JANUARY News 2006 Reviews by Clifford Allen, David Cotner, Nate Dorward, Lawrence English, Massimo Ricci, Derek Taylor, Dan Warburton:

On The Road with Aki Onda and Jac Berrocal
Reissue this:
Heavy Soul Music by Hans Dulfer and JR Monterose
On Creative Sources:
Epinat, Forge & Bertholon / Schiller & Baumgartner / Tisha Mukarji / Theriault & Eubanks / Werchowska, Pontévia & Boubaker / Müller, Kahn & Wolfarth / I Treni Inerti / Nordzucker
Julian Priester Pepo Mtoto
On Elevator Bath:
Colin Andrew Sheffield / Ilya Monosov / Adam Pacione / Rick Reed
COMPILATIONS: on Spekk, PsychForm, Everest, Xing Wu
Badland / Alex Ward / Cooper-Moore / McPhee, Shipp & Duval /
Fritz Hauser / 4g / Ettrick / ZFP Quartet / Kemialliset Ystävät
Guillermo Gregorio / Simon H. Fell / Jim O'Rourke
If, Bwana / Tate & Liles / Piana / William Basinski / Fovea Hex / Joda Clement / Lopez & Kiritchenko / :zoviet*france:
Last month


First up, on behalf of everyone here at Paris Transatlantic, a Happy New Year to all our readers, whoever / wherever they may be. A warm welcome goes out to Lawrence English, our new man from the land down under, who's as good at writing about music as he is at creating and producing it. January 2006 kicks off in style with Jesse Goin's fine interview with Tomas Korber, the Swiss guitarist / composer who's been making quite a name for himself recently, and with whom I had the great pleasure of working on the album Conspiracy Theory (L'innomable). Elsewhere, indefatigable jazz archivist Clifford Allen weighs in with another Reissue This spot – btw if anyone out there has a copy of Hans Dulfer's Jazz in Paradiso and wants to send in a scan of the cover Clifford talks about, please do: for once trusty old Google hasn't come up with what I was looking for (or maybe I've been googling up the wrong tree) and Hans must be enjoying a well-earned Christmas / New Year break because we haven't been able to get a reply from him yet by email. Clifford's praise for J.R. Monterose also ties in nicely with James Finn's recollections of the man in his interview with Nate Dorward in last month's issue. Let's hope the two Heavy Soul platters will soon be widely available again – has anyone thought of offering these to John Corbett for Atavistic UMS? Just a thought..
News of Derek Bailey's death arrived just as I was putting the finishing touches to this issue. Glowing tributes are already flying round cyberspace, and you probably don't need any more from me. Bailey left us with a large body of work, and the best way I can think of of paying homage to him is
to go back and listen to it again. Everyone has their own favourite DB albums, I'm sure - I have a soft spot for the 1970s solo stuff myself, as well as the mythic Topography Of The Lungs with Han Bennink and Evan Parker that inaugurated the Incus label. Let's hope that might also see the light of day again in a deluxe reissue. I wonder if Martin Davidson at Emanem is reading this. Just another thought..
Meanwhile, thanks as ever go out to the people who have written in to our Letters Page and those who have sent in and continue to send in their music for review – and as always I'm only sorry we can't feature more of it each issue (who invented the 24 hour day, anyway?). You can put that down this month in part to too much time on my part spent writing up the sordid details of my recent tour with Aki Onda and Jac Berrocal – see below. Bonne année et bonne lecture.-DW

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On The Road with Aki Onda and Jac Berrocal

A tour diary? How exciting! Or boring, depending on your taste. The last tour diary I read, Mark Wastell's description of a handful of dates he played with Bernhard Günter and Graham Halliwell, included as a pdf file with the second +minus album A Rainy Koran Verse (trente oiseaux TOC 043), was – well, sorry Mark old chum, more the latter than the former. Though you wouldn't expect it to be anything else, really; if you're the kind of reader who gets a kick out of tour diaries for their Dionysian excess – dirty spoons, bloody syringes, empty bottles, smashing up hotel rooms, dangling teenage girls out of windows and doing unspeakable things to them with fish, etc etc – you're better off investing in a copy of Danny Sugerman's Wonderland Avenue. Face it kids, even though Mark did dedicate one of his pieces to the memory of John Entwistle, +minus are not The Who (though you could have some fun imagining possible tabloid headlines – AVANT GARDE IMPROV TRIO TRASH VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT! GERMAN ELECTRONICA IDOL GINSENG OD! HALLIWELL SMASHES PA SYSTEM IN FEEDBACK RIOT!).
The simple fact is that most tour diaries, if they're intended for public consumption, usually amount to little more than polite Thank You letters. Put it this way: you're not going to complain about the stale beer and cold chips at Jim's Café and expect Jim to give you a gig next time you're in town, are you now? And describing your fellow playing partners as debauched drug-addled drunken assholes probably won't endear you to them very much and doesn't bode well for the future of the group. So why do I bother? Three reasons come to mind: firstly, I've been in the habit of keeping a personal diary ever since I went off ("up", they say) to Cambridge as a student in 1981 (it started out as a rather perverse record of how many cigarettes I smoked each day, so that at some later stage in life, wracked by bronchial problems, I could sit down and calculate exactly how many minutes of my life had literally gone up in smoke), so writing about what I've been up to during the day is something that comes naturally. Secondly, tours are fun: the sights, sounds, smells, the sheer pleasure of making music far away from home with people you care for, and being paid to do so to boot, the people you meet, the food and drink, the landscapes you travel through and the music you listen to along the way. Thirdly, tours aren't fun at all: the lack of privacy, the stress, the hangovers, the inevitable problems with transportation, luggage, accommodation, roadies, mics that don't work, showers that don't work, soundchecks that last forever, above all, the waiting, the tedium. It all makes for a jolly good read.
So, for better or worse, here is On The Road, my own collection of anecdotes about the six dates I played recently in the company of Aki Onda and Jac Berrocal. PT readers should need no introduction to Monsieur Berrocal – you can still check out the interview he gave me in 2004, which also formed the basis of an extended feature in The Wire 247 (complete with some smashing photos by Frank Bauer). And the good news is that his second solo album Catalogue – not the group Catalogue, the album – has finally been reissued by Alga Marghen. So buy now or cry later. So far I haven't done an interview with Aki (though I did record an afternoon's conversation with him a while ago), but the extraordinary music he makes with a couple of cassette recorders, a sampler, a rhythm box and a few special effects should be familiar to you. If it isn't, there are only 300 or so shopping days to Christmas. Bon voyage! CLICK HERE to continue reading On The Road with Aki Onda and Jac Berrocal.. Photograph by Mathieu de France

