MAY News 2005
(Part I)
Reviews by Clifford Allen, Stuart Broomer, Nate Dorward, Vid Jeraj, Joe Milazzo, Massimo Ricci, Nicholas Rice, Dan Warburton:

In concert: NO IDEA Festival
On Free America:
Roswell Rudd / Alan Shorter / Emergency / Frank Wright
Philip Samartzis
Alex von Schlippenbach: MONK'S CASINO
Roland Kayn's TEKTRA
POST ROCK: Lau Nau / Wolf Eyes / FS Blumm / Lugosi
Bill Frisell / Fred Hess / Ravish Momin
Denzler, Guionnet, Unami, Kinoshita / Activity Center & Phil Minton / Martin Küchen / Bullock, Dulin, Hennies / Koch -Schütz - Studer / Sawaï, Doneda, Imai, Lë Quan, Saitoh
Pierre Boulez / Combustion Chamber / GM Koenig / Albert Mayr / Barry Schrader
Ruhlmann / Dronaement / Aube / Zavoloka / Andrey Kiritchenko / Ratkje & Marhaug / Nurse With Wound / Coleclough & Lethe / Martux_m
Last month


Well, not many people seemed to spot the April Fools joke in last month's Editorial, though I did get one earnest enquiry about Pisces records – fishy, non? – and its founder (flounder, more like) Olivier Flétan (that's French for "halibut", by the way). And for a minute I totally fooled Alex Bellenger and Will Guthrie who sent panic-stricken emails.. but they always take themselves far too seriously anyway. Talking of taking things to heart, you should read Robert D. Rusch's reaction to what I thought was a complimentary review of Marco Eneidi's CIMP release American Roadwork back in January. See the Letters Page, which, judging from the amount of correspondence I receive is ignored even more than my editorials. So I'll keep this brief, because there's a LOT in this month's issue, as you'll see. Welcome on board Joe Milazzo, formerly of Bagatellen (not really PT's sister site, but maybe a half-sister site), and Stuart Broomer, esteemed editor of Coda magazine. Happy 80th birthday to Pierre Boulez – actually it was March 26th so I should have wished him that in last month's Edito, except I was too busy with the fish – hopefully our man in New York Nicholas Rice is due to hook up with PB for another exclusive interview, following on from Josh Cody's a while back (1993.. has it really been that long?). Also nice to read – on Bagatellen – that the Flying Luttenbachers' percussionist Weasel Walter is a big Boulez fan. I dread to think what Maître Boulez would make of Weasel's stuff. But I'm a lucky lad because I like 'em both. If you're reading this stuff, there's a good chance you do too, so bonne lecture.—DW

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Austin, Texas, 31st March – 2nd April 2005
Photographs by Tatsuya Nakatani
For three springs running, the sprawling, dusty Texas state capital has hosted one of the finest creative improvised music festivals in the world. Organized and curated by percussionist Chris Cogburn (Austin-based, by way of New Zealand and Eugene, Oregon), the 2005 No Idea Festival featured, over the course of three evenings and one afternoon, performers from as close as Houston and New Mexico and as far away as San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, New York, Portland and Seattle. Although several musicians had not played together before, No Idea was also a reunion of sorts. The free improvisation community in the United States is neither as small nor as exclusive as one might imagine, but is nevertheless geographically dispersed and of necessity nomadic. Musicians such as these, who play largely for their own satisfaction, assuming a certain amount of personal and financial hardship, are highly (if not upwardly) mobile individuals. To take a few examples: double-reed virtuoso Kyle Bruckmann, never really a Chicago stalwart, has now moved to the less "insular" Bay Area (where it's easier to survive on symphony jobs and tutoring opportunities); percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani was raised in Osaka, but lives in South Bronx and tours frequently while maintaining strong ties to Boston's creative music community; and turntablist Maria Chavez is soon to depart Houston's thriving noise underground for New York. Nor can either the Texas locals or the visiting participants be viewed as representatives of any one "scene", much less school / approach: "lowercase" improv, contemporary music / extended techniques, insect music, free jazz, free psychedelia, Deep Listening, circuit-bending, sound art.. It makes more sense to consider the musicians present at this year's No Idea festival in the context of their playing relationships, newly established as well as renewed and extended.
Despite lingering violent thunderstorms in the area, Thursday evening's first set at the Church of the Friendly Ghost, an old rambling frame house in East Austin's predominantly Hispanic southern quadrant, began promptly at 8:15, with a quartet consisting of guitarist and former No Idea co-organizer Kurt Newman, Nick Hennies on percussion (both are Austin-based and involved in at least two other projects, The Long Telegram and The Weird Weeds), Kyle Bruckmann on oboe, and Bostonian Vic Rawlings on prepared cello and electronics. The first sound of the festival was actually that of a not-so distant chainsaw, as the residents of the house behind the Church disposed of an oak that had cracked in the storm. The performance nonetheless began so quietly that I was worried that the sound of ballpoint pen on rough recycled paper might intrude as I wrote "this ensemble does not need my scratching." After much head-bowed, taciturn scraping, Newman decided to test established decorum by unleashing a penetrating high-pitched frequency: feedback given laser-like focus. The sound seemed to spin slowly around the room, heating the already stuffy air up even further, until he allowed it to dissipate and reveal crackling acoustic activity underneath. With this, the proceedings hit a very early peak: it was as if Newman had stepped outside the group, sampled loud indifference, and then stepped back in with the aim of silencing himself, revealing how intensely all had been listening from the start. Newman stood out, but Rawlings, bowing his wired instrument as if he were defusing a bomb, was the true man of the hour, making us redefine the nature of tentative, hearing it instead as delicate, even fragile.
The second set consisted of a single improvisation by cellist / vocalist Audrey Chen (Baltimore) - photo - and saxophonist David Gross (Boston), who had never performed together, yet managed to produce some very visceral, edge-of-your-seat music. All the more remarkable since the sounds they employed were largely just those of breath: tiny operatic pipings and strangulated inhalations from Chen and guttural, faintly honking expulsions of air from Gross that seemed less to pass through his horn than to envelop it (very rarely was his alto actually "in" his mouth). As breathlessness began to punctuate the performance, Chen and Gross began to adopt contrary positions, Gross becoming coarser and more extreme, while Chen was caught in a reverie of languorous preparation. Gross's canyons of sound, craggy, bright at the edges but dark within, were whipped by groaning, howling and screaming winds – but Chen was imperturbable. She pressed her mouth to the wood of the cello, kissing it, turning it into an oversized wind instrument, before heaving it into its traditional position and bowing quavering melodies. She cast a glow that seemed to neutralize Gross, rendering his contributions somehow sere, unproductive. The more she played, the happier she seemed, and the more unreachable. She signaled the end of the performance by tapping Gross on his knee, as if to say "you can stop now" – but it was if he'd slipped out of the music long before.
