MAY News 2006 Reviews by Marcelo Aguirre, Clifford Allen, Jon Dale, Nate Dorward, Vid Jeraj, Massimo Ricci, Derek Taylor, Dan Warburton:

Rune Lindblad
Reissue this:
John Tchicai
Maurizio Bianchi
In Print:
Resonance Vol.10 No.2
In Concert:
Burkhard Beins, Lucio Capece & Rhodri Davies
Dom Minasi / Reuben Radding / Rudi Mahall / Chiesa, Guionnet, La Casa & Petit / Agnès Palier & Olivier Toulemonde / Tom Djll
Terry Day / Paul Hood & Michael Rodgers / Pascale Labbé & Jean Morières / Mattin & Cremaster / Stern & Guerra / Eugene Chadbourne
Vinko Globokar / Phill Niblock / Roland Kayn
Anthony Pateras & Robin Fox / Howard Stelzer & Giuseppe Ielasi / Sébastien Roux / Fhievel
Last month


Such is the pressue to be the first out with a review of a fantastic new disc, it's all too easy round these parts for CDs to drop off the radar, or, to be more accurate, end up towards the bottom of a huge pile. Not so much an in-tray as an in-bin. On my visit to Sweden last year with Aki Onda and Jac Berrocal I was given no fewer than 15 CDs by Mats Lindstrom at Fylkingen, including the magnificent 5CD box reissuing the old Fylkingen poésie sonore LPs (this was written up in The Wire, so you won't find a review of it here). As you can well imagine, it took several months to work slowly through the pile, but when I finally got round to spinning Rune Lindblad's Die Stille Liebe, I was, as they say, blown away. This spectacular 2CD compilation was released a while ago but seems to have received nowhere near enough attention, so I'm making no apologies whatsoever for leading off this month's issue with a review of it. Another splendid work that came to my attention was the latest (?) issue of Resonance magazine, also reviewed below. Seems to be rather hard to track down on the Internet, though (the sites I went looking for it at need a bit of an update, but I'm in no position to talk - about time I did some spring cleaning here), but well worth getting hold of. Meanwhile, a warm welcome goes out this month to new PT contributor Jon Dale, whose writing I've been enjoying for a while in Signal To Noise and The Wire, and thanks to our man in Berlin Marcelo Aguirre for his splendid overview of eleven (!) albums worth of music by Maurizio Bianchi, a major figure who for some reason has never featured in these pages. Nor has the work of saxophonists Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich and guitarist Donald Miller, collectively known as Borbetomagus. Byron Coley's description of the trio as "balls on the line improvisation with enough energy to flatten buildings" is pretty much on the one, as anyone who's ever seen this awesome threesome in the flesh will confirm. So I'm especially delighted to feature an exlusive no-holds-barred call-a-spade-a-fuckin-shovel interview with these free music warriors this month, along with some terrific photos of the group courtesy of Seth Tisue. So out with your copies of Barbed Wire Maggots and Snuff Jazz and give those neighbours HELL. Yee-haw. Bonne lecture.. - DW

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Rune Lindblad

Elektron 2CD
A while back I was tempted to apologise profusely for reviewing an album that came out back in 2003 (Esther Venrooy's To Shape Volumes, Repeat), and I'm tempted to do so again now – but I won't. Die Stille Liebe, a 2CD compilation of music by Rune Lindblad on the Elektron label, Swedish electronic music's showcase imprint, slipped out quietly nearly three years ago but only came into my hands when Mats Lindstrom gave me a copy during my recent tour in Sweden with Jac Berrocal and Aki Onda (documented elsewhere). It took more than three months before I finally got round to listening to it, but it's been blowing my mind ever since. As a brief websearch will reveal, it's still very much available, and it deserves to be on the shelves of every self-respecting devotee of new music, electronic or otherwise. It's quite simply extraordinary.