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In the annals of contemporary improvisation, few nationalities are as routinely pigeonholed as the Dutch. They're the jokers, the pranksters, the Dadaists of the European jazz community (though a few Germans, Belgians and Swedes have also followed similar trajectories), as Misha Mengelberg would say, “having maybe a little fun” with the music – though, as he's quick to point out, situations, games and oddly-overlapping meters and melodies challenge the musicians as much as they inject a dose of whimsy to the proceedings. Willem Breuker, an early associate of Mengelberg and percussionist Han Bennink in the Instant Composers’ Pool, has, since the early 70s, been orchestrating eclectic mélanges of both free and straight jazz, Kurt Weill, contemporary classical and traditional folk – and several members of his Kollektif have followed in his footsteps to a manic degree. As these two poles of the Dutch scene have been soldiering on for more than 35 years, it's easy to forget that Holland has not only produced several fine players outside the free scene (pianists Cees Slinger and Rein de Graaff, bandleader Boy Edgar), but also a number of free improvisers whose work falls outside the theatrical end of the spectrum: figures like trumpeter Nedley Elstak, pianist Kees Hazevoet, altoist Peter van der Locht, reedman-composer Theo Loevendie, and tenorman Hans Dulfer.
Dulfer is one of the most eclectic of Dutch jazzmen working outside the realm of situationist music, and his recent collaborations with rock musicians and club DJs have brought his work to a wider public (his tenor-playing daughter Candy is also well-known in "lite-jazz" circles). But he was an early mover and shaker in the Amsterdam jazz community, and in the late 60s and early 70s his Paradiso Jazzclub offered performance space and festival room to both local and visiting purveyors of the jazz vanguard. Like Archie Shepp, his tone hearkens back to pre-Rollins tenormen such as Coleman Hawkins and Ike Quebec, though not without a certain Newk-like ribaldry. In Loevendie’s Consort of the same period, Dulfer was the feral honker chomping at the bit, ready to bust out of the atonal-Latin architecture built specially for him (and baritonist Joop Mastenbroek) to tear apart. Dulfer’s most regular working group of the period was his Afro-Latin-free hybrid Ritmo-Natural, with whom he recorded two and a half LPs and a couple of singles for Dutch EMI subsidiary Catfish in the early 70s (including 1970’s Candy Clouds and 1972’s The Morning After the Third, as well as El Saxofon, with guests Frank Wright, Bobby Few and Muhammad Ali). With Soulbrass, Inc. and organist Herbert Noord, Dulfer also recorded a homage to the Ike Quebec-Freddie Roach Blue Note LPs, Live at the Bohemia (Stichting, 1969), which included percussionists Steve Boston and Rob Kattenburg, bassist Arjen Gorter, and the great baritonist Henk van Es. Around the time Loevendie assembled the Consort in 1968, one of Dulfer’s projects was a quartet in the of the Archie Shepp-Roswell Rudd mold, a group he called Heavy Soul featuring Han Bennink, trombonist Willem van Manen (later of Breuker’s Kollektif), and bassist Maarten Altena. It's hard to say whether it was these other members’ commitments to Breuker / Mengelberg-fronted units or Dulfer’s preference for percussive and rather psychedelic large groups that finally spelled the end for Heavy Soul the following year, but the quartet did make regular appearances at the Paradiso, and two of them made it onto Dulfer’s first LP as a leader, Jazz in Paradiso, released in a batch of 250 on his own Heavy Soul Music imprint (HSM 1501). The album’s jacket, a nod to the saxophonist’s influences, features a photograph of the group playing in front of a giant poster of Ike Quebec, the same photograph of the saxophonist that graces Quebec’s Heavy Soul (Blue Note 4092, 1960).
Structurally, one of the most striking things about the music on this session is, despite Dulfer’s gutbucket, bluesy tone, how much the compositions owe to the music of Rudd and the New York Art Quartet. Dulfer and his mates would likely have heard the 1965 radio broadcast from Hilversum (later released on the America LP Roswell Rudd, with John Tchicai, Dutch bassist Finn von Eyben and South African drummer Louis Moholo), and the theme of Van Manen’s “Los Orellani” is equal parts Tchicai’s “Jabulani” and Rudd’s “Yankee No-How.” Of course, rather than the Africanized rhythms that grace Moholo’s approach and propel the Rudd-Tchicai dialogues, Bennink sounds like Milford Graves falling down the stairs, a distracted caterwauling avant-Dixieland sense of timekeeping that knows no peer. He occasionally stops to yell into plastic tubing or pick up a bird-whistle, or just halts altogether to let Altena and the loquacious van Manen and Dulfer take the reins. It's certainly a far cry from his straight timekeeping with Eric Dolphy a few years earlier, though more conservative than the fragmented walls of activity he built a year earlier around Breuker on the New Acoustic Swing Duo (ICP 001, 1967) or with Altena and Marion Brown on the latter’s Porto Novo (Polydor, 1967, reissued by Arista-Freedom). If you can imagine Shepp tunes like “Wherever Junebugs Go” with Bennink instead of Beaver Harris (what a different concept of swing those two drummers have!) you’re halfway to figuring out the aesthetic of Heavy Soul. Van Manen is a revelation, his tailgate certainly reminiscent of Rudd, but with a distinctly European self-absorbed intricacy. “Bird Frog” in its 1968 take offers another take on the fucked-up Herbie Nichols/early Cecil structures that the NYAQ themes explore, but here it's given almost entirely over to Bennink, whose maniacal vocals and insanely fast tom rhythms recall not only Graves (once more), but, if you can imagine it, a free version of Baby Dodds’ Talking and Drum Solos. Side two, recorded in 1969, offers a tighter sidelong suite of van Manen pieces, beginning with “The Triple,” on which Bennink's frantic ba-bi rhythms and ride-cymbal create a dense hub on which Dulfer and van Manen’s skronk can turn. This segues via a conch-and-horns interlude into “Seventy-Eight,” a weighty dirge / slugfest that finds Altena bowing furious triple-stops under surging percussion and Dulfer glossolalia until the sing-song theme emerges. Dulfer's solo is the strongest of the set, equal parts Newk, Shepp and a fire all his own. An edgy swing rises from the scorching stew, a major muted tailgate improvisation by van Manen over toe-tapping rhythm, ending with another brief, breathless rendition of “Bird-Frog.” The free-blues and Dixieland-funk are decidedly fire music-like, but you haven't lived until you've heard it done in clogs.
1969 was also the year that Utica, NY-born tenorman J.R. Monterose wound up traveling through Holland and Scandinavia in search of fruitful playing situations. He'd been teaching in Albany and playing gigs in Chicago and the Midwest with little notoriety since the late 50s, when he worked with Charles Mingus and Teddy Charles. His first LP since 1964’s J.R. In Action (Studio 4), J.R. Monterose is Alive in Amsterdam Paradiso (HSM 1502, the slightly easier to find release of these two) captures the tenorman at a few gigs in Dulfer’s club during June 1969, and it might be the most unexpected entry in Monterose’s catalog. The set starts off with J.R. solo on the standard “I Remember Clifford,” a delicate, clean, and particularly moody reading of the Golson classic. Mercurial in its quick shifts between staccato ebullience and smoky wide-vibrato, it's not only one of the most colorful and complex readings of the tune I’ve heard, but a classic of unaccompanied tenor playing that merits careful study, even at only four and a half minutes in length. It's followed by ten minutes of sonic and literal whooping it up on “Sonnymoon for Two,” with Han Bennink conjuring up a bizarre variant on Philly Joe and showing his bop pedigree in a lengthy solo before Monterose returns with a series of gutsy blasts and few oddly-placed quotes to bring Rollins' theme in to close. This is the kind of tenor playing that rewards thorough analysis; each half-chorus offers a completely different approach to the instrument, and they're all stitched together with seamless logic and clarity. “Reborn” is ostensibly a Monterose composition but more likely his name for the two improvisations that make up side two, the first a trio with Bennink and Ritmo-Natural bassist Jan Jacobs, the second adding Groentjie and Steve Boston on congas and timbales. On “Reborn One” Jacobs drops out here and there as Bennink and Monterose continue the pyrotechnics of “Sonnymoon”, while the second more expansive take finds Bennink, Groentjie and Boston in a dense conversation over Jacobs’ insistent droning vamp. J.R.'s tenor call is woven into burnished, smooth ballad teases and steadily rides the tempo, closing phrases into rhythm units, his trio of drummers gunning the web into forward motion. Bennink takes a solo over the mass, hollering along with Groentjie's wails before Monterose returns with the earthy minor theme, a setting and tone which recalls the young Gato Barbieri.
Monterose recorded once more at the Paradiso in 1969 (the session remains unreleased), and in a quintet with trumpeter Jon Eardley, pianist Rein de Graaff, bassist Henk Haverhoek and drummer Pierre Courbois (Body and Soul, Munich Records, 1970), before returning - briefly - to the States in 1974. Though he went on to release a series of strong hardbop sessions in the years up until his passing in 1993, he never again recorded with such unbridled fire and force of conviction as he did with these four very sympathetic Amsterdam-based free jazzmen in 1969. It is extremely lucky that Hans Dulfer’s Paradiso had the tape recorders rolling for J.R. and for his own unique groups at the time – without Heavy Soul Music, two slabs of improvised soul would have remained jazz lore. It's high time both of these fine albums were made available once more to the wider public.–CA

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On Creative Sources
Cyril Epinat / Mathias Forge / Jérôme Bertholon
CS 044
Taking a look at the liner notes, which refer to the music as a "sound track" while also providing a description of the meals eaten by the three protagonists during the recordings, then listening to the first sounds coming from the speakers, one gets the impression Duo... is a single improvised field recording where events sound accidental even when they aren't. Epinat and Forge play "objects" as well as their conventional instruments (acoustic guitar and trombone), while Bertholon records the proceedings, adding electric lighter and quartz clock to the sources. Spurious flatulence and third-generation scratches of dirty, cheap harmonics interact with environmental sounds; fluttering, splintered nervous outbursts are followed by scraping investigations and a rash of miniature acts of aggression. The tranquillity of wind and insect sounds that opens the fourth movement is soon interrupted by a passing car and Epinat knocking on his guitar body, after which microsonic explorations resume. It sounds like The Last Supper inside an anthill doused with sulphuric acid. The musicians smile and chow down on the corroded remnants, loading their car without haste. But the radiator's leaking.–MR

Christoph Schiller / Peter Baumgartner
CS 045
Peter Baumgartner is primarily a sound poet, working with language since 1989 and active in the sound installation field (he came to the computer in 1999), while Christoph Schiller has a fine arts/free jazz background, having also written many pieces for voice (he's the leader of Millefleur, an improvising vocal ensemble). Savagnières reveals both technical finesse and a healthy dose of curiosity, but the contrast between its laptop continuity and the unconventional acoustic source of Schiller's spinet is somewhat atypical compared to much of the Creative Sources catalogue. Schiller has been using the spinet in improvisational contexts since 2002, and its plucked, bowed and struck strings break the reassuring flux of Baumgartner's computer-generated waves. The musicians explore a few basic concepts, as if forced to play games in a tiny room, yet the dialogue between stasis and movement is rewarding and fruitful; what could easily become a fine wallpaper of digestible minimalism instead enriches and develops the introvert convolutions of the spinet, which at times resembles some Oriental instrument or a slowmotion version of Keith Tippett's prepared piano. The laptop's pulsating warmth radiates constantly, despite irregular collisions that move the surrounding air enough to make us breathe in warped, unreal easiness.–MR

