautifully mixed. Equally impressive is Mathieu Chamagne's "On sonne", the kind of high-speed splatter/scatter that digital technology has made possible. So, unfortunately, is the scrappy assemblage of bloops, swoops and buzzes that makes up pizMO's "nim". At least Gross' "Gris épais" reveals evidence of a good ear and sense of structure, after which the closing "évolution" by Mimetic sounds oddly out of place, being the only track included to work explicitly with pulse in a post-techno context.
Dailleau's notes are wide-ranging and not without their merit, but I'd like to see some documented proof of his assertion that Jean-Jacques Perrey was the first to incorporate tape loops into popular music. And lines like "improvisation as it is practiced today, outside the influence of jazz, was invented in London around 1965 by the founders of AMM" should not go unchallenged. Such glib blanket statements - one presumes Dailleau knows about the work of Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, Alvin Lucier, Alvin Curran, Pauline Oliveros, Kenneth Gaburo and a whole host of others, so why does he not acknowledge their input too?- are sadly rather typical of the booklet, whose defiantly Francocentric positioning is potentially misleading to those unfamiliar with the history of electronic music. IRCAM of course gets a mention as the place where Miller Puckette dreamed up Max/MSP, but the music the Institute has produced since it opened for business in 1977 is not mentioned (indicative as much of Dailleau's curatorial stance as it is of the relative dearth of great new music emanating from the place). Instead, neglecting to mention Parmegiani, Mâche, Malec and Henry in favour of namechecking interesting but so far little known figures like Olivier Queysanne, whose Max/MSP glitch microworld is more interesting to read about than it is to listen to, raises eyebrows, and I imagine Jérôme Noetinger's Revox is overheating in righteous fury at statements like "the tape recorder has already begun to fade into memory". Such quibbles aside, though, 33 RPM is a superbly produced document with much to commend it.
In contrast to SF MOMA's clearly defined mission statement, Philip Blackburn's Sonic Circuits Festival has a decidedly more catholic notion of what constitutes electronic music. The disc documenting the festival's tenth edition comes with three hilariously irreverent photomontage stickers that illustrate the SC philosophy to perfection: John Cage giving you the finger, Brian Eno in a gangsta rap mugshot and Kraftwerk disguised as.. Kiss. Not surprisingly then perhaps, the best piece on offer is by German krautrock pioneer Hans-Joachim Roedelius. "Frag's Pferd" is sinister and sinuous sci-fi for the ear, disembodied sounds culled from field recordings interleaving with sumptuous string arrangements and distant spacey synth bleeps to great effect. Michelle Kinney's "I Don't Like Americans" is an odd opener for an album of electronic music, starting as it does with a voice and a cello, but, with Cage's finger in mind, perhaps Blackburn had his sights set on some kind of political gesture. Peter Blasser's "The Moon Camera", despite its use of Supercollider, is nothing less than a quirky pop ditty (imagine a Tom Waits instrumental remixed by Cornelius), and surely the only one in history to rhyme "Topeka" with "amoeba". In stark contrast, Malte Steiner's "Signale" is resolutely austere and par for the course with its crunches and glitches courtesy of Max/MSP (at least I suppose that's what's being used - seems like Puckette's software is the latter-day equivalent of the DX7).
In his choice of artists, Blackburn has been consistently original, avoiding household names - do we really need yet more Merzbow and López? - in favour of lesser-known figures. Some of these subsequently disappear without trace (I'd love to hear more from David Jaggard after his "Mary & Ann" on Sonic Circuits VIII), others go on to produce a substantial body of work. Sawako Kato is definitely a name to watch out for (dedicated downloaders will have come across her work tucked away in mysterious corners of the Web): "Crab" does in under four minutes what a lot of electro improvisers in Sawako's homeland take a whole album to achieve. Similarly condensed is Atsushi Yamaji's "Petsound" - if there's any connection to the Beach Boys' magnum opus it's not specified - a suite of twelve tiny pieces ranging in duration from seven seconds to one minute sourced in part from field recordings (and as most of these are distinctly urban in origin, I'd better stop using that term). If information was lacking for "Petsound", Christopher Coleman's "My Grandfather's Kalimba" comes with a lengthy paragraph telling the story of the composer's grandfather's penchant for collecting. Like the text, the piece is unassuming, respectful and well mannered, but by no means dull. Nor is William Price's "Three Short Pieces for Tape #3", also apparently called "Spline", which makes one wonder what John Zorn's Godard tribute might have sounded like if he'd had C-Sound and ProTools back in 1985. Gary Verkade, who, the liner notes inform us with characteristic pizzazz, "lives in Sweden and is a consummate master" - I'll leave that for you to decide - contributes "Tenebrae 1", a suitably dark and unsettling voice-sourced piece using texts from Couperin's "Leçons de Ténčbres" and the Book of Jeremiah, while Jon Christopher Nelson's "Dhoormages" consists of three brief pieces entitled "Variation on a Door, Not a Sigh", "I Am Sitting In A …" and "Waterrun" (and no prizes will be awarded to smartass readers who write in saying which electronic classics they're paying homage to). The three dots in the second piece might be replaced by the word toilet - oops, sorry to offend transatlantic readers, restroom - as it was indeed in such a venerable theatre of operations (in Berlin) that the source sounds were recorded. Rod Stassick's "Q++", "for environmental, ultrasonic and electromagnetic sound" is a splendidly recorded and evocative nocturnal soundscape - for some reason David Dunn's "Mimus Polyglottos" (also on Innova) comes to mind, as does the work of Eric La Casa - which, in a perfect world, would have made a great closing track. But as we all know, it isn't a perfect world, so instead Barry Schraderk fists a Yamaha TX816 to pieces for just under two minutes. Great stuff, as is most of the rest of the album - though it's really worth the price of admission for those stickers. "Brian Eno has a Posse".. yo!—DW