Rune Lindblad was born into a working class family in Gothenburg in 1923. After a largely uneventful childhood dogged by health problems, he began to paint seriously at the age of 20 (the artwork in Die Stille Liebe is his, and there are many more of his artworks around on the net if you have a look - there's one of his pieces below too), but only drifted into electronic music in the mid 1950s. His first work, Party, happily available on Pogus, who have released two albums of Lindblad's music, was – especially for 1954 – a veritable UFO of a piece, predating the emergence of sound art / field recording by nearly two decades. Lindblad concealed a tape recorder on a trolley he pushed around a party, surreptitiously taping conversations, radios and ambient noise, subsequently editing the result down into one of the strangest and most original works of electronic music you're ever likely to come across.
It was clear from the outset that Lindblad was something of a marginal, not by choice, necessarily – no self-consciously avant-garde posturing "I am the underground" here – but quite simply because he was either unaware of or possibly uninterested in the ideological spats taking place in the world of electronic music at the time. Daniel Rozenhall writes in the liners to Die Stille Liebe that "Lindblad had no trouble unifying the two opposing schools of experimental tape music of the time," namely the musique concrète people in Paris, "who worked exclusively with sounds recorded from the environment" and the folks in Cologne, who "used exclusively electronic sources for musical material." Much has been made of the significance of the factional infighting between the two ideologically-opposed camps, but ultimately both musique concrète and Elektronisches Musik shared a common concern with how and why the sounds were produced, often more so than what they actually sounded like. In terms of column inches of dense print explaining the whys and wherefores of their various methods, there's little to choose between Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Meanwhile, working in almost total isolation in the grey, windswept port of Gothenburg, Rune Lindblad had little time for such ideological fol-di-rol; he was too busy actually making music. And he made quite a lot of it too.

While researching this article, I came across Ingvar Loco Nordin's huge and hugely informative review of Die Stille Liebe at, which I strongly recommend you check out, as it contains numerous quotations from the composer's own letters as well as extracts of the hysterical press reaction to Lindblad's first concert of his music in Gothenburg on February 14th 1957 (he shared the bill with Bruno Epstein and Sven-Eric Johansson). "Truly bizarre!" wrote Carl Tillius in the Göteborgsposten: "Such manifestations will want to be avoided by most regular, normal people. They have enough noise from streets and squares. Guido Vecchi called the concrete music a perfect kind of torture, which becomes unbearable in ten or fifteen minutes." Nordin also points out that the selection of pieces included on Die Stille Liebe, by Mattias Petersson, Kent Tankred and Berndt Berndtsson, though astounding in its variety, is just the tip of the iceberg: "The producers have had to restrain [sic] themselves to the archives of EMS and Fylkingen in Stockholm, leaving out all the fantastic material stored at the Department of Musical Sciences in Gothenburg," he writes.