Next up was a quartet of Rawlings, Cogburn, Tatsuya Nakatani, and Seattle-based pianist and tape manipulator Gust Burns, which began with the ethereal sounds of chimes, simulated wind noises (courtesy of Rawlings), Nakatani rubbing shells together, empty bowls rocking against and inside each other, and bowed cymbals. Initially, it was difficult to tell what Burns was adding to the mix, but as the group's collective sound gained in density it became clear how much he was shaping the performance. Not by processing the music at hand and dumping it back into the ensemble, but by building to an unconventional rhythmic and harmonic convergence (A-flat, Jack Wright confirmed afterwards) using the doubled, redoubled sounds of his machines chugging in fast forward or rewind, then stopped, then cued again. Even the springing back of pressed recorder buttons, the clicking of cassettes being shut inside the recorders, and the noise of tapes being pulled out of and inserted back into hard plastic cases became important. Cogburn and Nakatani both seemed especially inspired, Cogburn even going so far as to reconfigure his kit at one point by removing a cymbal from its stand to place it on a drum head. The piece ended with the spooling out of a distant player piano – in reality a taped snippet of Burns himself in a rapid and furiously complex echo of the tiny bells that had been tolling throughout.
The final set, a quartet consisting of Jack Wright on soprano sax, his Albuquerque-based son Ben Wright on double-bass and musical saw, Maria Chavez on turntables, and No Idea "regular" Bryan Eubanks of Portland on soprano sax and modified electronics, was quite different. From moment to moment the piece could have been anything: harsh, lyrical, droning, chirpy, lucid, inscrutable, restrained, garish, circular, linear, colorful, monochromatic, confrontational, cooperative, mocking, generous, angry, sullen. In short, it was a wonderfully puzzling realization of free improvisation's central tenet, that the music commit itself to the most interesting possible sound. Some remembered instants, not all of which can be construed as highlights: Jack Wright, wearing a gravy-brown slouch fedora, angling for a muted sound and bending nearly double to press the bell of his soprano close to his calf; the twin motors of turntables and contact-miked, "empty" reel-to-reel tape machine grinding out overtones; Chavez's tone arm hovering and hopping across the pocked surface of a broken picture disc; the Buchla-like sounds before the piece, and with it the first evening of the festival, came to an abrupt end..
April Fool's Day dawned chill and azure in Austin, and a north wind was still blustering when the guitar trio of Susan Alcorn, Kurt Newman and Sandy Ewen took to the stage. It was Ewen's only opportunity to play over the course of the festival, and she demonstrated a nice touch with her slide: not a blade, bottle-neck or bone, but a fat stick of yellow chalk, infused with glitter, which pulverized during the performance and left a chance mandala at her feet. Alcorn is a heroic figure in Texas experimental music, one of the state's most accomplished improvising musicians. The pedal steel guitar she plays is as iconic in country and western music as the tenor saxophone in jazz. By virtue of its design – no frets, just steel bars of varying weights and thicknesses that may be placed anywhere on the instrument's neck – it's capable of marvelously subtle expressive and harmonic effects, spacious but meticulously outlined. The trio adhered to a cloud formation ethos, Alcorn and the more droning Ewen providing lulls and swells, with Newman picking out the feathered edges. What a shame that the results were so diffuse. The musicians gave themselves opportunities, but they chose to make it lovely rather than lonesome, queasy instead of genuinely uneasy.
Nick Hennies and David Gross played next (Gross announced that they were playing under the band name "We Love You"), an inspired pairing of the extrovert and the introspective in three pieces, each one louder and more unrelenting than the last. Gross employs a whole range of fugitive sounds but he's no "reductionist" – that chesty, flutter-tongued fffftttt is altogether too goofy, like being tackled and slobbered on by an over-affectionate Saint Bernard. Hennies, on the other hand, is his own minimalist. With just a snare drum, violin bow, and a small collection of sticks and rubber-headed mallets, he rarely if ever strikes his instrument, preferring instead to coax sharp, dry, but persistent sounds from the membrane.
The four remaining sets that evening can be discussed in terms of even-odd pairs: the even-numbered sets were OK, the odd-numbered ones astounding. The fourth set originally was to have featured a quartet of Burns, Chavez, Eubanks and bassist Juan Garcia, but Garcia was indisposed and what could have been a shrewdly paced performance by an ensemble equal parts acoustic and electric essentially became a noisy electronics trio – noisy in the least flattering sense of the word. The sixth and final set (Audrey Chen, Ben Wright, Dave Dove on trombone and Jason Jackson on reeds) started strong, but became progressively muddier. It was a kind of geological collapse, as the smoother, dawdling layers of trombone, bass and cello could remain buoyant for so long before the rapidly alternating currents of voice, saxophone and eventually cello too caused them to sink. The temperature of the performance dropped, and the ensemble, like the audience, was left to observe as it petered out.
The Bruckmann / Dove / Nakatani / Rawlings set involved the purposeful accretion of musical material that sounded as if the quartet might be playing a very loose interpretation of Terry Riley's "In C"; four serious competitors, each with his singular skills, challenged one another to withstand the consequences of every ricocheting volley. At one end of the stage was Nakatani, ingeniously anticipating so much of the music and applying his favorite techniques, such as taking a bisected cymbal to his drumhead and "accidentally" knocking parts of his kit to floor. Dove dive-bombed the ensemble with shattered portamento effects and circular-breathing rowfls, waahhhhs and eeyahs, using his mutes as a form of camouflage. Bruckmann was the group's most impressive contrarian, calling upon his full range of splitting and sputtering tones. Rawlings - photo - was, true to form, elusive, taking on the difficult tasks of beginning and ending the performance. The conclusion was one of the highlights of the entire festival, as Rawlings, his collaborators looking spent, cued something that sounded like a theremin, which trilled on and on, a circle crossing and interpenetrating countless other broken rims and derelict hemispheres, diverted into constantly turning away from its own completion.