>>back to top of May 2004 page

Improvised Music from Japan

Toshimaru Nakamura
Improvised Music from Japan IMJ 513
Sachiko M
Improvised Music from Japan IMJ 517
The guitar was originally Toshimaru Nakamura's primary musical instrument. By 1997, however, he had grown uncomfortable with the personal expressivity, physical movement and loud volume he saw as integral to the instrument, prompting him to turn instead to the no-input mixing-desk as a more suitable vehicle for his burgeoning interest in a relatively egoless and still musical aesthetic. Now he has found a way back to the instrument. As he explained in an interview with William Meyer in July 2003, "I still don't want to play the guitar like a guitar, I want to apply my no-input mixing board attitude to the guitar. It makes sense now" (see Side Guitar is the first recorded expression of this rediscovered interest. The opening rhythmic crackles might lead one to expect that Nakamura has simply used the guitar as another means of approaching the lowercase quasi-beats to be heard on such discs as 2001's No-Input Mixing Board 2 (A Bruit Secret), but a powerful sustained tone soon emerges, taking us into rather different sonic territory. Across the three tracks on the CD, the emphasis is very much on extended drone-like sounds and the changes in texture that occur as existing sounds slowly metamorphose or new lines emerge to replace or supplement them. The music almost seems suspended in the air, given over far more to the exploration of duration than the pursuit of change or development; yet it is also captivating, with both tense passages of stasis and subtle and unpredictable changes serving to open up a powerfully engaging experience. All in all, this is an excellent CD that repays close and repeated listening.
Bar Sachiko is a considerably more difficult work to like. Recorded over two days in January 2004, it contains a single 60-minute track featuring "two sine waves on one empty sampler". I find it profoundly enigmatic. Confronted with what at first glance appears to a continuous high-pitched tone that is markedly changed only twice during the course of an hour, a series of questions comes to mind: What is the appropriate volume at which to listen? Are the marked changes in perceived pitch and volume that occur when you change the position of your ears relative to the speakers intended to be part of the experience? Are the small fluctuations that seem to be detectable within the sine wave objectively present in the emissions from the speakers or just the consequences of unnoticed changes in body position or variations in attention? Should one listen intently or just let the sound flow by unattended? What is one listening out for? Bar Sachiko offers no informative answers or consoling explanations whatsoever, confronting listeners forcibly with the inherently subjective and constructive elements of aesthetic meaning and compelling them actively to engage with its lightless surface and blank depths as best they can. At times it may seem like staring into the abyss of a blind and indifferent universe, but there is something to be said for the experience of letting the mind and ears career through Bar Sachiko's crepuscular desolation and the noises from the surrounding world that it draws into its orbit. It is certainly a world away from the glib pleasures of mainstream consumption, and even if it is not something one would care to repeat every day, a confrontation with it undoubtedly raises healthily disquieting questions about the nature of music and the art of listening.—WS

>>back to top of May 2004 page

On Reify

Mount Washington
Reify RE 001
Chris Forsyth / Chris Heenan
Reify RE 002
Jeremy Drake / Stephen Flinn / Chris Heenan
Reify RE 005
The increasingly fertile Southern California scene has spawned an exciting new label in the form of Reify; these three releases all feature saxophonist / clarinettist Chris Heenan, joined by guitarist Chris Forsyth, guitarist Jeremy Drake and percussionist Stephen Flinn on Team Up and, again with Drake, a veritable gallery of improv stars on Mount Washington: trombonist Tucker Dulin, reed multi-instrumentalist Wolfgang Fuchs, bassist Torsten Müller, percussionist Martin Blume, harpist Anne LeBaron and Philipp Wachsmann on his customary violin and electronics. The octet convened at the Los Angeles home of painter Patrick Wilson for a one-off session immediately prior to 2003's LINE SPACE LINE festival, and the seven (untitled) improvisations here are the result. As several of the musicians had performed together on numerous occasions, it's not exactly a first-time meeting (Fuchs and Blume know each others' moves rather well), but there's the expected freshness and bite to the playing. Drake's spidery guitar and Wachsmann's sonic scribbles complement each other beautifully, and it's always a pleasure to rediscover LeBaron's artistry (can't let Rhodri Davies have all the gigs, can we?). Whether there was any attempt to organise or conduct proceedings isn't made clear; if there were, it would only be logical, if not, then the musicians manage to coexist successfully without stepping on each other's toes. And so they should: Fuchs, Müller and Wachsmann have an impressive track record in large ensemble improvising with the King Übü Örchestrü, LeBaron has participated in numerous Company events, and Dulin knows how to go the distance with Masashi Harada's Condanction Ensemble. When they all take off it can produce quite a racket, but the full octet line-up is used sparely.
Team Up provides an opportunity to focus in on the work of Drake (who's credited on "amplified acoustic guitar" but spends a lot of time using a bow - one might be excused for thinking he's playing a viola at times), Heenan and percussionist Flinn. In contrast to the nervous twitches of the opening "In a space of tactile familiarity", which in feel looks over its shoulder to earlier models of improvised music (Flinn's scattery chattery percussion extends the Paul Lovens / Roger Turner axis impressively), "Defamiliarizing the table" begins with an ominous rash of amp buzz from Drake and unpitched breath effects from Heenan, a vocabulary that belongs to more recent developments in improv. "Nearby objects leading others to recede" is equally slowmoving, though more concerned with pitch. The album throughout aims to steer a course between the opposite aesthetic extremes of high speed gabbiness and near-static micro-improv (several thousand miles away a similar schizophrenia pervades the music of Norway's No Spaghetti collective), which testifies impressively to the musicians' breadth of knowledge but leaves the listener unsure as to where precisely to situate the musicians.
If Heenan had any doubts as to which side of the field to run up, the duo set with Chris Forsyth helps him decide. Forsyth, who is amassing a sizeable and impressive discography, has little time for standard guitar technique, preferring to regard the instrument as a laboratory on which to carry out various experiments with diverse preparations (assisted, it would seem, by various effects pedals). In terms of sheer volume, notably on "I ask questions", during which he builds an impenetrable fortress of rough Geiger counter crackles, Heenan simply can't compete, and the delicate nuances of his bass and contrabass clarinet multiphonics are obliterated. When Forsyth leaves him some space to manoeuvre, Heenan knows how to fill it - "I listen more" is the best example (and the best title) on offer. The final track is entitled "I like the way you use language", and when both musicians actually speak the same one, things work just fine - elsewhere there seems to be some need of an interpreter.—DW