Tisha Mukarji
CS 046
My mum would probably disagree, but from where I'm sitting there's not much din on this debut outing from pianist Tisha Mukarji, here performing on a Hornung Square Piano Frame dating from the mid-19th century. All right, there are some pretty ferocious scrapes and squeaks, but those of you who equate "din" with the likes of Sickness, Prurient et al. will probably find this rather mild. Mukarji studied at the Royal Academy in London (bet they didn't teach her to play like this there though), and recorded these four pieces in April 2005 in another Royal Academy across the pond in Copenhagen. Recent years have seen a number of impressive releases proving there's plenty of life yet lurking in the bowels of the venerable instrument, both solo – Frédéric Blondy's Parabase, Sophie Agnel's Solo, Jacques Demierre's Guillevic Avec, Andrea Neumann's Innenklavier, and of course the recent long overdue solo debut of John Tilbury on Rossbin – and in small groups (thinking notably of Manon Liu Winter's glacial work on Brospa with Franz Hautzinger), and Mukarji's disc is another accomplished, if not especially groundbreaking, addition to the list.–DW

Doug Theriault / Bryan Eubanks
CS 047
Nice to see that Ernesto Rodrigues is now casting his net further afield than old Europe for wild and wonderful new sounds. These come from Portland Oregon, where they were recorded live in the studio in May 2005 by Doug Theriault (Sensor Guitar controlling live electronics, it says here) and Bryan Eubanks (Open Circuit Electronics). There are two extended tracks, "Don't worry about the future" (21'04") and "A majestic" (40'51"), and don't be fooled by the slow start into thinking this is just another play-it-safe post-AMM laminal trawl. There are some pretty nasty surprises in store, and Theriault and Eubanks steer dangerously close to the edge (I think we can say with some certainty then that an Erstwhile release for this pair is sadly out of the question for the foreseeable future..). Open circuit electronics are, as Vic Rawlings can tell you, notoriously unpredictable, and Eubanks unleashes some particularly painful dentist chair nightmare shrieks from time to time (having just undergone protracted dental work myself, this stuff certainly strikes a chord, I can tell you), but there's a sense of commitment and feeling for large scale form that has me coming back for more. After all, it's worth several trips to the dentist if you end up with a beautiful gleaming new crown. Unlike much European EAI, which is painstakingly airbrushed and ProTooled into ever more pristine composed structures, there's a roughness and rawness here that sounds distinctly improvised. And that's also true of the very best AMM albums, lest we forget.–DW

Nush Werchowska / Mathias Pontévia / Heddy Boubaker
CS 048
29 minutes is a bit slight for an album – across the electric fence in Popland that would count as a single – but there's a lot of information to digest in these three pieces recorded in July and December 2004 featuring pianist Werchowska, percussionist Pontévia and saxophonist Boubaker (normally they go under the name Trio Pakos, but not here apparently). Nush (it's "Nusch" on the Creative Sources site but I take it that's a mistake) Werchowska is at her best when scrabbling round inside the instrument, and Pontévia and Boubaker follow her into some very strange undergrowth on the opening "Bribes" – in French that means "bits" or "extracts", by the way, not payment for services rendered – but when actual notes come into play, i.e. when Werchowska actually engages with the keyboard, on "Spires", things get a little muddy underfoot. One senses pitch isn't all that important to these guys, and thankfully the closing "Mascaret" takes us back out into the windswept wilderness. It's uncompromising stuff, and proof that there are strange and dangerous things going on in the idyllic South of France. If you don't understand the album title, by the way, go Google and, erm, practice your French. Oh yes, Boubaker and trumpeter Sébastien Cirotteau, who recorded the three pieces here, also have a fine duo release, Vortex, for mp3 download at www.stasisfield.com. Go!–DW

Günter Müller / Jason Kahn / Christian Wolfarth
CS 049
A glance at that title and you might be forgiven for thinking that these three Swiss percussion virtuosi (OK OK so Jason Kahn isn't Swiss but he lives there) have come up with some kind of hip versioning of Steve Reich's 1971 epic of the same name, but you'd be wrong. In fact, there's very little explicit pulse at all here: Kahn (here on laptop) and Günter Müller (ipod and electronics) are nowadays heavily involved in the Swiss EAI scene (with Tomas Korber, Ralph Steinbrüchel et al.), and it seems Christian Wolfarth is heading that way too, after a number of notable lowercase outings with John Wolf Brennan. The nine tracks on Drumming are refreshingly short by EAI standards, none lasting longer than six and half minutes, but characteristically dense and rich in information. Drums, as the recent history of improvisation has demonstrated, are no longer there to be struck, but can be rubbed, bowed and generally excited by extraneous objects in wild and wonderful ways that would probably surprise Steve Reich, should a copy of this fall into the hands of his lawyers by mistake. But they should make a point of checking it out – Reich's Drumming was state-of-the-art modernity in 1971, and this is where it's at 35 years later.–DW

I Treni Inerti
CS 050
It's been a couple of years since the debut album Ura by palindromic minimalists I Treni Inerti, since when trumpeter Matt Davis has moved away from I Treni's home base, Barcelona, leaving fellow trumpeter Ruth Barberán to go it alone with Alfredo Costa Monteiro's accordion. "Aérea" was the name of the last track on Ura (which some high IQ wag recently noted is, unlike the other track titles, not a palindrome) and it's here elevated to album status as a three-movement suite. Without Davis to thicken the plot, Barberán's sustained tones sound more exposed here, and Costa Monteiro's wheezy squeeze box makes few concessions to good behaviour. Draughty, gritty major seventh and minor ninth drones abound – if the music we rescored for flute and piano ("which every professional knows is a boring combination") it might just pass as Feldman. But not for long. Definitely one of the more arid landscapes in the New European Improvisation slide show (file alongside Franz Hautzinger's Dachte Musik), but look carefully between the boulders and you'll find some exquisite tiny flowers.–DW

500 GR
CS 052
After a couple of recent jousts with electronics (in the form of Gino Robair's "voltage made audible" on Sputter and Lou Mallozzi's turntables on Landscape: Recognisable), 500 gr finds trumpeter Birgit Ulher back in the company of "traditional" instruments: saxophone (Lars Scherzberg) and cello (Michael Maierhof). Though of course they certainly don't sound traditional: all three players reveal great familiarity with extended techniques on their respective instruments, and, more impressive still, leave each other space to explore them. This is not so much a return to the austere Berlin Reductionism ca. 2001/2 – there are very few silences of more than a couple of seconds – as much as a look further back into the history of German music: the pristine clarity of Webern, the spiky pointillism of Stockhausen's Kontra-punkte and the extreme compression of Mathias Spahlinger (think the Vier Stücke). It's a terse, closely argued music, angular and intense without being expressionistic. And certainly not sweet either, despite the giant sugarcubes on the album cover.–DW

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Julian Priester Pepo Mtoto
Along with my son's homemade card and a bottle of 1991 Glenfarclas sherry cask aged whisky which will probably have disappeared by the time this particular review hits cyberspace, this is the best Christmas present I could have hoped for – time to stop wondering why on earth it's taken the good people at ECM so damn long to reissue it and just pump it up up UP! Julian Pepo Mtoto Priester (here featured on bass, tenor and alto trombones, baritone and post horns, percussion and synthesizers) is, for better or worse, best known as a member of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi sextet in the early 70s, but it's worth remembering that he popped up on a considerable number of Blue Notes in the 60s and was a member of Sun Ra's Arkestra when Herbie was still running around in short pants. With its funky-as-hell-but-just-slightly-offkilter 15/8 groove, the title track of Love, Love will inevitably and understandably be compared to Hancock's albums of the same period (and there's also an overlap of personnel, specifically Priester's co-producer here, (Dr) Pat Gleeson, who also contributed such inspired work to Sextant), but the rambling psychedelic medley of the B side, "Images – Eternal Worlds – Epilogue" steers the music away from the hard funk that Hancock hit paydirt with barely a year after this was recorded in September 73 and takes it back to the rich, ambiguous modal harmonies of late 60s Blue Note, with a dash of Latin verve thrown in for good measure. Where Hancock pulled on the strings and fenced the music in, replacing the irregular metres of Mwandishi with solid Headhunters 4/4, Priester and his boys let it fly out in all directions. As such Love, Love is the precursor of a number of notable later outfits, including Craig Harris's Tailgaters Tails and various early M-Base projects (before Steve Coleman too let himself be drawn into straight quadruple metrics, this time to accommodate his rappers). Its California sunshine also makes for a welcome contrast with the sweatstorm of electric Miles. Priester signed another ECM album in 1977, Polarization, with his Marine Intrusion band (Ron Stallings, Ray Obeido, Curtis Clark, Mark Williams and Augusta Lee Collins) – a fine outing too but one that unfortunately suffers in comparison with Love, Love. No disrespect to Marine Intrusion, but the band on the earlier album is simply awesome: in addition to Priester himself and Dr Pat (on ARP 2600, Odyssey, Moog III and Oberheim – the sound of the 70s!), there's Hadley Caliman on flute, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxes and Bayete Umbra Zindiko (aka Todd Cochran) on acoustic and electric pianos and clavinet. The bass and drums line-up varies – the two tracks were recorded three months apart – on "Love, Love" it's Ron McClure and Kamau Eric Gravatt, while on the flipside it's Nyimbo Henry Franklin and Ndugu Leon Chancler. David Johnson adds extra flute on "Eternal Worlds" and the scorching guitar on the title track is comin' at ya courtesy of Bill Connors. Everyone is on superlative form, especially Bayete (time to ask our Reissue This specialist Mr Allen to do a piece on Seeking Other Beauty, his Prestige 1973 spacefunk outing which has been on my want list nearly as long as Love, Love was until now.. meanwhile his later work with Automatic Man is, happily, out and about again). So do yourself a favour and make sure that before the snow melts this one is on your shelves alongside Larry Young's Lawrence of Newark, Eddie Henderson's Realization and Inside Out, Bennie Maupin's Slow Traffic To The Right and, of course, Mwandishi, Crossings and Sextant. It's that good. Rejoice!–DW