The set by the Cogburn / Newman / Wright trio was the closest No Idea came to serving up "free jazz." It hit with the force of a Cecil Taylor endurance test – the gestures were familiar, but the context was utterly strange. Energetic, but anything but ecstatic – excoriating, more like. It began with a collective burst, all three men coming in on the same "beat" and accelerating away from it, so that, almost instantly, it felt as if they had always been playing. Newman's tone was clear, stinging, and mostly free of effects, his attack stabbing, his vocabulary riffing. Wright snarled, bellowed, and shrieked on his alto and soprano saxophones, marking off his territory but also expanding its perimeter. It left little room for Cogburn, and yet, without playing catch-up, it was the percussionist who always reached those pockets of air first, with chin tucked into his chest and arms and hands gliding aloft with the muscular precision of a tai chi master. It was all about momentum, rhythm. For a few seconds, Wright, Newman and Cogburn synchronized in a near-funk syncopation, each musician literally pistoning in place, but not one of them appeared to have apprehended the fact. Another magical moment.
On a cloudless day, Saturday's proceedings began with an improvisation workshop at noon at the Church of the Friendly Ghost. It drew a large crowd, and must have supplied a bizarre accompaniment for the bargain-hunters who'd stopped to browse at the several nearby yard sales. Saturday's concerts proper relocated to a new venue, The Red Door, just a few blocks north of the Church. This was a corrugated steel building in a complex that was either a converted military barracks, a warehouse space for hospital surplus, or something even more nefariously industrial and mysteriously run-down. The atmosphere at the Red Door was as friendly as the Church, yet less cozy – it was an ideal location for the only two No Idea musicians to perform solo at the festival, Tatsuya Nakatani and Kyle Bruckmann. In a sense Bruckmann's set (which followed Nakatani's) was as much an installation as a performance, a well thought out duet arranged for double reed instruments and amplifier. It began with Bruckmann cueing Dave Dove to switch on the buzz at the back of the room – and immediately the temperature seemed to rise. Bruckmann then commenced with a series of miniatures on English horn and oboe, exploring a discrete idea until he had bled it of all interest or transformed it into another one altogether. It was cerebral, certainly, but also psychologically incisive, subliminally disconcerting and quite hypnotic. Overtones, microtones, Joujouka tropes, pennywhistle screams, whinnyings, sputterings, the sounds of breath simply pushed down and then drawn back up the horn: Bruckmann exercised incredible control over them all. Even the tiniest sounds had an unmistakable presence, as if they were recreating his mouth, distending it so that the whole audience found itself inside.
In contrast, Tatsuya Nakatani's solo was very much concerned with continuity, a showcase for his ability to create erratic but utterly beautiful sounds by bowing gongs and cymbals, tapping wood blocks and clattering singing wooden bowls, dropping nails or metal rods onto drum heads, sawing cymbals across drum skins, and even actually kicking his bass drum. If Cogburn and Hennies work mainly with friction, Nakatani - photo - is a virtuoso of pressure. At one point he took a cymbal in each hand and employed them in a sort of pantomime, his tom-tom becoming the ring in which the two metal wedges wrestled. Yet the real drama was to be found in the performance's transitions, which were so subtle that by the time one became aware of them Nakatani had moved on to something else. One became caught up in one's own expectations. Was that a complete idea, or merely a bridge to another sound? And what next? At the edge of the stage was a piece of equipment about two feet tall consisting of a conical base and a spring topped by a thin, flat, circular plate. Nakatani spotted it, grabbed it, bowed it, struck it and then dragged it offstage, around the audience, all the way to the open area behind the performance space itself. I turned to watch him rocking what looked like a giant, cracked and rusted Easter egg back and forth. It rang out as it struck the ground, but there was some hidden substance inside vibrating with a sympathetic wow and flutter – rainwater that had collected there on Thursday night and only partially evaporated. Without warning Nakatani stood back from the object, allowing it to come to rest; a starling cackled, an owl hooted, and the performance was over.
There were two additional sets at the Red Door on Saturday afternoon, the first of which featured Jack Wright and Jason Jackson, who joined Nakatani to make an intriguingly mismatched trio. Wright revels in being able to execute just about any sound that comes to mind, but Jackson is, in the main, is a very spare improviser. His body language speaks of someone playing only with great reluctance, and often in a posture suggesting that his aim is to make it as difficult as possible to detect when he is playing and what he is doing. Here he played alto sax, harmonica, a duck call strung around his neck (no Zorn jokes please) and a trombone with a saxophone mouthpiece. He favored purring sounds, played peek-a-boo behind a plunger mute, and revolved slowly on a piano stool, lazily spraying the audience with a faint raspberry. Wright and Nakatani did all they could to stir him, but he either remained unmoved or flew out of their grasp. Eventually, Wright 's sweet cajoling took on a sinister undertone, to which Jackson responded with a wonderfully grouchy obbligato. This let to a sort of trading of fours, and suddenly Nakatani erupted, playing a "jazzy" 4/4 that the horn players could not ignore, turning the performance inside out with perverse elation. Only with this development did Jackson's inspired subversiveness really come to the fore. Unfortunately, it was soon over – but not before a ravishing solo from Wright.
After an early dinner supplied by Ruby's BBQ (Joe McPhee is a big fan, and the eatery also supplies T shirts to Mats Gustafsson's trio The Thing), the afternoon sets concluded with two duos by Dave Dove and Chris Cogburn, and a final trio with Jack Wright. Dove is an educator with ties to Houston's MECA arts community center, and Sandy Ewen, Juan Garcia, Jason Jackson, and Maria Chavez have all studied with him. He and Cogburn also have a history of improvising together outside of the No Idea festivities, and one can only describe the empathy that presided over their performance as unique. Cogburn's brittle, pointillist commotion and Dove's vivid, elastic sonorities intertwined as time seemed both to dilate and double-back on itself. One had the sense that each man was always looking past what they were doing toward some future – the end of the music itself. Suspended in a mesh, yet perpetually aware that one could slip out of the music through any one of the gaps in the pattern it was creating. Silence on either musician's part was of paramount importance, perhaps more than in any of the festival's other sets, as a juncture at which the music could – should – end. Adding Wright, who played under these circumstances with a much softer edge, only upped the stakes. Resolution lurked behind every crease the trio turned back, and yet, like a map or piece of paper on which only a few scattered marks have been made, the map could never be completed unfolded or returned to its original compression.