Things start off discreetly enough with Opus 131 (1976) – there are more than 200 works in Lindblad's oeuvre, and many ended up with no titles other than their opus number – a patient and sensitive exploration of the delicate microtonal nuances of analogue synthesizers, perhaps the two Putney VCS-3 machines Lindblad acquired for the SÄMUS (Special Subject Training in Music) Studio in Gothenburg where he worked (the Putneys were supposedly previously owned by Pink Floyd). The sound might recall vintage outings by the likes of Koenig or Babbitt, but it's immediately clear that Lindblad's not in the least interested in serialism. He has an intuitive almost improvisational feel for pitches, allowing them to flow freely wherever they like until they coagulate in repetition or stasis. Similarly, when the instrumental palette broadens over three quarters of the way through the piece, it does so without warning and for no apparent reason. The piece makes up its own rules as it goes along.
If Opus 131 sounds very much of its time, the opening seconds of Nocturne 72-2 could, at a pinch, fool you into thinking they were Otomo Yoshihide, back in his old guitar whacking days. Eventually the music settles – though settle is not the word – into a brutal, grinding and heavily distorted workout of two or three irregularly repeating notes and ideas. It's obsessive, jarring and thoroughly nasty. The title must be one of Lindblad's little jokes. Opus 172 (Decree) is more varied and elusive. It starts out exploring the recesses of a dark reverberant cavern, complete with watery drips and a forlorn synth melody. A babble of voices drifts in and drifts out again, taking the melody with it. Snatches of voices, sometimes processed, appear later from time to time, as if the composer was tuning in Stockhausen's cosmic transistor radio, but the music remains slow, its timbres evolving slowly. It's as beautiful as it is inscrutable, even if the rather flabby, square wavy old synths parping and farting about towards the end sound rather dated. In the final minute, a snare drum roll appears, as if opening a window onto a passing military funeral. It's an arresting moment, the first easily recognisable sound signifier in the piece, but it lasts only seconds. What could it possibly mean?
Förort (Suburb) (1974) takes us back to the nagging repetitions of Nocturne, the first six minutes of the piece stuck fast to a semitone, which Lindblad dissects with the grim determination of a Home Office pathologist, finally setting its constituent tones against each other in a web of polyrhythms. If it were rescored for conventional instruments and percussion it might just pass as Ligeti, but on Lindblad's grainy, user-unfriendly synths it sounds as strange and otherworldly as a Sun Ra Moog solo. If the music is intended to be some kind of commentary on suburban life, we can only include Lindblad thinks it must be hell.
The earliest work on offer in Die Stille Liebe is Samtal ("Conversation"), which dates from 1961. It's also one of the most extreme, beginning with five minutes of truly odd rattling sludge. Imagine you've been buried alive in asphalt and they're digging you out with pneumatic drills. Eventually human voices appear, but it's hard to make out if they're fighting or fucking. The drills eventually disappear, but not for long. It's a unique experience, at times erotically charged, at times terrifyingly claustrophobic. When Lindblad's first full-length album Predestination was finally released when the composer was already 52, his friend and mentor, Gothenburg-based musicologist Jan Ling, provided the following introduction: "Rune Lindblad is a musical materialist. Natural phenomena, political situations, are shaped with a razor-sharp sense for the perceptive qualities of sound; a time flow, often so invading and intense and extended that you feel provoked, get pissed, happy, irritated, sad – but never indifferent. He depicts the horrors of war, the power of nature, the relentlessness of life. When his humor sometimes shines through, it is a bizarre, bitter distorting mirror image of a grotesque, evil world. Perhaps Lindblad’s interest in the sounds of nature is his sole positive and optimistic side; the strength, the beauty of nature’s sounds is reproduced in artistic concentration in electronic sound worlds. Lindblad describes our world from an underdog view: it is the sound world of the oppressed."
Pedagogik ("Pedagogics") (1972) is probably best described as sound poetry, consisting as it does of superimposed monologues which present a long list of behavioural problems, which Nordin describes as "a bitter criticism on the school environment and the way children are taken care of in school and society" (I'm taking his word for it, because my Swedish is non-existent). Lindblad was politically active throughout his life, and clearly saw his music as a way of tackling distinct social problems. Varv-72 ("Shipyard-72"), not included here, unfortunately, is an unadorned recording of the shipyard worker’s sound environment. Another piece Nordin mentions consists of a heartbreaking recording of an old lady in a retirement home, 1974's Op. 97, Jag Vill Hem ("I Want To Go Home"). Lindblad's mixture of sound art and social documentary often recalls Luc Ferrari, but the Frenchman would never have dared release music as raw and brutal as this. Lindblad's interest in the human vulnerability in life and death is as evident in his art and film work as it is in his music. Årstiderna (DVD release, anyone?) features disturbing close-ups of German police archive photographs of car crash victims on the Autobahn, intercut with chocolate box landscapes and accompanied by a surreal and utterly horrid plastic faux-Baroque music. But if you think Pedagogik is a bit hard-going, wait till you hear Die Stille Liebe ("The Calm Love"). By now you should be taking those titles with more than a pinch of salt; calm love, indeed – this amazing ten-minute apocalypse is as noisy and uncompromising as Merzbow. Blind test anyone you like and see if they get the date within fifteen years. Vicious distorted keyboards are brutally intercut with what sounds suspiciously like one of Hitler's more memorable orations.

The second disc begins with Orgel 3 (Medeltida borg) ("Organ 3 Medieval Castle"), and for once the title pretty much sums up what the piece is about: it's classic medieval dungeon torture chamber stuff, with ugly thick clusters and ghostly ghastly wheezes and peeps – shades of Ligeti's use of the vacuum cleaner-powered organ blower – and, unless there's some kind of ultra-subtle transformation going on that I'm not aware of, the piece isn't electronic at all. Or it's electronic music in the sense that Milton Babbitt once amusingly described a gramophone recording of Tchaikowsky as electronic music. Once again, the barriers that fellow composers and musicologists like to erect between genres mean sod all to Rune Lindblad. Associationer ("Associations") (1973) is perhaps the most exciting piece of the whole set. A gritty montage of lo-fi bleeps and analogue synth wails is eventually joined by what seems to be the soundtrack recording of a film, or maybe several films, as snatches of dialogue – in public school-style British English, either from a war movie ("Left right left right left right leeeft!") or a detective story ("No-one could possibly have had time to take a bath after him..") – are superimposed on Lindblad's strange science fiction soundworld. The contrast between the abstract, cool electronics and the at times distressingly emotional human voices is quite extraordinary. Associationer belongs up there with Öyvind Fahlström's Faglar i Sverige and Åke Hodell's U.S.S. Pacific Ocean as one of Swedish electronic music's most original offerings.
Opus 133 (1976), which is more austere, its rubbery, treacly Buchla lines alternating with reverberant thuds, like Subotnick having a night out at the Noh theatre, is followed by Glaciär ("Glacier") (1971), the only piece in the collection that has been released before, on the long out of print Predestination LP released back in 1975. "About glaciers: If the glacier gets the opportunity to spread, its icy layer produces a flat, trough-shaped depression," Lindblad wrote for the liners of that album. "If the glacier is hampered by rocks, the ice layers are bent in the shapes of fans, waves or zigzag patterns. The glacier fills the valleys down which it flows, and it is in constant motion, albeit a slow one. At the occurrence of sudden precipices, the whole ice mass breaks up into large and small slabs and crushes in on itself." It's a nice description of what's going on in the piece, as huge slabs of thunderous drone shift slowly through a landscape of gnarly trees and spiky rock formations.
If Glaciär is arguably the most accessible piece of the set – though that doesn't make it easy listening by any means – it's not the most haunting. That distinction must go to Opus 161 (1976), which presents an exquisitely transformed female voice speaking in Swedish, half whispered, half superimposed over a smooth synthesizer melody, while a bass thuds in the background. It could be Alternative TV, or Cabaret Voltaire. "I have a feeling that this text is a matter-of-fact description of something," writes Nordin in his review, "but the way Lindblad has treated the voice renders it sacral, mystical." Musikundervisning ("Musical Tuition") (1972) returns to the world of Associationer in its combination of recognisable elements (extracts from what seems to be a speech about Civil Rights in America, and a male voice intoning the names of musical instruments and technical terms in German – "das Schlagzeug, die Synkope, der Takt, die Triangel, das Akkordeon" etc.) with abstract, complex and sometimes violent electronic music. The set ends with Gryning (Dawn) (1973), another blast of raw noise for KK Null lovers everywhere.