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On Elevator Bath
Colin Andrew Sheffield
Elevator Bath eeaoa020
In line with Elevator Bath 's policy of packaging their discs in "elegant printed sleeves of 100% recycled paper", the source material for this debut album by label boss Colin Andrew Sheffield consists entirely of brief segments of other commercially available recordings, "contracted, expanded, layered and/or otherwise processed", rendering them unrecognizable and ready to use for Colin's dilated-pupil scenarios. The result is a sort of anti-harmonic architecture comprising clustered electronics, long and winding roads to the black holes of non-knowledge and pulses from outer space. It all amounts to a pretty detached music, whose coldness works well at times but too often lacks emotional content and too closely resembles other releases of the genre. True, losing yourself in the nebulous realms of long-reverb ambience can be a blessing, but keeping the feet on the ground is also advisable, and when the sound is as muddled as this, my evil little conscience wonders if there's any substance to begin with.

Ilya Monosov
Elevator Bath eeaoa022
A collection of small sounds, field recordings and idiosyncratic compositions plus a nerve-shattering audio documentary involving CVA survivors suffering from speech impediments, this album by sound artist Ilya Monosov is certainly diverse and alluring. The author's vast field of interests ranges from mixtures of concrete/acoustic sounds and Alvin Lucier-like piercing frequencies ("Music for Electronics and Hurdy Gurdy 2") to microsound improvisations with music box, toothpicks, turntable and objects ("Composition A") and lo-fi urban experiments ("Performance I"). "Untitled" is a near-silent piece with Larry Polansky, while "Architectures on Air" is the abovementioned recording of heart attack victims blowing and talking into harmonicas by way of therapy. Their broken voices and panting efforts are truly something to be heard, the deep pain of baby demons trying to utter their first syllables. My favourite track though is "Autonomous Guitar Music for Marc Schulz", in which a motor is put against the wood of the guitar body, setting off a continuous scintillation of jangling strings whose slight dissonance sounds like a cross between Remko Scha and Fred Frith ("Water/Struggle/The North" on Guitar Solos 2).

Adam Pacione
Elevator Bath eeaoa023
After several limited edition releases, Adam Pacione's official debut has reconciled me with that area of Ambient music that was booming at the beginning of the 90s, when people like Jeff Greinke or Vidna Obmana (both much more creative and original at that time) were reiterating Brian Eno's teachings and adding their own spicy ingredients in excellent albums like Greinke's Timbral Planes and Cities in Fog or the Belgian's Soundtrack vor Heet Aquarium with Hybryds. Pacione's Sisyphus is also a picture of a submerged world, beautiful at low volume on a sorrowful Sunday morning. The music remains pretty consonant throughout, as chains of consecutive looping melodies, unfinished watercolours and mourning soundtracks for desolate solitude – William Basinski's Disintegration Loops once again comes to mind – coil around a hazy, obfuscated aura of instrumental activity whose speed ranges from slow to totally immobile. The ingenuity of "Cicada Lullaby", as well as satisfying my love for summer insects, is a lesson in depth to other rocket scientists of the genre. A consistent and pleasing album.

Rick Reed
Elevator Bath eeaoa025
This is one of those discs that I fall in love with after a few minutes. Rick Reed is a self-taught composer based in Austin Texas who uses sinewave generators, field recordings, shortwaves and Moog to build crawling soundscapes in which every event is masterfully placed and highlighted for several long minutes before being gradually replaced by the next one. Trapped under a thick crust of sonic detritus, Reed's frame-by-frame succession of slow, electric calls and subterranean concentration defines its identity over the course of these three long compositions, of which the title track is somehow the most transcendentally "relaxing", constructed as it is upon deep drones and low-end movements. Dark Skies at Noon is also the soundtrack to filmmaker Ken Jacobs' recent work, described in the press release as "otherwordly" (never having seen it myself, I can only take their word for it). Travis Weller adds violin in the most dramatic parts (reminiscent of Christoph Heemann's albums like Aftersolstice or Days of the Eclipse), and another illustrious presence in "Ceremony" is Keith Rowe. His prepared guitar is immediately recognizable, but the track certainly doesn't sound like an AMM offshoot and Rowe works the piece without compromising Reed's personality. The record ends with the harsher atmospheres of "Ghosts of Energy", where Reed's dissonant narrative zigzags across the straight streets of logical expectation, its blurred spurts of barely repressed violence finally rechanneled to produce positive energy.–MR

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Various Artists
As anyone running a label realises, putting together a compilation that represents something beyond mere marketing is an increasingly difficult and potentially time-consuming exercise. Spekk’s Small Melodies thankfully does achieve something more considered than many recent label compilations, through its invitation to explore and interpret the idea reflected in the record’s title – an invitation tempered through the use of keywords such as "calm", "warm", "tender" etc sent to each artist. A more poorly curated disc would have flopped under the somewhat lightweight approach to housing the tracks, but label head Nao Sugimoto’s selections are as cohesive as they are diverse. He’s taken the time to contemplate an overall dynamic for the record – one that spans digitally produced sound (ala Taylor Dupree, Ultra Milkmaids), an experimental centre (Naph’s field recordings are a powerful focal point for this release) and more acoustic-oriented players (such as Oren Ambarchi and Tape). Exploring the concept himself, Sugimoto, under his Mondii guise, creates a wonderful delve into the possibilities of disconnected melody – his piece setting up a hazy system of trickling song lines that tend to unfold in parallel rather than in harmony. It’s a fitting piece to sum up the compilation and its shimmering sonic fragments reflect positively on the entire album. Small Melodies is another unique release from Spekk and a highly successful realisation of what could have been a problematic and potentially underwhelming theme.–LE

Various Artists
PsychForm – owned and operated by Stan Reed, he of the recent smash festival hit Wooden Octopus Skull Experimental (P)Festival – hits the bullseye with this one, a flaming missile driven through that gas station in front of the fireworks factory. The hit is not so much because the tracks are perfect for rollin' in your 5.0 with your rag-top down so your hair can blow – of course, they are – but the point is it coaxes such atypical sounds from each of the bands in question. I.e. the gentle ambient paranoiac suburbscapes of the formerly-noisy Contagious Orgasm's "Don’t you move it at the end any more?" and the spacious improvisations of the generally-loud Noggin and John Wiese (whose track, fortuitously enough, is named "Reversed Spells"). Conversely, some people never change – hence the Deutscher collages of Rowenta / Khan and the miasmic noise / silence of a landscape peppered by teargas and stun grenades on Christian "Brume" Renou’s "Neustettin". Frank Rowenta and Gregor Jabs’ new Grillhaus combo provides sibilant and lackadaisical fuck music on "Diamond Elevator (Stage One)" while The Haters are The Haters, classroom turntables with toy shovels for tone-arms notwithstanding. Reed’s own Broken Penis Orchestra duets with Mixed Band Philanthropist on a track full of surrealist collage and completely unauthorized sampling (cf. the same "Kill! Kill! Kill!" drill squad snippet that showed up on Nocturnal Emission’s "Drowning in a Sea of Bliss", chipper chipmunks, Aretha Franklin’s "Rescue Me", Sinatra and Stan Freberg). A hebephrenic disc.–DC

Various Artists
The Swiss capital Bern isn’t particularly notorious for any kind of avant scene beyond Reitschule and its monomaniacally eclectic offerings of rock and electronica. Cuckoo clocks aside, we're talking a small, tightly-knit and interconnected group of individuals, the most well-known being Bassdriver and the kinetic turntablist sculpture of Christoph Hess’ Strotter Inst. Don’t let that sway you from exploring the tightly-ratcheted beat-and-sample Xanadu of this latest batch of new sounds, though. From the ambient-then-droning rumble of Herpes ö Deluxe to Bassdriver and Filewile’s wry twists on beat-drive electronica (the latter’s "Robinhood" has, as lyrics, the coda "blah blah blah"), to the distressed skank and tumble of Menu:Exit and the rubber-band bass of the locked groove in the Strotter Inst. track, which preconfigures the slightly glitchier vinyl sorcery of rm74 and their "Italienische Autohupe". Also of interest: the cuts-and-clicks of Everest, the emotional electronic robot collapse of Krankenzimmer 204 and the acoustic guitar-and-breakbeat travelogue of Herbaljazz (a reminder that a lot of Kosmische music came from Switzerland – cf. Joel Vandroogenbroeck and Brainticket). It’s also a valiant, valuable reminder of how much the Internet has impacted such formerly remote areas of the world, like, erm, Bern.–DC