Saturday evening's performances back at the Church were simply not of the same quality as the music at the Red Door. Either too loose or too tight, they made for a relatively subdued close to the weekend. At their best, they were acutely ambivalent and quite mysterious, even profoundly so, but that was not the case with the first group, a quartet consisting of Bruckmann - photo -, Cogburn, Eubanks, and Newman. The two pieces they played were just too AMM-y for this listener's taste (I'd much rather hear AMM used as point of departure rather than treated as terra incognita to be explored); the beginnings were much stronger than the endings. In the first piece Newman plucked out a regular "tick-tick-tick-tick", desultorily jamming on the introduction to Pavement's "Grounded" or the post-orgasm section of Television's "Marquee Moon"; in the second, it was Eubanks and Bruckmann spurring each other on like two xenophobes viciously imitating the hard consonants in a foreign language they will never comprehend. It was precisely this dynamic daring that short-circuited both improvisations. Metal triumphed over wood, falsetto drowned out bass, and the music's finer sounds could only serve as a kind of sentimental regretfulness.
For the next set, Maria Chavez and David Gross were joined by Austin's Rick Reed. Reed, like Alcorn, is one of Texas' most dedicated free improvisers, and has performed in all manner of experimental settings since the 1980s. His set-up for this evening consisted of a Mini-Moog, some vintage-looking oscillators and a short-wave radio set. With Gross now seated at an i-Book, processing the entire festival so far via conversations he had taped with Sandy Ewen and Tatsuya Nakatani over the last three days, and Chavez spinning with more abandon than in her other performances, the trio looked as if they were seated at a massive Ouija board, calling back recently departed spirits, a gabble of voices speaking louder than they ever could in real life. Chavez supplied further spikes in volume and texture, but they soon became tiresome. More interesting were her ironic uses of identifiable found sound, Reed's painstaking scattering of drawn out whoops and hums – does "Dangerous Ambient" need to enter the critical lexicon? – and Gross' smart-ass decision to launch at one point into a karaoke version of "Young At Heart". Even so, the music was often jumbled, less a collage than a hodgepodge.
How peculiar and yet fitting that this should be followed by some of the most gorgeous music of the entire weekend. Susan Alcorn, Audrey Chen, Jason Jackson and Tatsuya Nakatani played four pieces (itself unusual, in that the great majority of the No Idea sets had consisted of single long spans of music), each successive improvisation feeling as if it were disclosing something new and delightfully estranging. They began inauspiciously enough, with Jackson essentially off-stage, his back turned to the rest of the ensemble, playing soft, indecisive alto tones into the wall. Alcorn and Chen, who sang with incredible purity, kept widening their embrace and gradually wore down his apparent resistance. Jackson duly made his entrance, as it were, by jingling the change in his pockets and throwing coins to the floor. A rude, not to mention unimaginative, gesture, perhaps, but it worked perfectly, unleashing an avalanche of percussive sounds rumbling and echoing in its wake. Alcorn soon shifted the audience's attention to the aftermath with a chiming, melancholy phrase that elicited an almost unbearably sensitive response from Nakatani and Chen, now on cello. Hers was the central voice in the more dark and anguished second piece; what had been lit from above was now illuminated from below, with stark incandescence, as Alcorn brought the improvisation to a close with a single grandfather-clock strike of her bar against the open strings of her pedal steel. The third piece opened onto an unbelievably enormous cavern, not dark but painted in desert colors. Jackson's sense of timing was critical, as he juxtaposed all manner of rattles with an array of mouthpiece clicks and pops while Chen held a note until her voice dried out and broke up. Nakatani offered swabbing, pillowy gong sounds, a gentle smothering, as Jackson exhaled and the cavern became nothing more than an empty bottle. The audience called for one more, and the ensemble obliged: Jackson took up his clarinet and introduced a looping scalar figure, subsequently embroidered by the group into one of Morton Feldman's beloved Persian carpets.
No Idea's final performance featured the sole quintet of the festival: Dove, Garcia, Hennies, Rawlings and Wright - photo -, in a lovely, subdued and ultimately poignant performance, one best described in terms of a group of questions. How quiet can one play without being silent? How little may one play without fully stopping? How vociferous without being a nuisance? How alike can sounds be while still retaining their distinct identities? How much must they revolve until they come round again to where they started? And what really happens in the meantime? In the weeks since leaving Austin, my recollections of No Idea have only led to further questions. Is "improv" the new "indie"? Why else are so many young people now drawn to this music? Is it because improvised music is emotionally fresh in ways more hardened musical forms cannot be? If free improvisation is "about" the continual interrogation and constant reinvention of sound, tonality, dynamics, musical intention, well-formedness, beauty, legitimacy – no content, no composer, no conductor – even of self-expression, is it any surprise that this program can so easily expand to encompass churning revisions of what it means to be a musician, what makes for an ensemble, who the audience is and what they do, what the parameters of the musical work are, what a musical commodity is, and what defines the cultural economy of music itself, at every level, and at every opportunity? Is there anything truly "extra-musical" about free improvisation? It is not that these musicians are consciously trying to resuscitate the counter-culture, but there's also no escaping its valorization of opposition and liberation in what they do.
There's one more question: the festival a "success"? To these ears, that designation presumes too much. I came back to Dallas with a head crammed full of highway sunshine and music, flopped down on my couch and pulled out my one souvenir of No Idea 2005, the program that was still warm from the photocopier when I received it late on the afternoon of the 31st. In the glare of the laptop screen, with an East Texas April exploding green outside the window, this document was less of a reminder of what had happened than a prompt for me to extend the music several days into an imaginary – since lapsed – future. What if Jackson and Eubanks had played together.. I wish Chen had played with Chavez, Burns with Reed and Dove, Ben Wright with Rawlings and Nakatani.. But permutations, like questions, inevitably exhaust themselves, and can be erased – and repeated. I know that if I hear the recordings of the music at No Idea 2005, I will in all probability have to reverse every one of my opinions and reconstruct all of my stories. So never you mind them. Better yet, just forget them.—JM

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Free America
Roswell Rudd
Verve Free America 067868
Alan Shorter
Verve Free America 067864
Verve Free America 9086917
Frank Wright
Verve Free America 067940
Of the record labels to cash in on the newly found marketability of expatriate African-American free jazzmen working in Paris in the early 1970s, a much subtler series than that of the infamously mismanaged BYG Actuel label was Musidisc’s America subsidiary. Formed in the late 1960s to reissue budget versions of much of the Fantasy catalog in the French market, producer Pierre Berjot was enlisted to spearhead a series of avant-garde recordings starting in 1969. The sessions themselves were recorded primarily between 1969 and 1973 (with notable exceptions from Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Roswell Rudd), and the records released in a couple of batches from around 1971 onward. Unlike the Phaidon-like seriality of the lavish white, grey and black Actuel gatefolds, America releases came in single-sleeve jackets with varying color schemes and photographs on the front. And while BYGs were (and are) notorious for their often uneven engineering, poor mastering and comically wretched pressings, the America sessions were evenly balanced recordings mastered to quality vinyl pressings. In what might be one of the most lucrative and unprecedented reissue programs in recent memory, Verve/Universal has decided to put fifteen of the original twenty-five America free jazz releases on CD, featuring 24-bit remastering, extensive liner notes and luscious gatefold packaging.