The accompanying booklet, rather annoyingly, contains no information on how Lindblad created these works, but makes up for it with an informative essay on the composer by Daniel Rozenhall, and two conversations about Lindblad's work with between Rozenhall and, respectively, Carl-Michael von Hausswolff and Sten Hanson, all expertly translated into English by Paul Pignon. But I can do no better than to finish off here by quoting Åke Parmerud's splendid obituary of the composer, The Unaccommodating Pioneer, published in 1992, a year after Lindlad died, and now happily available online (Google "Rune Lindblad" and you'll find it on the first page): "Rune Lindblad’s greatest contribution to the Swedish music history is that through his entire artistically active life he proved the idea that the world has to be conquered and rediscovered, over and over again, and that it is each artist’s primary duty to be unwaveringly loyal to the world he or she has made their own. And, with apologies to Ralph Lundsten, it is Rune Lindblad who should be written into the history books as the number one pioneer of Swedish electro-acoustic music."–DW

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John Tchicai
There's certainly something to the idea that moving to another country can change an artist greatly, sometimes so much that the tension between the work and "home" produces a need to stay abroad indefinitely. Steve Lacy was one of many American jazz musicians who couldn't find enough work in New York, and it was the fertile and permissive climate of France – where he remained for all but the last years of his life – that allowed him and his groups to craft a unique approach to composition and improvisation. There are also those who use a brief period of life abroad as something to inform and refine their art, so that they can go home with a newfound sense of self (perhaps). Clifford Thornton is one example: his time in Algiers (via Paris) in 1969-1970 gave him the opportunity to study African music and play with African musicians in an unmediated environment. As a result he became not just a brass player but a creative fulcrum, returning to the States – and a teaching post at Wesleyan – as a genuine synthesizer of ideas.
So much is made of American expatriates that it's easy to forget about the rarer example of a European musician moving the other way, to the States. Danish reedman and composer John Tchicai is a case in point. Encouraged by Bill Dixon and Archie Shepp, who saw him playing alto at the World Youth Festival in Helsinki in 1962, Tchicai relocated to New York later that year and stayed until 1965. During his time there, he cemented his own ideas of melodic invention and rhythmic freedom in groups with Dixon, Shepp (particularly the New York Contemporary Five, with Don Cherry, bassist Don Moore and drummer J.C. Moses), Albert Ayler, and the New York Art Quartet (a cooperative with Roswell Rudd, Milford Graves and an assortment of bassists), as well as participating in John Coltrane’s Ascension.
When Tchicai left for the States in 1962, Denmark wasn't exactly a hotbed of free playing. Even his own group at the time with saxophonist and pianist Max Bruel generally stuck to standards and bebop. But Ayler and Cecil Taylor worked in Copenhagen that year, and musicians like altoist Karsten Vogel and trumpeter Hugh Steinmetz (cf. Nu!, Danish Debut, 1966) were among the Danish musicians stepping "out." Of particular importance were the Contemporary Jazz Quartet and Quintet – with Steinmetz, reedmen Niels Harrit and Franz Beckerlee, bassist Steffen Andersen and drummer Bo Thrige Andersen and, on one occasion, Sunny Murray – but the mark they made on Danish new jazz isn't exactly visible from their scant and ultra-rare documentation on Fona Club and Danish Debut (Action and TCJQ, reissued by Steeplechase) as well as tracks uncovered by Atavistic/UMS. Even so, this group and a few others provided a fertile, if small scene in which Tchicai could operate upon returning.
While the braying wide vibrato of Ayler was a huge sonic influence on reedmen like Harrit and Beckerlee, Tchicai’s approach was always cooler, with a bubbly yet acrid lyricism, occasionally shot through with staccato shards as though in self dialogue, and making strong use of quasi-minimalist repetition / elaboration. Though these characteristics soon became evident in his early 60s work, especially with the NYC5, it was the New York Art Quartet that brought them to fruition. There’s a clear, almost geographical independence between the queries and soliloquies of Tchicai, Rudd, Graves and bassist Louis Worrell on the group's ESP debut, which was honed only slightly for Mohawk (Fontana, 1965, with Reggie Workman replacing Worrell). One might have expected Tchicai to continue such small group subversion to continue upon his return to Europe. He eventually did, in groups with Han Bennink, Misha Mengelberg, Derek Bailey and John Stevens, but his first recording upon returning to Denmark was of a decidedly different ilk.