>>back to top of May 2004 page

On Charhizma

Margareth Kammerer
Charhizma CHA 023

Sabine Ercklentz and Andrea Neumann
Charhizma 024
Jimi Hendrix once said that Bob Dylan had been an inspiration to him, in the sense that not actually being able to sing very well never prevented him from going ahead and doing so. The history of popular music is full of singers whose inability to enunciate words clearly, project the voice or even pitch a note correctly became a distinctive feature of their style and (forgive the pun) charisma - in addition to any number of punk vocalists one could mention Mayo Thompson, Donald Fagen, and more recently Red and Beth Gibbons. Margareth Kammerer's voice is hardly attractive - it has something of Gibbons' hesitancy and tremulous vibrato, but is more nasal and grating and lacks the painful introspection - but it's certainly distinctive. A whole album of songs featuring just that voice and Kammerer's spare guitar playing might be a rather bald if not distressing experience, though; the variety here comes from the input of her various collaborators. Trumpeter Axel Dörner helps out on "I Carry Your Heart With Me" (more impressive than "Timeshaped Face" on the recent Charhizma compilation Labor), Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida funks up "Willow… c'est que j'aime", and Chris Abrahams provides some sensitive piano on "As Your Nightfly Dreams 2". "Facing It" is remixed by Charhizma's house technostar Bernhard Fleischmann, whose glitched triphop adds depth and resonance, while Philip Jeck uses his remix of "The Bright Stones" to superimpose layers of Kammerer's treated voice to disturbing effect. Nicholas Bussmann imbues "Open his head, baby" with menacing low end, Charhizma boss Christof Kurzmann multitracks Kammerer's voice and adds a rhythm track of subdued digital menace on his version of "I Carry Your Heart With Me", and Fred Frith fleshes out "Somewhere I have never travelled" with additional guitar and quiet percussive splatters. Only the final remix (by Odot, Lamm and Lucifer Amp), the wonderfully-titled "Estimated Population of Hell Circa 1976" - in fact another version of "As Your Nightfly Dreams" - goes over the top, drowning Kammerer's fragile timbres in a sludge of glitch hop and trademark eai sonic scribbles that add nothing at all to the song. One recalls Portishead's Beth Gibbons looking distinctly ill at ease in front of that huge orchestra in the video of "All Mine".. of course, market forces ultimately helped Ms Gibbons to overcome her fear of performing in public, but the gloomy magic of Dummy disappeared with it. Let's hope Margareth Kammerer doesn't go the same way.—DW
Berliner Andrea Neumann is doubtless well known to many PT readers for both her solo work and her collaborations with Burkhard Beins, Annette Krebs, Taku Sugimoto and others. Sabine Ercklentz, a trumpet player from Berlin who plays in both jazz groups and more "reductionist" ensembles, is perhaps less known in this milieu, but she and Neumann have been working as a duo on and off for a couple of years now. Oberflaechenspannung ("surface tension"), a partly composed studio recording from September 2002, is their debut CD release together and features Ercklentz on trumpet (mixing breathy modulations in the manner of Axel Dörner and slightly more conventional work with a mute) and electronics and Neumann on inside piano (the strings of a piano laid flat like a table-top guitar and supplemented with electronics) and mixing desk (her sound is often somewhat cleaner and brighter than on other of her recordings). This is music that combines restlessness and transient order, containing both a vigorous edginess that constantly introduces abrupt shifts in sonic terrain and emergent patterned structures or repetitive rhythms that coalesce out of the mutable streams of sound only to quickly decompose as noise accumulates within the reiterations or the ground is suddenly cut from under them. A wide range of ground is covered along the way, including the layered ventilation system emissions to be heard on other recordings by advanced Berlin musicians, electronic drones, what appears to be a musical box accompanied by plangent muted trumped and delicately plucked strings, and even a few approaches towards the outskirts of avant-garde dance music. Not every configuration conjured up by this enterprising pair is equally invested with intensity and invention, and I'm inclined to lament their intermittent dalliances with the archaic rhythmic conventions of popular music; nonetheless, this is a recording that sounds like few other recent outings from Berlin and helps to open up variegated veins of musical possibility that I hope they will continue to explore and refine in the future.—WS
>>back to top of May 2004 page


Andrew Drury
Innova 581
Drummer Andrew Drury hails from Seattle, but is now resident in New York. As a former student of Edward Blackwell, you'd expect him to swing hard and fast, and you won't be disappointed; even more impressive are his composition chops - these nine tracks run the gamut from hard-driving, almost funky, binary ("The Schwartzes") via tight Eastern European-inflected canons ("Växjö Kollektiv") and sleek balladry ("Copalis") to metrically fiendish unisons ("Anniversary of a Non-Marriage"), and to play them Drury has assembled one hell of a band: a twin reed frontline of Briggan Krauss on alto sax and clarbone (sounds like one of those Perelmanesque hybrids) and Chris Speed on tenor sax and clarinet, backed up by violinist Eyvind Kang and pianist Myra Melford and bassist extraordinaire Mark Dresser. Kang and Melford are on superb form throughout, both revealing prodigious technique and an encyclopaedic knowledge of their instruments, while Krauss and Speed complement each other beautifully, the former's rough edges (Arthur Doyle's legendary blowing on Noah Howard's Black Ark comes to mind) contrasting well with Speed's supple free-bop. Drury's charts wisely leave enough space for everyone to stretch out, but nonetheless retain their distinctive identity. John Zorn must be kicking himself he didn't snaffle this one up for Tzadik.—DW

Red Note 11
Though 4Walls have been extraordinarily active as a touring band over recent years, the group's discography has until now been limited to a brief but magnificent half hour of music released on the French Orkhestra imprint three years ago. All the more reason then to welcome Which Side Are You On, recorded direct to hard drive in September 2003. The line-up remains as ever Phil Minton (voice), Veryan Weston (piano and voice), Luc Ex (bass) and Michael Vatcher (percussion), and the material they perform just as eclectic: in addition to the group's original compositions, which set texts by Paul Haines, Lou Glanfield and Ho Chi Minh, there's French chanson in the form of Jacques Brel's "Ces gens-lŕ" and German lied (Robert Schumann's "Im Rhein"), not to mention the title track, a protest song par excellence maybe familiar to readers in a celebrated cover version by Billy Bragg recorded way back during the ill-fated British Miners' Strike. Minton's vocal talents are legendary and terrifying, but his sense of humour is acute: the first few verses of the Brel cover sound suspiciously like he's impersonating Scott Walker, who after all was the first pop singer to champion Brel's work to the English-speaking world. The band is tight as hell, as one might expect after years on the road - Luc Ex knows all about hard touring - and the recording as direct and unadorned as the group's political message.—DW