Though America is generally not considered one of the more nefarious of French jazz labels, one of the releases in this flagship series is an unauthorized bootleg that its namesake has disowned: Roswell Rudd. Recorded in 1965 by Radio Holland in a broadcast concert, the session features what might arguably be the final recording of the New York Art Quartet (before the group reformed in 2000) on four originals, two of which reappeared on Rudd’s Everywhere (Impulse!, 1966), and Monk’s “Pannonica.” Trombonist Rudd is joined by regular foil Danish altoist John Tchicai, drummer Louis Moholo (who had recently left South Africa) and Dutch classical bassist Finn von Eyben. For this tour, regular NYAQ drummer Milford Graves stayed behind in the United States, while Rudd and Tchicai soldiered on (Tchicai stayed on in his home-city of Copenhagen following this sojourn) with what might be the strongest pickup band they could have encountered. Rudd’s gritty freedom and bawdy humor are matched perfectly by the dry, acerbic surrealism of Tchicai’s solos, which look back to Steve Lacy and forward to the less-bluesy Anthony Braxton recitals. Tchicai tends to multiphonics more frequently here than in some of his earlier work, signifying a marked change that would appear in his solos after 1965. Von Eyben, not your average Scandinavian pickup bassist, is genuinely inspired by the music, offering not only powerful timekeeping, but vicious arco affairs that would give Alan Silva a run for his money. Moholo deserves special mention, as he is in many ways the focus of this recording. He is a far more repetitious drummer than Graves, slowly closing in the circles of his rhythms and building intensity through insistence to drive the band upward and outward. Like Tony Williams, Graves frequently chose to counteract and subvert soloists rhythmically which, while it does contribute to a fractured sense of time and allows melody to build motion, also gives the music a staggered, event-oriented aesthetic. (This is especially noticeable on the group’s self-titled ESP-Disk’ debut – their second, Mohawk (Fontana, 1965), presents a more unified group music that retains the unabashed experimentalism of the first date.) Tchicai’s “Jabulani” is a perfect example of Moholo’s approach – while Graves might have played the sing-song head with the angularity that it requires, Moholo’s steady rhythms propel the band forward with an effortless swing. Rudd’s “Old Stuff” (a.k.a. “Yankee No-How”) is an exercise in steady expansion and contraction, as Moholo gradually tightens his drum patterns and relentlessly increases the tempo, from the countable swinging beat that the theme implies to an unimaginably fast dance, his polyrhythms having the same overall effect as Sunny Murray’s incessant chatter. Moholo’s subtly complex drumming is the expansion and contraction of breathing, a constancy that supports Rudd and Tchicai’s flights. Interestingly, the egalitarianism that was the group’s original modus operandi (though Graves certainly was and is an ego-player) here yields to more traditional soloist-and-rhythm roles. Yet cohesiveness became a stronger factor as these more straightforward roles were reprised – a tighter sound, and a more "together" sense of movement.

It's fitting that Rudd and Tchicai found their way to the America label, as they were former Archie Shepp sidemen, and Shepp recorded four sessions for America (plus six for BYG as a leader, and many more as a sideman himself) and was one of the most prolific expat African-American jazz artists during that period. Another Shepp sideman who found a home in France and on the America roster was trumpeter Alan Shorter, the older and more "outside" brother of tenor saxophonist and composer Wayne. Alan Shorter recorded only ten records in his lifetime, half of them with Shepp and two as a leader – Tes Esat is the second of these and one of Shorter's last. Probably recorded in London around 1973 (though credited as Paris in May 1970), Shorter is joined by English tenorman Gary Windo (Brotherhood of Breath, Ray Russell Quintet, and an early member of Gong), South African bassist / multi-instrumentalist Johnny Dyani and an extraordinarily obscure percussionist by the name of Rene Augustus. Tes Esat is a sketchier and more mysterious follow-up to an already contradictory debut. Richard Williams described Shorter in the liners to the UK edition of his first LP (Parabolic on Verve-Polydor, 1969) as “today’s man walking on eggshells,” for his solos and thematic material are built from very loose, spare motifs that often act as though they might collapse – not necessarily into chaos, but non-existence. His ‘tunes’ either feature repetitive vamps over which knotty, atonal and very sparse lines make their way, or they are static ostinatos with almost nothing but a few chords voiced by the horns. The knots are formed by stitching together incomplete phrase fragments into a whole, and their seeming difficulty allows them to basically fall apart under their own weight, leading out into a variety of possibilities for the soloist. Both sessions are "typical" pianoless quartets: Parabolic featured tenorman Gato Barbieri, Charlie Haden or Reggie Johnson on basses and brothers Muhammad and Rashied Ali alternating on drums, and its compositional and improvisational elements were very tightly arranged, while Tes Esat is a significantly freer affair. It's rather like comparing Olé to Om. “Disposition” consists of a jouncy, dissonant theme that quickly lets go into an extraordinary Windo-Augustus duet, as Windo lets loose the wildest multiphonics I’ve ever heard and proceeds to build a beast of a solo, sounding for all the world like Shepp and Evan Parker run through Ray Russell’s amp and fuzzbox. When he drops out, Dyani takes over for a piano solo that seems to have nothing to do with anything that's preceded it, full of an almost romantic, classical poise while pushing forward with volcanic density. Augustus is, like Muhammad Ali on Parabolic, the perfect drummer for the job, able to propel with a strong sense of time but with an equal understanding of naked spaciousness, and Dyani gets an ample amount of room to stretch out, often unaccompanied or in duet; his bass work on “Disposition” is remarkable and the remaining pieces oddly enough feature him as the sole improviser, outlined by composed horn statements. It's difficult to say whether Shorter’s music is "likeable", as it's so difficult to make sense of. Is this sloppy and poorly intoned, also-ran improvising and unimaginative composition or the perfect springboard based on what would otherwise be shortcomings? I still haven't decided, but Shorter is definitely one of the most unique figures of his generation.