Tchicai’s work with percussionists like Graves, Moses, Murray, Elvin Jones and Louis Moholo had to have an effect on his rhythmic concepts, which are based on a complex dynamic of repetition, elaboration and subversion. But to develop them in an orchestral context was extraordinarily ambitious and without precedent in his discography, and the results pretty mind-bending. Tchicai formed Cadentia Nova Danica in 1967-68, thanks to an opportunity given him by Danish Radio in response to a demand to put together weekly programs of Danish new music. In its initial incarnation, the group included Steinmetz, Harrit, Vogel, Bruel, Steffen Andersen, trombonist Kim Menzer and percussionists Giorgio Musoni and Ivan Krill. Recorded in Aarhus on October 27, 1968 at one of these Danish Radio concerts, Cadentia Nova Danica was released in Germany and England as Polydor 583.770 and reissued on Intercord/Freedom (FLP 40137) in the mid 70s, with its most recent appearance on Japanese Trio (PA-9716) – but it has never come out on CD. The record features most of the above band, minus Harrit and adding a stellar conguero of unknown origin by the name of Robidoo, on six original compositions, four by the leader and two by Vogel. The group released one more recording, 1969’s expanded effort Afrodisiaca (on MPS, with Steinmetz, Harrit, Andersen, Musoni, J.C. Moses, Willem Breuker and others), but tapes apparently exist of an unissued session featuring Cadentia Nova Danica and Musica Elettronica Viva.
Vogel’s "Inside Thule" opens the set, tensely balanced between a spare, rustling funereal dirge and hushed Ligeti-like soundmasses, as a call from the altos sets off the trio of drummers into a loose processional, horns diving, slashing, yodelling and shouting in drunken revelry. Menzer’s plunger tailgate recalls Roswell Rudd's standout bravado in a brief solo statement before the group rights itself for a quick thematic rejoinder. Tchicai’s penchant for Danish folk songs and popular melodies is present in his lilting "Lilanto Del Indio" – it's childlike in its schmaltzy innocence, yet the weight of what has preceded it imbues the tune with an inherent sombreness. Bruel takes a colourful, dense and impressionistic piano solo over orchestral pedal tones, and there's a brief conga-piano conversation before the piece abruptly fades. "Kirsten", also a Tchicai original, is an infectious swagger, mostly for brass, bass, baritone and drums over which Robidoo takes it out with some of the most intense and varied free conga soloing I've ever heard. He pirouettes over the ensemble before settling into a trio with the “jazz” drummers, and takes centre stage as the traps enter into a holding pattern. Krill and Musoni create a Sunny Murray-like acoustic wave field, but Robidoo keeps ratcheting up a notch while the traps add textural tension, a foggy canvas for his dense web. The march-like theme returns, and a snippet of one of Tchicai’s nagging brays is slowed down and expanded into an unwieldy but yet somehow swinging orchestral mass, the leader riding above until he naturally fades into the ensemble, a vamp of peaks and valleys sashaying itself out the door. A dense, almost ritualistic percussive call starts off "Orga Fleur Super Asam," as Bruel’s slinky baritone enters over tympani and conga before getting pummeled into pastoralism. Sinuous bass, filigree piano and liquid alto herald a second section in which Tchicai solos above jaunty toms and gongs, and the tension is maintained by rapid-fire African percussion and eddying rhythms, before the music finally segues into Vogel’s brief "Nova" theme. "På Tirsdag," which Tchicai later revisited unaccompanied on John Tchicai Solo plus Albert Mangelsdorff (SAJ, 1977), is insistent yet fragmentary in its keening soliloquy, as rustling drum echoes and Andersen’s rubbery electric bass pile sonic sludge around it.
Without doubt the recording quality adds an interesting dimension to this session: even taking into account the exigencies of a radio broadcast, the fact that Robidoo and the bass are the most foregrounded elements while horns and drummers sound as though they were in separate rooms certainly makes for an interesting mix. Much of the music sounds distant, as though trying to climb out of the muck it finds itself half-buried in – one has to strain to hear its cries, let alone its conversations. It’s not so much a bad recording as a strange one, but what sets it apart from other music of the period – and what is particularly telling with respect to Tchicai’s work – is that for being so singularly rhythmic in its conception, there is a constant effort made to not only undermine but destroy any sort of traditional polyrhythmic structure. With guitarist Pierre Døerge and the New Jungle Orchestra, Tchicai would later adopt a less subversive approach to mass and time, an Afro-European synthesis that wouldn’t have been possible without Cadentia. Whereas detailed analysis exists of the work of European free orchestras like Globe Unity and the Brotherhood of Breath, as groups exploring the difficult terrain between the two aesthetic poles, Tchicai's ensemble has escaped significant notice in the history of this music. Rather than letting it slip out of sight in the annals of European jazz history, Cadentia Nova Danica deserves the treatment of a visible reissue.–CA [photo courtesy John Shelton]