Ivo Perelman Double Trio
Boxholder BXH 038/039 2CD
It's long been something a mystery why, in these days where titanic free jazz blowing has reached a wider and more enthusiastic public (Brötzmann and Gustafsson thanks to John Corbett, Flaherty and Shoup thanks to Thurston Moore and Byron Coley..), Ivo Perelman still hasn't made the splash he so richly deserves. Without wishing to comment on the internal politics of the New York and Chicago scenes, and the influence of major players there such as William Parker and Ken Vandermark, Perelman would seem to have all the necessary qualities of alt.sax stardom: he has a big, beautiful tone, he can swing like hell (samba, rather) and, where needed, he can strip the enamel off your teeth with stratospheric blowing easily a match for the veteran free jazz screamers. In case you missed out on the fine series of albums Perelman cut for Leo a while back, this double CD on Boxholder will fill you in on what you've been missing. Appearing with a double trio line-up, bassist and drummer Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen going head on with Mark Dresser and Gerry Hemingway, Suite for Helen F. (the "F" refers to abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler), Perelman has signed one of the most monumental free jazz outings of recent years, a truly Mahlerian opus in seven parts lasting 107 minutes. As Perelman fans will tell you, the man is a talented painter too, and, given the kind of music he makes you wouldn't expect him to turn out squeaky clean Pop Art or nebulous Rothkos - paint seethes in thick layers, colours, shapes and textures collide, semi-recognisable features melt into abstraction in a frenzy of creation. The booklet to the disc contains seven of his canvases (shame there isn't a Frankenthaler in there too for comparison's sake), whose urgent pulsing forms match the double trio's music admirably. Perelman's art, both musical and visual, lives on the edge, and Suite for Helen F. is solid proof that it's a great place to be. —DW

Mal Waldron / Marion Brown
Free Lance New Series FRL-NS 0302
Portions of the Free Lance back catalogue have been returning to print lately, one welcome reissue being Songs of Love and Regret, a duet encounter between pianist Mal Waldron and alto saxophonist Marion Brown originally released in 1985. It must be said that it's the kind of disc that requires a sympathetic ear: Brown's pitching is extraordinarily eccentric, the tempos are very slow indeed, and Waldron is minimalist even by his own standards. The best track - the one you should cue up first - was in fact omitted from the original LP; it's a sixteen-minute reading of "Blue Monk" works up a far greater head of steam than the originally released seven-minute version. Waldron takes both versions at a similar pace, stalking around like a cat on the prowl, but his work on the long version is more jagged and variable, with some marvellous jabbing crescendos pushing Brown to move further outside the changes. Each musician contributes a solo performance based on the blues - a Waldron original, "A Cause de Monk" (though halfway through it turns into something of a Bud Powell tribute), and Brown's reading of Clarence Williams' "Hurry Sundown", which has a gutsiness and directness that stands at some remove from his reticence on the rest of the album. The remainder of the set is devoted to fragile balladry: a Brown composition with the intriguing title "To the Lady in her Graham Cracker Window", Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing", on which Brown sounds like a hesitant, out-of-tune Johnny Hodges, and McCoy Tyner's "Contemplation" (it's particularly interesting to see Tyner in the set list given Waldron's parallel development of a piano style grounded on the use of quartal chords). Some of this music is agonizingly slow-moving - it takes five and a half minutes on "Contemplation" before Waldron even strings together a few eighth-notes - but there's no denying its stubborn individuality. Not as satisfying a partnership as Waldron's decades-long collaboration with Steve Lacy, but well worth hearing, assuming you don't find Brown's tuning an insurmountable hurdle. —ND

Tony Malaby
Free Lance New Series FRL-NS-0305
Saxophonist Tony Malaby has been making waves for a few years now as a player on the New York scene formidably adept in both "inside" and "outside" contexts. He's been a useful sideman on a large number of recordings, and made his leadership debut in 2000 with Sabino (Arabesque), but it was in 2003 that he staked a greater claim to recognition with the simultaneous release of Adobe, a trio disc on Free Lance with Drew Gress and Paul Motian, and the Songlines disc Apparitions, with Gress and the paired drums of Tom Rainey and Michael Sarin. Though Fred Hersch's liner notes to Adobe draw comparisons with the Rollins Vanguard sessions and Ornette's early work, there's none of the bite and headlong momentum of those sessions here. In his sideman appearances Malaby is sometimes more conventionally hardnosed in the manner of so many contemporary saxophonists; here he's airy and reflective, falling in perfectly with Motian's lustrous, slinky timekeeping (as always, the drummer disposes offbeat accents with the economy and beauty of Japanese flower-arranging). The opening reading of Ornette's "Humpty Dumpty" finds a gentle radiance in it one would hardly have anticipated from its reading on This Is Our Music. The two originals that follow - "Main" and "Adobe Blues" - are rather less arresting, but the album then fully hits its stride with a haunting reading of the Argentinean song "Dorotea la Cautiva". Tucked away near the end of the album are readings of two jazz standards - "What Is This Thing Called Love" and a reworking of the changes of "All the Things You Are" called "Cosas"; in each case Malaby's improvisations have a sinuous fluency recalling Warne Marsh. Great music: you can put Adobe next to Geoff Bradfield's Rule of Three (Liberated Zone) as one of the landmark tenor/bass/drums discs of 2003.—ND

Leap Seconds
Encaustic LP
Leap Seconds is a duo consisting of bassists Peter Blundell and Neil Robinson, playing both electric and acoustic instruments in nine tracks pressed on transparent vinyl, apparently with no run-in groove on either side - thanks lads, you owe me a new stylus - nah, just joking. Recorded at home "and no overdubs have been used" (I wonder why so many improvisers feel the need to make this clear, especially for home recordings) and released in an edition of 50, it's an austere affair, hard to pin down stylistically - imagine Werner Dafeldecker playing John White and released by Saturn circa 1960 - but not without its charms and mysteries, including the strange series of numbers that adorns the press release. —DW