Comparatively easy to deal with, however, and also extraordinarily unique was the band Emergency, composed of Japanese, American and French improvisers, which released its first of two LPs, Homage to Peace, on America,. It was in 1970 that bassist Bob Reid, the lesser-known brother of drummer Steve, formed what was a veritable supergroup of obscure expatriate free improvisers. Reid was at the time working with Shepp and Alan Shorter as well as Bay Area reedman Glenn Spearman, an acolyte of Frank Wright who was traveling through Europe in the early 70s. Joining them were Japanese pianist Takashi Kako and drummer Sabu Toyozumi, both of whom made significant marks on the Japanese improvising community in the 70s, albeit at very different ends of the spectrum (modal versus open music), and French gypsy guitarist Boulou Ferre. The group cut Homage to Peace, in 1970 at the ORTF studios. Proceedings open with “Emergency Theme,” a minimalist ostinato for muted electric guitar, piano and arco bass that provides a uniquely tense backdrop for Spearman’s raw, preachy tenor. The colorful blend of traditions is immediately apparent, almost to a confusing fault. Spearman falls easily into the post-Ayler mode, but at this point in his career he was much more primitive, taking cathartic gutbucket tenor playing as his starting point, but in a way less dissociative than contemporary Arthur Doyle. Combining this with wah-wah heavy electric guitar (strange, considering that Boulou and his brother Elios have made most of their music in homage to Django Reinhardt) and Kako’s very dense yet relatively tonal piano (Tyner and Few are perfect comparisons) makes for a rather heady sonic stew, pulling in the directions of ecstatic jazz, psychedelic rock and somewhat hamfisted classicism all at once. Spearman drops out almost completely for a compellingly moody quartet reading of “People in Sorrow,” the Roscoe Mitchell symphony as arranged by Toyozumi, who studied with the AEC (and whose Message to Chicago LP contains a monstrously free reading of the same piece). “Kako Tune” is the most interesting track here, a pastoral theme elaborated by the wonderfully fleet Ferre, whose folky, Django-esque phrasing cuts through all the better with fewer guitar effects, approaching the soulful wizardry he presented in duet with Gunter Hampel the same year (Espace, on Birth). Call it blasphemy, but the problem with Homage to Peace seems to be Spearman, as his squalling tenor (his soprano is only briefly present for “Kako Tune”) appears to throw Kako, Ferre and even Sabu off as they attempt to find the rhythmic and melodic cohesion that was perfectly manifest in the quartet pieces. This was, after all, Spearman's first recording, and youthful paint-peeling exuberance had not yet been tempered. The studied and nuanced freedom that characterises his later work is absent from this early recording, but by virtue of so many contrasting improvisational approaches (whether they work or not) Homage to Peace certainly earns the band its subtitle: Emergency Group Unique de Jazz.

Tenor saxophonist Frank Wright was the heir apparent to John Coltrane and Albert Ayler, though markedly different from either. Born in Grenada, Mississippi in 1936 before moving to Cleveland, Wright was an R&B bassist who, inspired by Ayler, switched to tenor. After moving to New York in 1965, he recorded twice for ESP-Disk’ and appeared as a sideman on Sunny Murray’s shelved major-label debut (Spiritual Infinity, Columbia, 1967) before relocating to France in 1969 with the major wave of Amougies-bound African-American improvisers. He brought with him drummer Muhammad Ali and pianist Bobby Few – altoist Noah Howard joined them at the airport gate. This first variation of the Frank Wright Quartet recorded for BYG and Calumet (One For John and Church Number Nine, respectively) before cutting two albums for America in 1970, with one small change – veteran bop drummer Art Taylor had replaced Ali. Taylor had relocated to Paris in the late ‘60s and quickly became involved with expatriate avant-garde musicians including Archie Shepp, as well as playing with some of the more established bop expats like Slide Hampton, Jackie McLean, Hal Singer and Jamaica-born trumpeter Dizzy Reece. Taylor’s already loose, polyrhythmic swing was informed by new percussive developments in the 1960s, and his approach to the kit was infused by a barrage of snare and cymbal work, equal parts Sunny Murray and Max Roach. Whereas Muhammad Ali’s drumming resembles Elvin Jones even more than his brother, with its massive rolls and a steady wash of cymbal work, Taylor is fleet and light, often a constant mania of activity that makes the sparse instrumentation sound "quicker" as opposed to Ali’s "fuller". Of course, having a two-horn front line and without bass (Alan Silva joined in 1971 and the band became Center Of The World) significantly alters the rhythmic and dynamic underpinnings of a group, the depth Ali’s style accounts for. Like Space Dimension, recorded at the same session, though ostensibly a Noah Howard record, the pieces on Uhuru Na Umoja are generally short and fall far from the side- or album-length compositions that one usually finds on a typical free jazz blowing session from this period. Concise head arrangements and spirited blowing can, as in the closer “Pluto,” be given a four-minute workout; one assumes that Wright performances weren't always endless blowouts, but rather explorations of colors and shapes, not to mention lengths. The introductory statement, Howard’s “Oriental Mood” (later retitled "Mount Fuji”), is given a pastoral, processional theme before both saxophonists take off into a stratospheric collective improvisation, with Few’s huge descending arpeggios and Taylor’s web of snare and cymbals driving them upward and outward. “Aurora Borealis” is a spare, moody ballad with harmonica, bells, shakers and cupped-hand-whistle augmenting the group’s standard repertoire of tonal colors – not necessarily the atmosphere one might expect from a Wright-fronted ensemble. Both America sessions are excellent (and almost interchangeable) snapshots of a regularly working free jazz group at the peak of its form, though one wonders why on earth Verve didn’t use the entire eighty minutes and add the tracks from Space Dimension to fill out the package.

Verve-Universal has given America the treatment many hoped would be given the BYG-Actuel catalogue: namely, both historical reverence and the dressing-up that being "alive" requires. It is still somewhat bewildering that Pan-African art music has been blessed with the loving care of a serious reissue program by a major label, but maybe that just shows how relevant and of our time this music truly is – in an age of many Emergencies, we need Uhuru Na Umoja – "Freedom And Unity".—CA

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Philip Samartzis
"We're a long way away," writes guitarist David Brown from his home base in Travancore, Victoria, Australia. But his email arrives on my computer screen in Paris just minutes later (while it takes a good fortnight for a package of discs to arrive). The advent of the Internet has, as everyone knows, impacted on almost every aspect of our lives in some way or another, but for the small niche market that we – you, reading this, are part of it too – call new music, the changes it has brought about have been profound, perhaps even revolutionary.