Various Artists
Xing Wu
After the splendid Insight compilation, which I was very proud to be invited to contribute a track to, here's the long-awaited second release on the Malaysian Xing Wu label. OK, calling it a "compilation" is stretching it a bit (but I've got to find somewhere to file all these reviews): "three-way split" would be a better description. What's more, the three featured artists – Tham Kar Mun, Yong Yandsen and Yeoh Yin Pin – all play together in a group called Klang Mutationen (with Tan Kok Hui on percussion). Look forward to hearing something by that outfit at some stage too. In KM Tham Kar Mun plays alto sax, clarinet, Yandsen clarinet and Yin Pin guitar, but here they're exploring different materials. Those familiar with Insight might recall Tham Kar Mun's "Copula" (imaginatively "scored" for wood, glass, pen, pencil, container, paper). Shang kicks off with a full length six-movement Tham Kar Mun offering called "Confining Abstract in Zero", an almost Mattin-esque juxtaposition of tiny sounds and blasts of noise. If you're a fan of the austere stuff that's come out on labels like Antifrost, this is for you. "Lines", on which Yandsen forsakes his clarinet in favour of an acoustic guitar, is what you might have ended up with if Anton Webern had lived long enough to write a piece for Taku Sugimoto (or Morton Feldman for Arek Gulbenkoglu, take your pick). Frozen pitches sharp as icicles hanging on a winter tree. Hard to imagine this coming from some teeming metropolis like Kuala Lumpur, assuming that's where Yandsen actually lives. Meanwhile, Yin Pin, whose "Psalm 3:4" was definitely one the highlights on Insight for this writer, takes it to the street with a largely unadorned (it would seem) recording of a Taoist funeral in Taman Melawis, which, contrary to what you might expect, works as perfect counterpoint to the other pieces on the album, in terms of colour, pace and sense of ritual. If funerals in Europe were as much fun as this I'd pay someone to record mine. -DW

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Emanem 4120
Alex Ward, Luke Barlow, Simon Fell, Steve Noble
Copepod POD02

Badland, Simon Rose's trio with bassist Fell and drummer Steve Noble, has a user-friendly moniker full of attitude rather than the kind of terse acronym Fell favours for his own groups (ZFP, SFQ, VHF, IST...). Their self-titled debut disc included some unexpected nods to jazz tradition with covers of Coleman and Ellington, which hardly prepared the listener for the sonic chamber-of-horrors of Axis of Cavity, their followup album, which was graced with some spectacularly migraine-inducing work from Rose. The Society of the Spectacle doesn't have that album's cruel surgical precision, but it's just as potent and focussed a document. The music has a take-your-time feel to it even in its orneriest passages, as if the trio were building up intensities layer-by-layer or, as Rose suggests in his liner notes, zooming in on one corner of a canvas. Fell and Noble have by now become as empathetic a rhythm section as Fell/Hession, and Noble in particular has never been in better form, infiltrating metrical eddies even in the freer passages and peppering the music with his trademark sharp, discrete cracks and clangs. Rose is a strikingly non-linear saxophonist, more concerned with juxtaposing niggling repetitions and quivering waves of sound in a manner that might suggest Evan Parker (or legions of lesser free-jazz finger-wigglers) but likely owes more to his "other" guise, as a world-music specialist. The eight improvisations cover a wide ground from the fluttering disquiet of "Kittiwake" and "Mia" (or should that be "MIA"?) to the two-part jazz-inflected blowout of the title-track, but somehow it all seems an extension of the same mood, a fragile/fierce world-gone-wrong vibe. Call it the Guy Debord Blues.
Alex Ward is one of those players who seems to get interesting music out of anything he touches. His new album Help Point features him on clarinet throughout, though it draws equally on the rock-guitar side of his personality: the fuzzy, retro fusion sound of Luke Barlow’s Rhodes and organ isn’t something you usually hear in an improv context, but it works beautifully, as Barlow throws all sorts of outlandish spatterings and growls on top of Fell and Noble’s pungent inside/outside grooves. Ward has a tremendous command of legitimate and extended techniques – he gets sounds out of his instrument that would have taken Zorn an entire tableful of duck-calls – but holds to a strong, fine-nibbed sense of line throughout, leaving a skein of inquisitive tracings across the music rather than (like many improvisers) putting the emphasis on sheer texture. The result is an album that feels surprisingly light in touch even though it sports some tremendous bone-crunching grooves (“The Deil’s Head” and “The Cronk”) and the occasional bit of hydraheaded mayhem (“Help Point Shut”). Anyone whose head’s been turned by Ward’s remarkable contributions to Simon Fell projects like Four Compositions and Compilation IV (or who has encountered him in the oddball noise-thickets of the Incus release Limescale) will want to hunt this disc down, one of the first releases on Ward and Barlow’s new Copepod label. –ND

Commercially released recordings have always been arbitrary guides to musical careers. Tapes sequestered in shoeboxes and milk crates or stacked at the back of closets often reveal entirely different stories than the cellophane-wrapped discs for sale in record shop racks. Take Cooper-Moore. At the moment the earliest available entry in his catalogue is William Parker's In Order to Survive on Black Saint (his work on Alan Braufman's Valley of Search (1975, India Navigation) and David S. Ware's Birth of a Being (1977, Hat Hut) having been out of circulation for decades). This new collection on Hopscotch contains eleven cuts recorded in New York City in 1978, a full quarter of a century before the Parker date, with an eclectic line-up including Ware on tenor saxophone, Abigail Goldman on voice, the obscure but talented Mark Gould on trumpet, and fusion whizkid Kenwood Dennard on percussion. The track titles are pretty utilitarian and the overall feel is of a workshop jam session amongst friends; it's unclear whether this was originally intended for release. The two takes of "Emancipation" find C-M on malleted ashimba in meditative percussive discussion with Dennard, while "Ensemble," of which there are three versions on offer, coalesces into a slow-boiling free jazz cooker with the leader eliciting bass lines from amplified diddley-bow. A pair of "Trio" pieces echoes the instrumentation of Cooper-Moore's working group of the time, with Ware blowing acetylene-torch tenor and Dennard making a passable foray into frothing free-style traps while Cooper-Moore himself pummels away at the piano. Brief fife and drum cadences on "Breakdown" evoke (Booker T.) Washington crossing the Delaware. But the album’s peak comes with "Prayer," a beatific Ayleresque ballad drawn by Ware and Cooper-Moore with disarming delicacy. And there's plenty more, nearly an hour's worth in all. The material doesn't always gel (a case in point being the disembodied voices and gurgling twang of "In the Beginning"), but it's never less than engaging, and prompts the question: what other treasures are sitting in storage, waiting to be rescued from the dust and dark?–DT

Buffalo Suicide Prevention Unit
Realm of Records
The city of Buffalo NY apparently has the worst weather in the United States. If it's anything like its neighbour, Rochester, where I spent 21 months of my life developing a beer gut and a taste for junk food in 1986-87 (the gut disappeared shortly afterwards in California, the taste for junk food didn't), I well can believe it. Winter kicks in in October and drags on until April. There are about three weeks of decent weather in May and again in September, between which the city sweats under leaden skies at 90°F and 90° humidity. A mate of mine, Californian poet Rian Cooney, was once shortlisted for a teaching gig in Buffalo, and went there to be interviewed by Robert Creeley, who took him on a walk through the city, stopping to point at a third storey window along the way. "See that? That's where the snow came up to last winter." But there's the clue as to why Buffalo has always been a cool place (no pun intended). The place has attracted some major league artists and writers over the years. Creeley and Morton Feldman might have moved on to other places now, but music lovers can still rejoice in the Buffalo Suicide Prevention Unit, a smoking free jazz five piece outfit featuring Mike Allard (alto sax), Steve Baczkowski (tenor, baritone, bass clarinet and bugle), Michael Hermanson (trombone) Leif Ingvar Nicklas (bass) and Ravi Padmanabha (drums). Baczkowski's name should be familiar to PT readers as the third member of the trio that signed the recent awesome Dim Bulb with Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano, and his playing on this album is just as passionate, if not always as wild as it was on that release (it's rather hard to think of anything that burns as brightly as that particular bulb, with the exception of Immolation / Immersion, the Wally Shoup / Chris Corsano / Nels Cline platter reviewed here a month or so ago). But BSPU is good solid proof that free jazz doesn't necessarily have to fire on all cylinders all the way through to hit you hard. There's great variety here, from the gruff lyricism of the saxophonists (for whom Joe McPhee is as much a point of reference as wild screamers like Frank Wright) to the complex metres and occasional blasts of military march music Padmanabha and Nicklas throw into the mix. The whole affair is as hot and spicy as a platter of Buffalo wings, so crack open a case of Genesee 12 Horse (or whatever the local brew is up there.. personally I've always sided with Frank Booth in Blue Velvet – "PABST BLUE RIBBON!") and enjoy yourself. If I lived in Buffalo I might just have to play this album every day.–DW