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Maurizio Bianchi
Maurizio Bianchi

Maurizio Bianchi + Nimh


Maurizio Bianchi
From being an obscure experimentalist, Italian de-composer Maurizio Bianchi, after rising like a phoenix from his own ashes (after ceasing activities with the 1984's Armaghedon), has become something of a present-day icon. And deservedly so. Since his return in 1998 Bianchi – these days a fervent Jehovah’s Witness – has produced a seemingly unstoppable flow of releases on Emanuele Carcano’s Ees’t label, though many have gone sadly unnoticed and little reported, perhaps because non-Anglo Saxons have to struggle for second or third place billing in the current cultural climate. Nevertheless, Bianchi’s position at the uneasy fringes of outrageous, unclassifiable or outsider music is held in high esteem by the small community that appreciates such work, and he's duly respected for his unswerving commitment to his inner dictum. That said, since his return, noiseheads have been largely disappointed, as the beloved nihilistic manifestos of cruel, isolationist Industrial loops and splices have been recast in the form of pensive keyboardism bordering on ambient / New Age. But Bianchi's commitment to his new aesthetic is as total as it was before, and what results is a music that manages to be at one and the same time obsessive and utterly sedating. Dead Colours is a case in point. Originally conceived between 1997 and 1999, it presents a challenging addendum to the trilogy of albums Colori, First Day/Last Day and Dates that set the scene for the more uneasy fragmentary excursions of Frammenti and Antarctic Mosaic. Taking up the whole disc, it drifts from bleak, spiralling sombre synthesizers to smooth, flowing piano (the kind of shimmering atmospheric soundscapes Harold Budd might have contributed to Eno’s On Land if he hadn't already appeared on The Plateaux of Mirrors), a pensive, suspenseful atmosphere of bright tones and melodic figures vanishing into the ether.

Bianchi’s recent collaboration with Rome’s self-styled "ambient-electronic-ethnic-experimental musician" Giuseppe Verticchio, aka Nimh, is documented in the mammoth four CD box, Together’s Symphony, which brings together two joint ventures and two solo offerings, one each. Verticchio's Subterranean Thoughts is sourced from fragile field recordings, encrypted in secret electronic transmissions and recontextualised into fields of drone and crisp buzz. The collaborative venture Secluded Truths exists in a gloomy habitat of otherworldly decaying loops, trademark Bianchi minimal pianism, and Nimh’s cosmic couriers of sequenced, discarded voices. The pace is leisurely and the atmosphere ethereal. The other duo disc, Together’s Symphony, consists in fact of tracks composed separately by each artist. It's a quieter affair, warm, textured and dauntingly elegiac. Bianchi’s solo Niddah Emmhna, based on a chapter of Leviticus, falls into two prolonged symphonies apparently relating to globular activity, the first juxtaposing the aural poison of metallic ambiance with mesmerizing, constantly overlapping eruptions of "erythrocyte frequencies" (to quote Bianchi), the second a journey through a recurring motif of morphed "neurologic piano" and blackening feedback. It's a masterpiece of subtly disturbing sound-sculpturing that recalls the work of Akifumi Nakajima, aka Aube, whose own Aube Reworks Maurizio Bianchi is a set of seemingly endless de-decompositions of Bianchi's M.I. Nheem Alysm (2004) in which Nikajima adds a sense of ascetic sluggishness to the already Spartan development of the original, generating micro-organic orchestras fiercely concentrated on the nature of sound and its hypnotic properties.