Matchless MRCD 49
Matchless MRCD 55
Undistilled includes three live recordings, from early 2002 performances in London and Rotterdam, of 21 minutes, 32 minutes and 8 minutes by Sakada, a trio featuring Eddie Prevost's percussion and Rosy Parlane's prerecorded sounds, manipulated in real time by Mattin on laptop. "Undistilled" it is indeed - this is raw stuff, with loud pulsing passages reminiscent of Hawkwind, and others that sound more like 1960s AMM. The disc opens with Prevost playing a rapid staccato on the cymbals, almost suggesting drum'n'bass, and a gradual wave of feedback. The energy level stays high for most of the exhilarating hour-long recording, with forward momentum provided by the percussion. Prevost uses his little motorized contraptions at several points, rattling around on the tops of his drums. There are sections where he disappears, or seems to, and the electronics come close to devolving into unimaginative glitches and squiggles, but textures soon change and fascination is rekindled. It's also refreshing to find references to capitalism and its "means of seduction," "spectacular machinery" (Situationism), "optimism of the will" (Gramsci), and Walter Benjamin in the liner notes. The pessimism of my intellect seems to grow ever more overwhelming, but music like this summons that old prefigurative impulse to "build the new world in the shell of the old."
Conditions: features Prevost and his usual trio bassist John Edwards, joined by a young "front line" of trumpet, tenor sax and piano. The music produced in six improvisations recalls (not surprisingly) AMM on some tracks ("Unutterable", "A Bright Nowhere") free jazz on others ("Digging"). Jamie Coleman's trumpet sounds quite Miles-like in places; I was struck at times that this might be the first AMM/Miles-60s-quintet fusion recording. The disc opens tentatively with Coleman playing muted trumpet and Nathaniel Catchpole playing tenor in the Evan Parker idiom. This opening track ("Never, Never") falls into that most basic free improv pattern - increasing in intensity, with trumpet and sax joined by skittering snare, and then subsiding, ending with a droning bass pattern. The second track, "Digging," is up-tempo, Zen free jazz with Miles, Trane via Evan Parker, and Prevost as Rashied Ali. The piece unfolds with a piano and sax duo, followed by a bass, trumpet and percussion trio, before the entire ensemble joins in, slows down and gets out. The third track, "Sky Pie," is more contemplative, with Alex James on piano opening in a high register with a questing pattern. He is joined by bass and percussion, and then a droning sax. The near stasis is momentarily sublime, but loses steam and goes on for about two minutes too long. "Cuckoo Cloud" picks up the tempo again, opening with a propulsive figure on bass and percussion. Prevost is in energy mode again, and the track attains the high point of intensity on the album. Once again, though, the players don't manage to sustain interest, and the momentum subsides into a long desultory passage, after which percussion and bass kick in again until the final decay. After "Unutterable", featuring eerie, strangled cries on the horns, invoking a religious ceremony of sorts, the closing title track continues in strangled trumpet mode. It becomes annoying, invoking concern for the apparent constipation of the musician himself, but thankfully evolves into a pleasant contemplative piece, with notes arising like thoughts in meditation.—RH

Kurt E. Heyl
In a recent conversation the indefatigable American improviser Jack Wright described himself as a "dirty" player - less concerned with pristine multiphonics (ŕ la John Butcher) and surgically precise hiss (ŕ la Bhob Rainey) than with the rough edges, the spit and grit of his instruments. It's a description I imagine Kurt Heyl would probably be happy to concur with; Heyl's work on tenor and soprano trombones - and simultaneously voice - is a raw and exciting combination of tight angles and grimy corners, a kind of poésie sonore articulated through and around the instrument. Comparisons are more easily drawn with Bob Marsh and Jack Wright himself (they have, of course, all played together) than they are with trombone virtuosi such as Paul Rutherford and Johannes Bauer, but Heyl's work is just as solid and life affirming. Surrounded By Fall is a collection of nine brief solos and thirteen duos with drummers - five with Matthew David, four with Al Faaet, three with Dave Wayne and one with Jon Whitsell - recorded in autumn (hence the title) 2002. At 77 minutes it's a pretty monstrous listen all in one go, but if consumed with moderation it offers numerous tantalising glimpses into Heyl's universe.
Sara Comes To Cerrillos and Other Travels
(the title refers to the visit of bassoonist / vocalist Sara Schoenbeck to Heyl's former New Mexico home base) presents the trombonist in duo and trio combinations with Schoenbeck, bassist Ben Wright, Bob Marsh on cello and Matthew David on drums. With the exception of the duo with Marsh, which was recorded live in Oakland, all the music was recorded direct to disc in Cerrillos, and the honest, open (but by no means substandard) sound of the home recording complements the freshness of the improvising to perfection. As one might expect, the interaction between the trombonist and the other wind and stringed instruments leads to a different dynamic than the choppy surface of Surrounded By Fall, which makes the final duet with David - the only track featuring his percussion work - stick out somewhat (one wonders if this wouldn't have been more at home on the other album). As further proof of the energy surging through the US improvised music scene at the moment, both of these limited edition CDRs are worth seeking out: contact —DW