Joe McPhee/Matthew Shipp/Dominic Duval

Strung together, the track titles on this concert disc read "never before, never again, in Finland." Not exactly a resounding encomium to the setting or scenario. But what's more surprising is that this trio's meeting didn't happen sooner. McPhee and Shipp mostly follow parallel paths, though they have come into direct contact on several Thirsty Ear projects, while McPhee and Duval's working relationship goes back nearly a decade, including their collaboration as two-thirds of Trio X. Here McPhee sticks mainly to soprano, employing pocket trumpet primarily as an introductory device. His tenor is, sadly, nowhere to be found. He waits in the wings during the opening of the first piece, wisely leaving Duval and Shipp to suss out common ground and set the stage. Duval's credentials as Cecil Taylor's first-call bassist might suggest that he'd be at ease complementing Shipp's keys, but the pair's communication feels strangely tentative, full of mutual deference rather than forward momentum. Lots of energy is expended, but there's precious little to show for it. McPhee's arrival on soprano parts the dense clouds of the pianist's pedal-swollen block chords with a ray of delicately shaded melody, but the piece remains disappointingly temperate, and even McPhee's gorgeous straight horn work sounds watered down. The second track opens promisingly with a barrage of smeared trumpet, arco bass and crystalline piano clusters, but soon veers off into nebulousness with the return of McPhee's soprano. As if cognizant that vitality is slowly ebbing, Duval kicks in with a riff from "Blue Monk", and the three spend the remainder of the piece exploring that evergreen. The closing track, despite its title, is a thinly disguised "Summertime" that starts out strong (with McPhee's trumpet threading through Shipp's grand pianistic slabs) but peters out in another spate of drifting lassitude. Considering the enormous potential this meeting of three master musicians holds, the results can't help but ring up as a disappointment. Never before, never again.–DT

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Fritz Hauser
Deep Listening
With Hauser on percussion, Pauline Oliveros on accordion and "expanded instrument system," David Gamper on miscellaneous small instruments and Urs Leimgruber on ever-present (but not incessant) soprano and tenor saxophones, Deep Time was commissioned by the Pauline Oliveros Foundation in 1991 and features "recordings of sounding stones (manufactured by Arthur Schneiter) and various watches and clocks." "Deep time" indeed, for it to have been kept out of circulation for so long. Each instrument surpasses time in the same way that the second hand on a clock ticks almost imperceptibly backward from the pressure of moving forward. There's no sense of competing sounds – a race to fill up space with one ego overriding another’s, or any overt "pushing around" of sounds – and the 31+ minutes on each of the CDs unfold with a strange mix of purpose and spontaneity. If, as they say, "Jesus is a flower", this is liturgical music of the highest order. It’s an incredibly delicate hour that passes, emphasizing the oft-forgotten point that it’s not the time itself that passes, but how one chooses to fill the time – kill it before it kills you. One of the gentlest, most natural records in recent memory.–DC

Erstwhile 046-2
"4g" stands for "Four Gentlemen of the Guitar", even if one of them, Toshi Nakamura, doesn't actually play one here (he sticks to his customary no-input mixing board.. shame, because his work with the venerable stringed instrument on Side Guitar was cool). The other three gentlemen concerned are Oren Ambarchi, Christian Fennesz and Keith Rowe, and the music on this 2CD set was recorded in concert in France (at Musique Action, Vandoeuvre, disc 1 track 1, and Les Instants Chavirés outside Paris, disc 1 track 2) and Canada (FIMAV, disc 2) in May and June 2004. It's a quintessentially Erstwhile production in every detail, from the personnel to the cover art (another bold, beautiful Rowe painting) to the music itself, three great colourful slabs of elegant, slowmoving EAI, less combative than Rowe and Fennesz's previous outing together on the label, Live at the LU (you can put that down to the calming influence of Nakamura and Ambarchi, who's in melody mode on the Victo track – shades of his Grapes from the Estate and Triste – and gorgeous it is) but much more satisfying. It's also further proof, if any were needed, that a superb bit of mastering can reveal nuances and depth in a live recording that was not necessarily apparent to those who heard the music in the flesh – I was present at the Instants Chavirés gig and recall that Fennesz's Venice-like swathes of laptop prettiness rapidly got the upper hand, but Nakamura's post-production brings out a wealth of detail.–DW

Ettrick is a two man outfit from San Francisco consisting of Jacob Felix Heule and Jay Korber (no relation to Tomas, methinks) who both play saxophones (Heule alto, Korber tenor) and drums. As you might have guessed from the album title, these lads are coming at free jazz from Black Metal, though I rather suspect that die-hard aficionados of those lovable Scandinavian homicidal maniacs might find Infinite Horned Abomination a trifle intellectual. John Zorn's flirtation with hardcore of a couple of decades ago is a little closer to home, as is Paul Flaherty's recent power duo with Chris Corsano. But that pair's Hated Music is a hard act to follow, even if Heule and Korber are just as energetic. There's a noble tradition across the pond of wild men blowing themselves silly and giving the finger to straight ahead jazz snobs (whom, you will recall, Mr Zorn advised to "eat shit") – if your collection includes the aforementioned Mr Flaherty and seasoned brain melters like Borbetomagus, this is one you'll enjoy checking out. What it lacks in subtlety it certainly makes up for in pure adrenalin rush. Play loud.–DW

ZFP Quartet
Bruce's Fingers
This recording by the ZFP Quartet (Carlos Zingaro, Marcio Mattos and Simon H.Fell on, respectively, violin, cello, double bass and electronics plus Mark Sanders on percussion) comes from a performance in Guimaraes, Portugal, yet in terms of sound quality it's comparable to a top notch studio album. It contains some of the best string playing on offer in recent times, whose depth comes from contrapuntal energies springing from deep within the wood of the instruments (the ghosts of Webern and Ligeti are duly summoned forth) and is enhanced by the sober use of processing. Individual voices remain at one and the same time audible and coherent with the whole design, the musicians remaining fully aware of their position and going to great pains to leave sufficient open sky between the frequent patches of turbulence (special mention should be made of the incredibly sensitive Sanders), never tripping over each other's feet, completely in awe of the mysterious and bewitching creature they've given birth to.–MR

Kemialliset Ystävät
Kemialliset Ystävät’s previous appearance was on a double 8" picture disc released by Campbell Kneale on the Celebrate Psi Phenomenon label in New Zealand. This one's based on a Finnish children’s book about a boy who buys an enchanted candy jar (the album title, translated) full of sweet craziness, eats it all to get heavier and heavier trips but then finds the witch he’d bought it from has vanished. Fucking pushers! "Vapaa systeemi" means "free system" and this record has those in spades and the ace besides. "Free system" also means an album larded up with self-indulgent extraneous nonsense, but thankfully it all just feels so natural and unaffected that it’s no surprise that the album came out of nowhere (Finland) and is going straight back there (storage). Backward-masking galore on acoustic strings plucked with cacophonous, childlike joy, noisy torrents to wash those echoey pastoral moments away, and a hound howling in sympathy. 25 years ago this would have caught Steven Stapleton’s eye and made that infamous list of invisible bands included on the first Nurse With Wound LP. And like John Gill's Sounds review of Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella, this record gets a ????? rating too.–DC