With M.B. Archives, Vinyl On Demand has produced yet another weighty 5 vinyl glossy box set which, if you're an annual subscriber as the label recommends – and it's a damn good idea considering what's on offer this year – comes with a bonus 7" of Bianchi’s earliest incarnation, Sacher-Pelz. Compiling all the tapes he released on his own label between 1980 and 1983, namely Com.SA, Computer S.p.A., Voyeur Tape, Noise-O-Rama, Cold Tape, Dicembre 1980, Industrial Tape, S.F.A.G., I.B.M. and Technology 1, it provides, along with the two 5CD boxes, Archeo MB 1 and 2 on Ees’t, a definitive overview of Bianchi’s early work. Siegmar Fricke's remastering and digital transfer of the tapes is immaculate, not that Bianchi never showed the slightest interest in sound quality, hi-fi, lo-fi or even no-fi. By the time he reached his mid twenties, he'd digested punk, Industrial, musique concrète, contemporary instrumental and electronic music, and was ready to disgorge his mass media discomfort on a society harassed by government corruption and the threatened liberation promised by the Brigate Rosse, with the heights (depths?) of disco as its accompanying escapist soundtrack. Bianchi's visionary manifestos embraced the no-nothingness of abstract noise assault, whether dealing with the self-generative uncontrollability of its inner structure, the chance possibilities of systematic trial and error, or self-devised methods of composition he called de-composition. This essentially was a strategic rearrangement of deliberately obscured sound sources, especially other people’s, using a Lucier-like procedure (cf I Am Sitting in A Room) of disfiguration (re-recording the original source until it became but a trace), primitive effects, loops and, notoriously, by deceptive stop-starts of tape decks and turntables. Even his use of presets and effects was unorthodox, his Korg synth, Roland KS20 rhythm-box, Echo-box, a two-track tape machine often disintegrating into feedback atoms of pink noise. Bianchi's aims and methodology were as shocking and deceptive as they were resolute, and almost a quarter century later they've lost nothing of their vitality. However he samples or reproduces the spirit of German electronic music (early Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, Conrad Schnitzler, Sesselberg, Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser’s collective) or post-Etudes de Bruits musique concrète, Bianchi always ends up with a highly personal synthesis, informal, almost burlesque. Not surprisingly, since he was hanging around with the likes of William Bennett (Whitehouse, Come Org), Nigel Ayers (Nocturnal Emissions), Philippe Fichot (Die Form) and Monte Cazazza, the music is steeped in the kind of infatuated Industrial negation Boyd Rice explored with his decentred/locked/looped grooves: disorientation by shock tactics. Take for instance Technology 1, whose penetrating rainbow electronics are embedded in dissonant amplified signals that churn and weave distortedly, a floating sculpture of multidirectional sound mass. Or Cold Tape’s claustrophobic tape acceleration, medium as message, repeating its mutant sequences to form an irregular continuum of deranged trance-like squeaks, abruptly switching to the disturbance of backward turntables, their broken loops a distant recollection of Neu!’s experiments with velocity and the inherent imperfections of recorded media. Although Bianchi’s predilection for momentum and abrasion creates an urgent apotheosis, his selection and use of material does obey clear compositional rules of his own creation. Noise-O-Rama’s exemplary use of sudden feedback explosions set against a modular wave constriction shows how far his technique could develop from minimalist principles without ever repeating itself. Elsewhere, Com.SA's linear electronics conflagrate with no apparent narrative logic, while S.F.A.G illuminates symphonic vistas of empowering magnitude anticipating Black Light District’s mournful, mellotron-like saturation. There's simply no way to discover all the worlds these recordings create at one listen, since they reveal something new and extraordinary at each hearing, not only as historical artefacts but as eternally contemporary documents of pure artistic rage. Consume with caution.–MA