Kenny Wheeler
Psi 04.01
Evan Parker/Stan Tracey
Psi 04.02
With each release to come out of Psi's ever-spinning turnstile, Evan Parker garners more credibility as a record producer. It was a wonder at the label's advent two years ago whether or not the label would simply serve as an outlet for temporarily shelved dates from Parker and his associates. I'm glad to report that Psi's discography is shaping up in such a way as to become a healthy organism that breathes out a worthy, unique reissue program and new releases that are far more often hit than miss.
One of Psi's latest reissues is a session that has been buried for over 30 years now, since its 1973 release on Incus. At the time of Song for Someone's recording, Kenny Wheeler was on the rise as a very capable trumpeter and composer in some of Britain's various improvised music circles. His early 70s music was at a point not yet fully reconciled with its influences, but distinctive enough for fans to know they were onto something special. Such is the case with the big band-ish Song for Someone, which, while stirring among the shadows of Bill Holman and Gil Evans arrangements, bears many of the traits of Wheeler's later near-continuous string of jaw-dropping records. "Toot Toot" swings mightily, while the balladesque "Ballad Two" straddles a line dividing melancholy and hopeful perseverance, Norma Winstone's vocalising establishing itself as a key component to bring further animation to the larger group numbers. Alan Branscombe's electric piano is welcome in the mix, aligning itself with that instrument's worthy incorporation in some of the Mel Lewis/Thad Jones groups. Perhaps most interesting is the inclusion of Derek Bailey and Evan Parker on two tracks, as part of the effort to "…get special musicians from and into different areas of jazz to play together…" to quote Wheeler's brief liner notes. Bailey's guitar and Parker's not-yet-refined soprano sound utterly rebellious in their contributions, almost as if they are along to crash the party, but Wheeler's written transition from these introspective wanderings to the structurally sound is, in a word, seamless. It's been a long wait, but once the shock of this record's timelessness has softened, it'll feel like an old friend that's been around forever.
Were Psi a reissue-only label, it might be just as well, but Evan Parker has repeatedly shown that his own new music is still as inspiring as it was when he first learned to circularly blow arpeggios into oblivion. Suspensions and Anticipations is a record designed for Parker nuts who pine for more recordings of his tenor work. Not since Chicago Solo has Parker provided us with a better demonstration of his improvising talent on the instrument than this unlikely pairing with British jazz piano vet Stan Tracey. Apart from a small handful of solos (two from Tracey, one from Parker), S & A is an exceptional series of "what-if?" duos that result in a single, "of-course!" - Tracey's piano provides a multitude of harmonic foundations, from improvised low-register rumblings to sparing swing and stride motifs, which are embellished (and often undercut) by Parker's tenor. The numbers' development is hardly predictable, though; the music is the product of two musicians from adjacent fields of activity whose techniques and ways of departure turn out to be uncannily complimentary. The disc's resolve ultimately comes from a study of the three solo numbers, whose presence lends a world of insight to the collaborative processes of the duos. It's a set of music that will frustrate and mystify, and perhaps best suited for those who believe Parker's trick bag was zipped shut back in the 90's.—AJ

N.A.M.E. GALLERY 03.01.86
Crippled Intellect CIP 08 EP
Talk about heavy metal.. This 10" EP comes backed in two square sheets of steel, one embossed with the series number - it's an edition of 333-, the other with the artist's name. Certainly original packaging (this must be the heaviest package I've ever received, and I doubt CIP's Blake Edwards has been circulating many promo copies - unless he's just robbed a bank), but the music is unfortunately doesn't compare. Though in recent years Z'ev, born Stefan Weisser in LA, has moved away from his trademark metal bashing, this performance recorded back in 1986 is full of the old clangs and crashes. Presumably these are supposed to be cathartic in some way - the artist has after all carried out extensive research into Fluxus, poésie sonore and esoteric texts (there's even a quote from Lautréamont carved into the run-off grooves here) - but somehow one senses one ought to have been there rather than experience the work as a mere recorded document. Z'ev will presumably and perhaps unfortunately remain forever associated with the Industrial movement, but since the kind of noise that was being produced at the end of the 1970s by the likes of Boyd Rice, Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse and SPK now sounds eminently listenable - two decades of Merzbow and his peers has altered our perceptions - Z'ev's metal percussion seems to have lost something of its relevance, not to mention its clout. —DW

>>back to top of May 2004 page


Basil Kirchin
Trunk JBH 005
Last year's release of Quantum (my album of the year for The Wire, for the simple reason I've never been able to find, let alone afford, a copy of either volume of Kirchin's magnum opus Worlds Within Worlds) came with a word from producer Jonny Trunk promising more Kirchin to come. This is presumably the first instalment, but one hopes that subsequent releases will be more substantive. Clocking in at a mere 26 minutes, it consists of three sketches for what became Worlds Within Worlds and a collection of nine miniatures Kirchin provided as incidental music for an international conference of psychiatrists and psychologists (!) in London in 1968. The laid-back funk of the instrumental ensemble on "Charcoal Sketches", which includes amongst others Kenny Wheeler, Alan Parker and Daryl Runswick, is accompanied by recordings of birdsong Kirchin made in Switzerland. It's pleasant enough, but somewhat inconsequential: Kirchin's genius on WWW was to juxtapose such examples of familiar musical vernacular with truly disturbing field recordings of autistic children. "States of Mind" also features Wheeler on flugelhorn, along with Evan Parker on soprano sax, Chris Karan on drums, Peter McGurk on bass and Harry Stoneham on organ, but most of these soundbites feature a string orchestra (mysteriously uncredited). As the pieces themselves bear titles related to the world of neurological disorders - "Plaques and Tangles", "Face Blind", even "Ballad of the Basal Ganglia"..- the enigmatic Mr Trunk has seen fit to invite a doctor, Rachel Genn, to provide the liner notes (following in the noble tradition of Charles Mingus on The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and, more recently, Industrial lunatic Monte Cazazza on his Worst of Monte Cazazza compilation on Mute). Shame he couldn't have asked a Kirchin enthusiast like Jim O'Rourke or Alan Licht, as the notes basically consist of little more than descriptions of the neurological disorders referred to in the titles, Dr Genn presumably not being sufficiently well-versed in musicological terminology to comment on Kirchin's soundworld. Not that there's much to comment on anyway - only three of these vignettes last longer than 90 seconds. There are some nice snatches of Evan Parker, and several well-orchestrated passages, but if you're stepping into Basil Kirchin's world for the first time you should do so with Quantum and leave this one for the completists.—DW