Citizens of Her Britannic Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, often referred to rather disparagingly by the folks down under as "poms" or "pommies" (which apparently derives from their pomegranate-red complexion and is not an acronym for Prisoners Of Mother England) have often scoffed at the Aussies' cultural track record (sport, I hasten to add, doesn't count: I rather doubt Denis Lilley would take kindly to being referred to as a "cultural ambassador"). Apart from a few good movies and a handful of decent rock groups, what has Australia ever contributed to world culture? Well, plenty – and as the continent becomes ever more attractive as a destination (real or virtual), we're beginning to see what we've been missing. Among the names you might have heard of – and if you haven't you soon will – are the abovementioned David Brown, Sean Baxter, Anthony Pateras, Jim Denley, Martin Ng, Lawrence English, Bruce Mowson, Thembi Soddell, Oren Ambarchi and Philip Samartzis.
Composer and electronics whiz kid Samartzis is a fine example of how Australian music has opened up to the outside world (and vice versa), meaning not only the mainstream avant-garde but also the worlds of pop/rock and jazz, specifically their lunatic fringes: punk, Industrial and free improvisation. His Website – – is a good place to start for the adventurous sonic tourist, but to help you plan your journey here's a brief overview of some of Samartzis's released work to date. Thanks go out to both Philip Samartzis for his help in this project.
23five 005
Jim Haynes' entertaining and informative liner notes recall, amongst other things, how Samartzis discovered the joys of locked grooves by chance while trying to play a warped copy of Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets, and hooked up with Andrew Curtis in 1986 when he was the only person to answer an ad Curtis placed trying to seek out likeminded spirits "with a passion for Industrial music". This 2CD set brings together the two albums they released under the moniker Gum – Vinyl (1987) and the splendidly-titled 20 Years in Blue Movies and Yet to Fake an Orgasm (1988) – along with apparently everything else the pair ever recorded: two outtakes from Vinyl, "Banning", a 1987 cassette-only release, the previously unreleased "1-800-GUM", an RRRecords single ("Okefenokee") from 1990, a Korn Plastics split single ("Cicada Material") from the same year, a cover of Iggy's "TV Eye" previously available on a long-deleted Stooges cover compilation LP on Au Go Go, and a 21-minute live recording from 1987. It's a gloriously inventive collection, not exactly subtle – even downright messy at times – but put together with intelligence and humour (though one glance at the mug shot of the pair in the liners and you might wonder which dictionary definition of "funny" actually applies).
Vinyl's track titles – which include "Testicle Stretch", "Sporadic Acts of Violence", "Outfits for Agony" and "Arm Fuck" – might provoke a passing frisson of pleasure among Industrial fans but it's clear pretty early on that Gum aren't really in the same ballpark as SPK, Whitehouse and other "disturbing" Industrial groups (though with the benefit of a quarter of a century's hindsight even "Tit Pulp" sounds a bit lame). What distinguishes Vinyl from Industrial's deadly seriousness (or serious deadliness) is the musicians' undisguised affection for their material, from "Smooth Torture"'s crackly warm smooch to the riotously creative "Sporadic Acts of Violence", bastard love child of Pauline Oliveros and Christian Marclay. The sound material is more abstract and ambiguous and Gum's positioning with respect to the wider canon of pop/rock culture too passionate and involved to be merely ironic. Some references are subtle, like the slow accelerando of "Injected by a Certain Amount of Charisma" (shades of Kraftwerk), but most aren't: teaming up with John Murphy to add a touch of authentic Industrial street cred, Samartzis and Curtis demolish "TV Eye" with Otomoesque relish, and if "Melted Limp Fallout", which opens 20 Years, is a real headscratcher (what are these boys doing duelling banjos and cheesy Hammonds against vicious slabs of noise?), the cover – "coffin" might be more accurate – of Throbbing Gristle's "Blood On The Floor" is, ahem, just as suave and sophisticated as the original. Meanwhile, the Hard Times set shows Gum could cut it live too, taking the idea of the dance machine to the limit. Maurice Gibb must be turning in his grave. By 1990 Samartzis and Curtis had moved on somewhat; "1-800-GUM" is a hilarious montage of telephone sex chat lines and Curtis Mayfield's Superfly (I'd have gone for the Ohio Players' Climax instead but that would probably have been too obvious, wouldn't it?), and the two singles sound like Pimmon ten years before his time. All in all, it's an absolutely splendid set and newcomers to the world of Philip Samartzis could do no better than to start in right here.
Philip Samartzis / Sachiko M
Dorobo Limited Editions
Samartzis first met Sachiko M and her empty sampler in Tokyo in 2000 when KK Null, in an inspired move, programmed them to perform together. The pair subsequently met up in Paris, where Samartzis was researching Room Acoustics at IRCAM, and recorded direct to disk in Samartzis's apartment. Ever the perfectionist, Samartzis "thought that the session required much more work," and took charge of the project, editing and overdubbing. "After working on it sporadically for one year I felt it had reached its conclusion. Based on my correspondence with her, I am not sure whether Sachiko noticed any difference between the original session and the constructed one as her response was certainly quite minimal, like her music," he observes wryly. One imagines she must have, though, as the end result, 2002's Artefact, four leisurely tracks lasting between 12 and 17 minutes each, is, for all its austerity, an intricately wrought and carefully structured piece of composition, Samartzis interleaving Sachiko's trademark sinewave stasis with several layers of meticulously detailed but extraordinarily delicate processes. When left to her own devices, Sachiko is, it seems, quite happy to let her music sit still – Bar Sachiko being the most extreme example – but in the company of a musician who thinks along similar lines but approaches the problem from a different direction, it can be refreshingly surprising. (The same can be said of Toshimaru Nakamura and his no-input mixing board, the model of quintessential EAI with Keith Rowe and Jason Kahn, but strikingly unpredictable, almost funky even, on Siphono with Bruno Meillier.) Hardcore Sachiko-heads might prefer the Erstwhile outings Do or Good Morning Good Night, but if you're looking for something slightly less extreme but just as superbly produced and crafted, Artefact is one to go for.