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Guillermo Gregorio
New World
Old school modernism is pretty unfashionable these days, especially in the world of composition. Not many people seem to give a damn about pitches, and scores, if they still exist, are more likely to look like 1960s Cardew than 1990s Carter. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing: it's cool that musicians and non-musicians alike from all walks of life are now appreciating Feldman, and moreover appreciating him for what his music sounds like (though if I were teaching Music History at some Faculty somewhere I'd suggest a semester-long course on Feldman's notation alone) – the number of recordings of Feldman's music currently available is staggering. Of course, he also had hip things to say, unlike Papa Boulez, who's shot himself so many times in the foot making glib elitist put downs of every conceivable kind of music other than the niche market he represents it's a wonder he's got any bloody feet left at all. And that's a shame, because his music sounds so good. Forget all that polemical tosh about "all the art of the past should be destroyed" and sit down with Le Marteau sans Maître and a pair of headphones and let yourself be blown away.
The decline of fully notated contemporary composition has, of course, gone hand in hand with the rise of improvisation. These days there are more and more specialist new music performers who are equally adept at improvising (I mean really improvising, not just turning out a weak impersonation of what "improvised music" is supposed to sound like, like the folks from the Ensemble Modern trying to play Fred Frith a couple of years ago), and the most exciting work I've come across lately in the field has come from two composers who are themselves first class improvising musicians: bassist Simon Fell (of whom more below) and clarinettist / saxophonist Guillermo Gregorio. Born in Buenos Aires in 1941, Gregorio's late teens were spent immersing himself in the work of cutting edge modernists such as Varèse, Webern, Wolpe, Cowell and Crawford Seeger, as well as the music of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh (with whom he later studied) and what used to be called Third Stream. There's a kind of Third Stream connection with the title of this album, the first Gregorio release on New World after a slew of splendid albums on HatART and hatOLOGY, but to understand what's going on you need to read the composer's own eight-page essay, which explains in depth the concept of the coplanar, which a generation of Argentine artists (Tomas Maldonado, Juan Alberto Molenberg, Raul Lozza, Juan Mele and a whole host of others) devised as a kind of third way between the ideological poles of realism and abstraction. Gregorio's essay also goes into some detail on how Argentine composers of the period set about translating such concepts into music, namechecking Juan Carlos Paz, Esteban Eitler and others I've never heard of (but will make it my business to investigate as a result, you bet), but remains charmingly elusive regarding the compositional process behind the eight works on this album. The music is notated, but the musicians are left a good degree of latitude when it comes to making decisions about how to proceed. Improvisation is built into the structure, and the ensemble Gregorio has hand-picked to perform his music is top-notch, as you would expect, as it brings together the cream of the crop of Chicago and ex-Chicago-based improvisers – Kyle Bruckmann on oboe and accordion, John Corbett on guitar, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, Jim Baker on keyboards and Ken Vandermark, who turns out an extraordinary bass clarinet concertante performance on the closing Coplanar 5 – plus some special guests from further afield including Swiss tuba virtuoso Marc Untermährer, vocalist Jennifer Walshe and German piano virtuoso Steffen Schliermacher.
Gregorio's music is thorny, constructivist, bold and angular, and makes no concessions to easy listening. There's no Naked City jump cutting, Day-Glo minimalist chug-a-lugging or featureless impressionist EAI daub here – only sharp gestures, a keen ear for interval and a real feel for musical raw material. The music of Anthony Braxton comes to mind (no surprises that Gregorio's discography includes a splendid reading of Braxton's Compositions 10 and 16(+101), but Gregorio's pitches are better, there's no trodding Ghost Trance dirge and you can actually understand what the composer's on about when you read the liner notes. It's not something you're necessarily going to twig on first listening, but its soundworld is instantly alluring, which means you'll find yourself coming back for more.

Simon H. Fell
Bruce's Fingers
In the age of the laptop and the small ensemble, sitting down to write a full-length piece of challenging no-concessions new music calling for nearly 60 musicians is a truly heroic endeavour (whether the work is funded or not – this was, thankfully), and indeed there's something decidedly epic about Compilation IV, Simon Fell's "quasi-concerto for clarinet(s), improvisers, jazz ensemble, chamber orchestra and electronics." Like Anthony Braxton, Fell sees his compositions as, if not exactly interpenetrable, parts of a larger work in progress, and each of his Compilations "reflects upon ideas formulated, techniques developed and musical relationships forged since the previous one," the reference works here being 1999's Thirteen Rectangles and the series of "Gruppen Modulor" pieces that featured on the excellent Red Toucan outing Four Compositions. The soloist in the quasi-concerto is once again Alex Ward (see also above!), one of a growing number of top-notch instrumentalists who are, as was mentioned in the Gregorio review above, equally adept at handling the difficulties of a fully notated score and improvising freely – and superbly. But he's not alone: Fell's band includes, as you'd expect, the cream of the crop of British free improvisers including Evan Parker, Clive Bell, Mick Beck, Steve Noble and Phil Wachsmann (to name but five).
Though he favours generic numbers for his compositions instead of fancy titles, Fell isn't averse to giving a few clues away when it comes to naming individual movements. The references to Gruppen, Karlheinz Stockhausen's three orchestra post-serial masterpiece from 1957, are evident enough, and "Lydian Panels" is a clear nod to George Russell (who, like Fell, has never shied away from the large ensemble form: his Electronic Sonata and The African Game are spiritual godfathers to Compilation IV). The Harrison of "Harrison's Blocks" is (Sir) Harrison Birtwistle, of course, but the title also refers to one of Birtwistle's own works, the 1998 piano solo Harrison's Clocks (itself a punning reference to clockmaker John Harrison, and if you need any further info on him go to http://www.surveyhistory.org/john_harrison's_timepiece1.htm). And if the Modulor means nothing to you there's a clue in the liners in the form of a photo of SHF sitting in Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye.
The combination of serialism and swing might suggest a slight return to Third Stream – and the sudden appearance of walking bass and ride cymbals in "Harrison's Blocks 1" is something of a shock at first – but forty years on from Schuller and Lewis's pioneering if occasionally wooden fusion, Fell handles stylistic pluralism with absolute mastery and a sense of humour (not a cynical postmodern one at that). "What would it sound like if Henry Mancini had arranged the soundtrack for a Hollywood biopic of Karlheinz Stockhausen?" he muses. "Stockhausen Mancini Head" is the answer, and even if you think you know what it might sound like, I promise you it's better than your wildest expectations. If Papa Zorn had penned this you'd have heard about it double quick, make no mistake. Despite the aggressive modernist positioning, the sliding tempo scales, block substitutions and retrograde inversions, there's nothing dry and fusty about Fell's music: B.J. Cole's pedal steel guitar on "Lydian Panels 2" is absolutely gorgeous, and it's followed by the slinkiest, sexiest soprano sax Evan Parker's ever recorded on "Mancini Gruppen". Great performances abound throughout: Paul Jackson is impressive on piano (though you'd better check the track listing from time to time, because Matthew Bourne also gives the ivories one hell of a workout on "Interlude 2: Quartet" – imagine Tristano crossed with Cecil), Mick Beck plumbs the depths of the double bassoon on "Contrabassoon Concertino Construct" (and for once makes the beast sound like the great musical instrument it is instead of a bowel movement), Clive Bell contributes some typically elegant spacious shakuhachi on "Lydian Panels 3", and powering it all forward with either baton or bass in hand is Fell himself. If you're in search of further reading on the man, I can do no better than redirect you to the magnificent feature interview over at Bagatellen: http://www.bagatellen.com/archives/features/000781.html. And as far as the music goes, Compilation IV is as good a place as any for newcomers to Simon Fell's oeuvre, and seasoned SHF hands can quite simply not afford to be without it.

Jim O'Rourke
Jim O'Rourke cites the influence of Folke Rabe and Phill Niblock when talking about this music, rediscovered in 2003 but originally conceived back in 1990, when the composer was just 21 and still in Chicago. Two versions of the piece are included, the first the original, the second (which I prefer) a live recording from Roulette with Tim Barnes on crotales and Karen Waltuch on viola. O'Rourke notes that though the music he was making between 1986 and 1991 is not something he values too highly these days, he appreciates the "gentle" and "gesture-less" qualities of this particular composition, which is indeed pretty static but certainly not immobile, full as it is of evident currents and clearly perceptible internal patterns whose effect is often comparable to the movement of harmonics in Tuvan throat singing. One of the most interesting aspects of O'Rourke's early work has always been its ability to enhance the intrinsic value of each individual sound until it becomes the nucleus of a complex system of detection; in this instance, a simple unadorned electronic source gradually evolves into a multitude of resonant drones whose spontaneous self-regeneration might lack the frightening power of Niblock's walls of adjacent tones but casts a beam of bright light onto the alien choirs and illuminates the path O'Rourke would take with his more recent music. The sheer beauty of Mizu No Nai Umi is something to cherish – though what we said and did in the past can't be changed, it often reveals our true nature more faithfully.–MR

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If, Bwana
With gluesticked scraps from an old copy of Harold Frederic’s The Damnation of Theron Ware gracing the cover, here's another record from one of the most criminally underrated champions of modern avant composition working today, Al Margolis (once more with a rotating cast of thousands – including deific pop singer Joan Osborne, whose hit single "What If God Was One Of Us" will be rattling around your short-term memory like a game of Mousetrap after you read this), whose Pogus imprint is a logical evolution from his home-taping days with his label Sound of Pig. The xylophone loops and current events recordings of "Frog Field" are a welcome ding-dong-ditch rejoinder to the thudding cut off so suddenly on the opening "Natraj", and the nine-piece Orchestra d’Fou on "Oy vey, Angie" plays everything from tuning forks to accordion to cells and trombone, subsequently de/constructed by later treatments to become a stealthy, slightly metallic drone hovering over the proceedings like those triangular USAF fighter craft you've been hearing so much about. "Cicada #5: Version Bohman" finds Margolis and Dan & Detta Andreana re-interpreting the "talking tapes" of Morphogenesis' Adam Bohman. Thrums and drones build behind manipulations of Bohman’s purred everyday banalities, which are vaguely reminiscent of the old 1990s bit where David Letterman gave audience members Late Night's predictions for the next hip catch-phrases of the year (e.g. "I’m a sweet little cupcake... BAKED BY THE DEVIL!" or "They pelted us with rocks and garbage!"). Finally, "Quaderni" features Margolis on tapes and processing and Laura Biagi on Italian whispers – now just imagine all the effort it takes to work with tape in these times of instant digital gratification. You think you’re bad? Take that unspooled tape you see in the gutter beside the guy selling oranges on your commute home and make a collage by splicing it together by hand. That’s bad.–DC