Mark Applebaum
Innova 602
Mark Applebaum hails from Chicago and studied at UC San Diego with, amongst others, Roger Reynolds and Brian Ferneyhough. As well as teaching at Stanford, he is a talented jazz pianist, improviser and instrument builder, and this release - his fourth for the Innova label if my arithmetic is correct - reflects all these diverse facets of his musical personality. "Plundergraphic" is an intriguing mixture of live improvisation (two instrumental groups performing Applebaum's graphic notation) and signal processing; live and transformed sound is mixed in real time by a "diffusion artist" - here Ryan Francesconi - into a complex web of activity. "Ferneyhough Remix (Affection Aphorism 1)" was written as a 60th birthday present for Ferneyhough, and consists of pre-recorded tape collaging fragments of that composer's "Bone Alphabet" (Ferneyhough had also provided his teacher, Klaus Huber, with a 60th birthday present in the form of "Fanfare for Klaus Huber") with live percussion expertly handled by Steven Schick and Ivan Manzanilla. Not sure what Mr Ferneyhough would make of it - though personally I'd be flattered to be the dedicatee of such a well-written and energetic piece - but it's probably fair to assume that he'd be more at home with it than with the album's title track, a wild seven and a half minute long superimposed improvisation for Yamaha Disklavier grand piano - imagine a frenetic jam somewhere between Fred Van Hove and Oscar Peterson with Conlon Nancarrow thrown in for good measure.
The central half hour of the album features four improvisations for the Mouseketier, an ingenious sound sculpture of the composer's design which incorporates elements as diverse as ratchets, wheels, bronze rods and astroturf (!). While the sounds Applebaum summons forth from this contraption - both in its raw state and transformed electronically - are certainly fascinating, the composer's comments in his liners are worth quoting: "Inventing a new instrument provides immediate gratification: one instantly becomes the world's greatest player of that instrument. The problem is that one abruptly realizes that one is also the world's worst player." One wonders then if Applebaum has hooked up with like-minded spirits in the world of West Coast improv - the Trummerflora Collective in San Diego, the buzzing scenes in LA and the Bay Area..- since starting from scratch and building one's own instruments is a peculiarly (though not exclusively) Californian phenomenon. Harry Partch of course comes to mind, but also Chas Smith and Gino Robair (I for one would be very keen to hear the Mouseketier go several rounds with Robair's faux-daxophone). In a more composed environment, "Scipio Wakes Up (and Smells the Coffee)", part of the Janus cycle of works Applebaum composed between 1992 and 1996, is more satisfying, thanks to the virtuoso input of the Paul Dresher Ensemble. If Ferneyhough's beard might bristle with mild indignation at the twelve bar blues in "Intellectual Property I", he'd probably dismiss the jolly japes of the closing "Pre-Composition" out of hand; Applebaum's vocal work for eight track tape, each track corresponding to the inner voices that he claims challenge his every move as a composer ("Stupid Idea Guy", "Diplomatic Guy", "Body Guy", "Critical Guy", "Intellectual Guy", "Dumb Question Guy", "Technical Guy" and "Organizer Guy"), is hilariously tongue-in-cheek. You may not like the idea of composers taking the piss out of themselves, but Applebaum's work throughout this piece and the others on the album is carefully structured and brilliantly executed. I await the forthcoming release of his work on Tzadik with interest. —DW

Michčle Bokanowski
Trace 017
Patrick Bokanowski's 1982 film "L'Ange", available from if you're interested, is something of a classic in the genre of experimental cinema (though I'll admit to not having had the pleasure of ever seeing it), but its original soundtrack composed by Bokanowski's wife Michčle has until now not been available on disc. Throughout these 63 minutes of music, Bokanowksi records extracts - one is tempted to say "samples", though her work predates the advent of commercial sampling devices by several years - of the playing of violinist Régis Pasquier, cellist Philippe Muller and bassist Philippe Drogoz, plus on several tracks recordings of water droplets, miscellaneous vocal noises and ticking clocks, and reassembles them into austere, almost minimalist, compositions. It's not without interest, though it's harmonically and texturally a bit thin (deliberately so, one imagines) and hardly as impressive as Bokanowski's Tabou on Metamkine's Cinéma Pour L'Oreille series, and is probably better appreciated in conjunction with the film for which it was originally conceived.—JB

>>back to top of May 2004 page


Rosy Parlane
Touch TO58
Iris is an enigma from its first inhalation. Broken into three lengthy sections, Auckland-based Rosy Parlane plays guitar, piano and other digital entities to craft something from another cosmos. The dreamy electronic drone has the chill of a church organ with variable weights and scales. Shadowy layers wander through a torrent of tiny electronic branches chafing the peripheral tunnel of sound. Cool tones emerge, crispy, like ice melting away to leave a vague hiss and diminishing, translucent debris. Part two opens like a cautious winter day, the title Iris seemingly informing the choreography of its snaking tonalities. Its use of field recordings throughout is like some type of reference (memory) chip reading information faster than Evelyn Wood. It's a sheer rapturous ambient coast, with distant squirming as if characters were repeatedly dropping silverware and ceramic saucers on marble-topped tables in a high-ceilinged café, heightening the sur-reality of memory, over and over again. The atmospheric light produced becomes open, free, and lush. In the last segment of the trilogy, dusk falls and the room darkens, bringing a peculiar sense of dread / repose / change. Maybe a reflection of the short life cycle of the luminous blue flower (or deep visionary inner eye) of the album title. Depending on the space you play this in it could have a hushed, background quality (your own lil' secret) or become an all-encompassing surround-sound drone mutating all other ambient noise. The nearer we come to the conclusion, the more ominous things become, until the final few minutes when the 0s and 1s seem to be edited into something akin to a waterfall breaking up into smaller bodies of water, broadening, spread with sparseness. Iris polarizes its sound the way acupuncture can completely reallocate the axis of your reflexes.—TJN

Tom Hamilton
Muse-Eek MSK 118
To create this album, whose 59'45" of music runs continuously - track indexes seem designed to facilitate navigation rather than delineate structure - Tom Hamilton collated historical chart data showing movements on the spot gold market as defined by the twice-daily London Fix, hence the title, and transformed it into music using software developed by fellow composer Michael Schumacher, the result sounding curiously like a digitised Rainbow In Curved Air - without the rocksichord, dumbec and incense. One might be tempted to wax lyrical about information overload, the all-pervasive influence of market forces on every aspect of modern life, and so on and so forth, but ultimately all we're left with is a piece of music, which is very attractive (I especially like the "please play softly" instruction on the disc itself - that makes a change) but about as likely to have a major impact on your life as, er, the price of gold. —JB