Philip Samartzis
Dorobo Limited Editions
It's significant that Samartzis should have made the trip to Europe to work, in Amsterdam and Paris –at IRCAM nonetheless – as his work strides boldly across the boundary lines, such as they are, between improvisation and composition. 1998's Windmills Bordered By Nothingness should, by rights, slot neatly in between Risset and Schaeffer in the "Electronic Music" section of your collection – unless, that is, you're a total purist and still make an ideological distinction between musique concrète and Elektronisches Musik. Samartzis certainly doesn't; the source sounds for this impressive 39'22" span of music are for the most part clearly identifiable – in addition to field recordings, there are vocals (of sorts), fragments of percussion (courtesy Sean Baxter, of whom more later) and spiky prepared guitar (from David Brown – yep, him again), along with occasional hard, resonant clacks, used, as they were in Stockhausen's Telemusik, as structural punctuation marks. But it's Iannis Xenakis who comes to mind most often on listening to Windmills; not that Samartzis's work is a great, heaving sonic earthquake like Persepolis or Bohor – it isn't – but it does reveal a fondness for the Xenakis-like mass effect, the "ocean of sound". The work's structure, being clearly sectionalised, might recall Stockhausen, but its open door policy to the wide and wonderful world of sound in all its forms, from creaking doors to wistful humming, twittering birds to buzzing drones, is far removed from Stockhausen's intricately-wrought formal schemes, as is its willingness occasionally to incorporate regular pulse, in the form of loops of percussion and guitar. The openness of the form, which lends a work-in-progress feel even to what one senses is a carefully thought-out compositional plan, is particularly refreshing, a reminder that electronic composition didn't just disappear into the dark corridors of IRCAM when digital technology hit the market, but evolved out towards other musical genres and styles in the work of Ralf Wehowsky, Asmus Tietchens and others.
Rasmus B. Lunding / Philip Samartzis
Dr Jim 30
If you haven't yet come across the Dr Jim label (PO Box 45, Clifton Hill, Victoria 3068), it's about time you did, as it's one of a handful of essential imprints documenting the Australian scene. Bring your 3D sunglasses too, as the label's artwork is nothing if not colourful. Witness Fluorescent, Samartzis's collaboration, recorded in 2000 but not released until 2002, with Danish musician Rasmus B. Lunding (which explains wonderful track titles like "Skuldrenes Skygger" and "Øjet Smager Huden, Huden Smager Tungen"). Lunding, whose work first came to my attention with his "Det Nødvendige" on Sonic Circuits VI (1998), one of the annual fun'n'games electronica compilations released on the Innova label, is, like Samartzis, a veteran / refugee (delete where appropriate) of the art / punk scene, having played guitar in a band called Picnic. "Recently," Samartzis explains helpfully by email, "he has been working at Aarhus University with Lego, developing sound design concepts for their range of Mindstorm robots, as well as a project that introduces children to electronic music by means of tactile interaction." Indeed, listening to Fluorescent's hard-edged, primary-colour inventiveness is like spending an afternoon with your kids and a box full of Lego; each of its eleven tracks is a fun-filled journey into sound, with all the adrenalin-rush of a video game (you can hear one tweeting away in the background on "Hudens Åbning"), not to mention the odd giggle and splash of vibes ("Huden Spaender Formen ud") and even the occasional backbeat ("Saltet giver Sveden Smag"). Almost worth learning Danish to figure out what the track titles actually mean.
Philip Samartzis / Rasmus B. Lunding
Synaesthesia SYN 008 LP
Touch Parking is this year's sequel to Fluorescent, and once more finds Samartzis and Lunding in wildly creative form, reworking and editing material culled from hours of studio explorations using records, electronics, field recordings and Max/MSP-style electroacoustic improv into four compact, complex, puzzling yet eminently accessible tracks. The punky what-the-fuckness is just as evident as it was on Fluorescent, in the music's attitude and energy – and Kristian "Goodiepal" Vester's colourful S&M collage artwork on the picture disc. "Ripped jeans and studded belts aside, I don't hear much difference between what we are doing and what was achieved by musicians in the 70s and 80s using whatever means available to shape and render unique sonic experiences," Samartzis comments. So snippets of conversation, blasts of pop music and school choirs and punchy free punk drumming happily coexist with state-of-the-art DSP swoops and squiggles, glitches, twitches and Samartzis's beloved high frequencies – Vester should also be credited for the superb mastering, which involved analogue treatment of the digital source material to reduce transient peaks and narrow the bandwidth without compromising the final mix.
Western Grey
Dr Jim 23
The attentive reader will have spotted that the names of David Brown and Sean Baxter have popped up on a number of occasions (they even contributed a bit of guitar and drums to Fluorescent but I didn't mention it). As mainstays of the new music scene in Melbourne, through their work with groups and solo projects – Bucketrider, Lazy, Candlesnuffer – they deserve a whole article to themselves. Later. Meanwhile, under the name of Western Grey they teamed up once more with Samartzis in 2001. He explains the working method behind 2003's Glacial Erratic as follows: "I revisited a series of recordings I made of Sean's drums in 1998 (which I'd used as a foundation for Windmills Bordered By Nothingness), selecting what I considered to be the most interesting performances and inviting David to improvise to them using an unamplified prepared guitar to arrive at a series of tactile and organic responses." Anyone familiar with the volcanic nervous energy of Baxter and Brown's work will be struck by the restraint and space of Glacial Erratic. Samartzis admits that he thought they "played too much" and subsequently edited down the material "to achieve the sense of space that I was after". He then spent a further six months worrying over the work, editing and rearranging, and adding analogue and digital electronics and field recordings, even incorporating a five-minute duet culled from a performance in Melbourne in 2002 with Kaffe Matthews, "in the last five minutes of the CD, as a gentle resolution." His description of the results as "counterintuitive to the way Sean and David naturally perform" is spot on, and is what makes the album so original and surprising. The volatility of improvisation meets the implacable perfectionism of composition and complement each other to perfection. This is where new music's going, folks. Check it out.
Philip Samartzis
Microphonics 01
Anyone familiar with Samartzis's contribution to Staalplaat's ongoing Mort Aux Vaches series, or the excellent Variable Resistance compilation on 23five (and "Microphonics" on the double CD Grain on Dorobo, which he shares with Pimmon, Darrin Verhagen and David Brown) will recognise the sounds of Soft And Loud, all originally sourced in field recordings made in Japan between 1999 and 2001. Samartzis's liners and Website go into more detail on the project and its spatialised version as an eight-channel installation – go visit. Lest he be accused of being the Boulez of Australian electronica, eternally reworking ideas, Samartzis admits that it was "unusual to release so many iterations of one project but this one was really problematic from the start. It had some nice sounds but never quite worked as a composition. I used live performances and installations to audition various ideas to analyse what did and didn't work before eventually committing it to CD." The album Soft and Loud stands therefore as Samartzis's most accomplished work to date, a splendid résumé of his music's central concerns: a seamless integration of the natural (field) and the artificial (studio), analogue and digital. It's as spacious, open and natural as the sky and yet designed and assembled as meticulously as a jet aircraft. And thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web, it can cross the world thousands of times faster and land right on your hard drive. But mp3 downloads, of course, only whet your appetite: do yourself a favour and order the whole menu.—DW

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Copyright 2004 by Paris Transatlantic