Darren Tate / Andrew Liles
Twenty Hertz
One of the most coherent albums to come out of Northern England, a region that has generated some of the purest electroacoustic works in the last two decades from the likes of Colin Potter, Jonathan Coleclough, Paul Bradley and Andrew Chalk, Without Season fuses the skills and the vision of two fine purveyors of egoless kneadings of therapeutic field recordings and pellucid naive electronics, in the form of Andrew Liles (whose solo work is well represented by his excellent Drone Works on this same label), acting here as a "conductor", and Darren Tate, who provides most of the sonic material, including his trademark environmental sounds (water flowing and splendid birds on top) plus a squeezebox and various "improvisations". Also present is Darren's neighbour, 79-year old Kathleen Vance, whose stuttering accordion, heavily processed and accompanied by rare piano touches and synthetic waves, characterizes the final movement, a conceptual continuation of Tate's recent Trees Kissing Trees (Fungal), on which Vance was also prominently featured. Instruments mesh with the rainbow arcs of reverberating exploration in a meeting of three solitary souls who decided to share a little of their intimacy.–MR

There’s something deceptive about this record – and it resonates from the album title. While the nine pieces that comprise the disc might be fleeting glimpses of digitally reprocessed songs – hinting at passions for arranged strings, echoed visions of J-pop and contemporary minimal electronics – their impression lingers far longer than you might imagine. I’ve found myself being drawn back to it for repeated listens, each one revealing another layer to the intricately crafted electronic detail and imaginatively playful vocal arrangements. Naoko Sasaki’s vision of pop music is unquestionably lullaby-like; her songs are dreamy, almost nostalgic, reflecting a kind of musical ukiyo-e, where notes, melodies and vocals are pressed through a fine digital mesh and what remains on the sonic page is the impression of song. The colours are gentle yet refined, spacious but never uncontained – or for that matter overt. At its most dream like, "Muse" with its slow muffled melody, hummed vocal lines and sentimental field recordings is an important punctation mark for the record, acting as a meeting point for the two ends of this release. After "Muse" the disc opens out into "Mother’s Love" hinting at a more conventional approach to song before exploring a wonderfully ambient (or more aptly atmospheric) conclusion with "Moon + Cello" and "Beginning". Joined by Minamo’s Yuichiro Iwashita, who adds some elegant acoustic guitar and string players Seigen Tokuzawa, Gen Saito and Sawayka Kuwabara, the intersections of acoustic and electronic sources provide another example of how "pop" can be redefined and arguably refined.–LE

William Basinski
Having inherited the burdensome title of torch-bearer for current and future developments of the post-ambient canon, William Basinski's releases always generate expectancy and curiosity. The Garden of Brokenness' deceptive simplicity reveals instead a mnemonic archive of crumbling dreams, the composer himself declaring that the piece was inspired by the extremely desperate condition of life in this world. The Brooklyn loopscaper translates this feeling into music with an old piano and a handful of environmental recordings of what sounds like the traffic noise recorded in a tunnel, which, processed until nearly unrecognisable, wrap around the reflective sadness of the track's basic arpeggio (something Brian Eno ca. "By This River" and "Julie With" would be proud of). The three-notes-plus-one figure is repeated, multi-layered, self-crossed and partially silenced in blurred fragments and spurts, making this as good as any of Basinski's works since the celebrated Disintegration Loops, affirming his elegantly sorrowful personal signature and confirming that he's not a shooting star but rather a sun in a sky that seems destined to be overcrowded by useless satellites.–MR

Fovea Hex
Die Stadt/Janet
The opera prima by Fovea Hex is structured like many 70s progressive albums – three tracks on the first side, and a suite on the second – except that this is a limited edition double CD, not a vinyl. This project by Hafler Trio's Andrew McKenzie and singer Clodagh Simonds (remember Mike Oldfield's Hergest Ridge?) is based upon rarefied superimpositions of voices and acoustic instruments (viola, harmonium, piano) plus "organic matter" by McKenzie himself. Bloom is the most "vocal" half, as Simonds' transparent (glacial?) voice sings the marrow of three diaphanous songs whose harmonic content is all dim light and near-undetectable movements of the tectonic plates beneath the musicians' feet (Brian and Roger Eno are "special surprise guests", even if their presence is rather discreet, if you'll forgive the pun). The Explanation starts from rigorous silence, gathers impalpable sounds, seemingly from an underwater out-of-tune radio, and finally stabilizes in a harmonious invocation recalling Pink Floyd ca. Obscured By Clouds before being interrupted by Simonds' processed voice, and then silence. Finely conceived and unobtrusively brilliant.–MR

Joda Clement
"All songs by Joda Clement" it says, and that word "songs" is a clue. Strictly speaking none of the six tracks on this album, which were principally sourced in field recordings made in Toronto, Montréal, Paris, Guadalajara and Kabul (this latter a public domain recording), is a song (as in "a brief composition written or adapted for singing"), even if four of them feature additional voice courtesy of Natasha Grace. The second dictionary definition of "song" however does apply – "a distinctive or characteristic sound made by an animal, such as a bird or an insect" – provided one redefines "animal" as "man in his environment." "My recordings attempt to blur the distinction between electronic, acoustic and ambient sources," writes Clement, whose list of instruments used includes harmonium, bells and a whole battery of synthesizers and effects units. "Analog or acoustic instruments are used because of the direct physical process with which they generate sound. I take field recordings from sounds that habitually go unnoticed in the daily environment (airplanes overhead, trains passing in the night, the broken radiator at the end of the hall, falling snow), as well as those which are less accessible for hearing (the abandoned subway tunnels of Toronto, a muffled cab ride through Guadalajara, contact mics on Jacques Cartier Bridge, etc.). I combine nondescript omnipresent noises that surround us with instrumental and vocal recordings to create a landscape of sounds that unites the properties of both musical and everyday contexts." Those words "blur", "muffled" and "nondescript" are also significant here – Clement's work has more in common with the more meditative / introspective work of Andrew Chalk and Keith Berry than it does with that of Eric La Casa or Michael Rüsenberg. It's beautiful and evocative, if a little heavy on the reverb (but I'm not complaining), and I look forward to hearing more of it to come.–DW

Francisco López / Andrey Kiritchenko
I recently got a rather irate email from Joe Morris complaining that only one of his many albums has so far been reviewed on this site (see the Letters section for more grief). Well, sorry Joe, but I do have quite a few and love them all, if that's any consolation (I'm sure it isn't). If Francisco López wanted to he could bitch just as much – apart from two brief contributions to compilations (the Antifrost Suffer / Enjoy project and the infinitely more rewarding Lowercase Sound 2002 on Bremsstrahlung) his vast oeuvre has received little attention here at Paris Transatlantic, ashamed to say. Which doesn't mean it's passed me by altogether – I can count a good dozen of the slimline informationless Untitled jewel boxes on my shelves from where I'm sitting and I'm also the proud owner of the black blindfold that came with Live In San Francisco on 23five – it's just that it's.. not all that easy to write about. Of the many sound artists that have emerged on the scene in the past decade who prefer (by and large) to concentrate on the quieter things in life (bernhard günter, Marc Behrens, Steve Roden, et al.) López is the one of the most uncompromising, and I often come to the conclusion that my time is better spent listening to his music than trying to write about it. This particular release is a little different, though, as it's a collaborative work between López and Nexsound label boss Andrey Kiritchenko, collaborative meaning the former remixes recordings by the latter (you might check out Tomas Korber's rather telling remarks on such joint ventures in his PT interview with Jesse Goin). It's pretty inscrutable stuff, like the elegant but austere hard card cover it comes in, but eminently listenable. Can't say I agree with Adam Strohm's take on it over at Dusted, where he compares it to the opening minutes of Gaspard Noé's Irreversible, which uses low frequencies to "discomfort and unsettle" the viewer, but then again it's about time I upgraded my subwoofers. I do though agree with Adam when he says that a companion remix of López material by Kiritchenko would make for an interesting rematch. Meanwhile, I await another irate email from Joe complaining about me mentioning his irate email complaining about me.–DW

Recorded in 1985-86, these posthumous tapes transport me back to a time when :zoviet*france: (for the occasion, Robin Storey, Ben Ponton and Paolo Di Paolo) was among the first outfits to teach this listener a thing or two about exploring the inner self. Spaghetti Western is a welcome addition to the :zoviet*france: discography, which includes at least three or four milestones of the "deserted-urban-area-shamanic-trance" genre (Shadow Thief Of The Sun and Shouting At The Ground are not to be missed) and, in its muddy unpretentiousness, transports our attention to that interstice between comfort and absurd fear, the music gaining significance as timbral pimples grow inexorably into enormous disfigurements of simple improvisation. The opening movement is a collage of looped and processed TV dialogues (think of a hybrid remix of "America Is Waiting" from My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts minus the 4/4 rhythm), after which the likely lads from Newcastle take off with a compelling series of ritual ceremonies full of percussive round trips, distant wooden flutes and memories of randomly plucked cheap string instruments drifting into a destabilizing sensual haze. Economy of means notwithstanding, these messages truly unscramble the nerves. :zoviet*france: always avoided technical expertise to reach the heart of the matter.–MR

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