Paolo Raposo / Carlos Santos
Sirr 2013
Portuguese laptoppers Raposo and Santos used to go by the name of Vitriol (see Sirr's debut mini CD randonée 0.06), though I guess they abandoned that moniker to avoid being confused with some shitty metal group. Just as well, as music of such craftsmanship and subtlety would be lost on the Marilyn Manson fan base; these six tracks are as elusive and elegant as their Portuguese titles (remind me to move to Portugal someday), slowmoving and laminal though never spacey and ambient, and packed with juicy detail enough to richly reward repeated listening. The source material used, much of it culled from field recordings made in the Portuguese countryside, is diverse and evocative in itself, though astutely manipulated with Max/MSP software and high-frequency electronic squiggles emanating from a no-input mixer. Despite being self-declared members then of what Bernhard Günter somewhat disparagingly described as the "Max Faction" (in his recent interview for PT with Dan Warburton), Raposo and Santos are not content to let that awesomely powerful software package dictate proceedings. Insula dulcamara is certainly one of the most musical electronica outings of recent times, and is strongly recommended.—JB

Brandon Labelle
Sirr 0017
Concert is American composer Brandon Labelle's collection of installation soundtracks for works created over the past few years. On "Automatic Building" a wooden structure is assembled / disassembled, a slow dragging sound of planks scraping on concrete structures in a 15th Century Florentine villa (see the album cover) with organic echo full of musty cobwebs and soot. "Transportation & Recycling (proposal to the mayor)", the lengthiest track on offer at 22 minutes, was originally presented at the Ybakatu Espaco de Arte in Curitiba, Brazil, and speeds with the sounds of zooming motorcars and rush-hour traffic, Labelle's intention being to converse with his audience by mirroring the city outside by using sound and other elements including pieces constructed of PVC, fabric, wood and sound devices. In Denmark, he presented "Event and its Double" where a specially created structure replicated color and shape elements at the local Museum of Contemporary Art in a sonically spacious homage of sorts to Cage's celebrated "Black Mountain Event" (1952), while "Learning from Seedbed" refers to Vito Acconci's famous 1972 Sonnabend Gallery living performance sculpture/installation. Labelle uses the original ramped gallery floor, though allows the viewer to get one step closer to the unknowns below the surface: instead of Acconci's antics - mysteriously heard but not seen - Labelle contact-mikes the meandering of the audience itself and this crawling exploration of discovery is then relayed into the room as a broken, contorted and minimal collection of pops and excerpts.—TJN

Segerhuva Seger 9
Erik Jarl hails from Norrköping in Sweden, and since 1999 has released three other albums as Jarl, one cassette Wound Profile (LSDOT023) and two CDs, Sealed Void (Annihilvs/Force of Nature 005, 2003) and Out of Balance (Malignant TUMORCD14), which, as their titles suggest, reflect more of an Industrial influence (crossed with early Tangerine Dream) than Parallel / Collapsing. Mostly sourced from analogue synthesizers, these seven slabs of sound evolve slowly but surely in the time-honoured tradition of early minimalism; Jarl's ear for sonority is acute, and his sense of pace excellent - the music draws the listener in, and retains the attention effectively. If this had been released on a more high profile Swedish imprint like Hapna with more evocative cover art (the austere black and blue stripes aren't very enticing), I imagine the press would have jumped on it - as it is, Segerhuva releases are probably harder to track down (go to but this one is well worth the hunt. —JB

Alejandra & Aeron
Softl Music SOM302
On The Scotch Monsters Alejandra Salinas and Aeron Bergman, who run Barcelona's Lucky Kitchen label, rework this selection for the third time (earlier versions were presented in installation format - "Revisionland" presented in Scotland and curated by Diskono - and a limited vinyl run on Germany's Bottrop-Boy) in the form of sixteen tracks. None is longer than four minutes and each is dedicated to an individual spirit entity, and they combine to form a larger narrative. Softl Music's Frieda Luczak creates exquisitely simplified CD sleeves folded in and around like a brain teaser, kind of a peek-a-boo pop-up book (here a muted Day-Glo orange) with no real way in unless you destroy the jacket. Compellingly secretive. So was the installation, in which, in accordance with Scottish folklore, the duo buried mushroom shaped speakers that relayed their field recordings and atonal static directly into the soil, a forceful electronic barrier to ward off evil spirits with names such as The Red Caps, Trooping Fairies and The Gray Man. There's something holistic and wise in Salinas and Bergman's deconstruction of their work for presentation, a distance that throws into relief the creativity of the composition, which mixes an organic, handmade love of sound - a baby cries, water runs, random chimes tinkle, cowbells clang - with the eerie whistling inventions of the laptop. Call it fictional docu-audio. The primitive nature of The Scotch Monsters is engrossing in its depth, tribally poignant and totally conceptual.—TJN

Joel Stern / Michael Northam
Ground Fault GF 027
Utah-born Michael Northam is often associated with what might be described as the maximalist tendency in electronic composition (along with Seth Nehil and John Grzinich, with whom he has often worked), building complex systems out of basic sonic molecules; for his 2001 Absurd release From within the solar cave he superimposed recordings of his source material up to 512 times to create one of the most extraordinary soundscapes of recent years (good luck hunting down a copy, though). The textures on Wormwood are just as rich and mysterious, though as not as dense, and the sound sources occasionally reveal their identity (fragments of birdsong, bells, amp buzz..). Sourced from a single late night recording session in December 2002 in East London, where Australian electronician Stern had been living for three years, these five (untitled) tracks use diverse objects and instruments, environmental recordings and feedback systems, manipulated electronically to produce a complex sonic web, generally slowmoving and reflective in character. "What interests me is remembering that as human beings we find ourselves constantly involved in complex and hyperviolent systems," Northam told Frédéric Claisse in an extensive and fascinating interview in the French magazine Revue & Corrigée 47 (March 2001). Wormwood isn't exactly hyperviolent - mildly disturbing at times, perhaps - but it's certainly complex. It's also eminently listenable, and another fine addition to expanding Ground Fault catalogue. —DW

>>back to top of May 2004 page

Copyright 2004 by Paris Transatlantic