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London Musicians Collective
Magazine (64pp) + CD
Continuing this month's theme of reviewing things that by now are old enough to have disappeared altogether (though in this case not yet I hope) I was delighted to find a copy of this edition of Resonance magazine in the letterbox, sent my way presumably by editor Caroline Kraabel. As the house organ of the LMC, it's always a good read and this particular number is no exception. Subtitled "Locality & Reproduction", it explores various aspects of those two concepts – with a bit more of the more of the latter than the former, perhaps. On the subject of Locality, the most substantial article is Susan Alcorn's "Texas: Three Days and Two Nights", a mini tour diary packed full of the kind of detail I love to read: "Elvis used to perform at Magnolia Gardens on the banks of the San Jacinto River as it widened before emptying itself into the Gulf Of Mexico and at the Harbor Lights near the Ship Channel, which, before closing in the mid-Nineties, was a popular watering hole for Norwegian and Greek sailors, motorcycle gangs and prostitutes. When I played there, the piano player kept a loaded pistol on top of his keyboard, and the musicians openly smoked pot on the bandstand. This was one bar the police never entered."
As you can well imagine, being a free improvising pedal steel guitarist isn't exactly a full-time job guaranteed to pay all the bills, so Alcorn makes ends meet by playing the kind of repertoire more usually associated with the magnificent instrument: Country and Western. It's an affectionate if slightly hair-raising description of a scene most folks, especially here in Old Europe, can only try to imagine: "Everyone in the band is dressed in blue jeans and Brooks & Dunn style western shirts. Before we start the first song the singer shouts out, 'Are there any rednecks out there?' A tepid response. He tries again. I said, 'ARE THERE ANY REDNECKS OUT THERE?' A slightly better response. Then he yells, ' Can I hear a Yee Haw?' A few people shout out, 'Yee Haw', and the band begins to play. [..] The bass player, playing a big old fretless bass (a big no-no in C&W) is hopelessly and blissfully out of tune." And yet despite the horror stories of whisky soaked musicians dying in the street, KKK school principals and point blank shootings, this is home to Alcorn, and she describes it with as much love as detail: "As much as this part of Texas repulses me and sometimes scares me, I don't for a minute forget that this forgotten murky backwoods is a cradle of American culture both black and white."
Sachiko M's "Sayonara Off Site", bemoaning the demise of Tokyo's mythic improv venue, is as minimal and sparse as much of the music that was performed there in its brief history (for a more informative overview of that particular scene, check out Clive Bell's piece in The Wire a while back). Chris Cutler's "A Personal Note about Locality" is more substantial, and certainly worth the price of admission for the archive photo of Henry Cow (dig the sideboards, Fred). Another venue that closed its doors to improvised music in November 2005 was London's Bonnington Centre, where the brothers Bohman – Adam and Jonathan – had been curating concerts since July 2000, for the first of which, Adam wryly notes, "there must have been quite a big audience, relatively speaking, because each musician got £6 after the float money and the room hire were taken out." What prompted the closure of the Bonnington wasn't a lack of enthusiasm – there's never been a shortage of that in London's improvised music scene, which is as vibrant and creative as ever despite being in permanent survival mode (providing you're happy to play for six quid) – but a change in British licensing law, the impact of which Kraabel and Hamish Birchall discuss in "Have You Tried The Palace?"

The most interesting stuff comes when we get to Reproduction, beginning with a fascinating discussion between Michael Parsons and John Tilbury on the various recorded versions of Haydn's 1793 Fantasia in F. What a welcome change to read practitioners of today's music talking with precision and erudition about a piece written 213 years ago (even if the article is peppered, rather curiously, with quotations from the writings of Morton Feldman, not that they're inappropriate)! The accompanying CD contains extracts from the Haydn piece as performed by Tilbury himself and Wanda Landowska in 1957. Editor Kraabel's questions and comments are apposite and thought-provoking, no more so than in "Enthusiasm for Another Area", the interview she conducts with John Butcher. Butcher's an articulate chap, and always gives a good interview if asked the right questions, and this is an especially clear and intelligent discussion of how he perceives the relationships that exist between his saxophone(s) and the electronics, which he's explored on several recent albums, notably his Fringes solo Invisible Ear, a track from which appears on the accompanying CD.
Kraabel's other full-length interview is "DANGER: User-serviceable Parts", with Joe Banks aka Disinformation, who goes into plenty of detail on his Wimshurst Machines, Crookes Tubes and Violet Ray wands. And, if the photograph of Banks performing his "National Grid" behind a very prominent sign saying "VERY LIVE ELECTRICITY! ABSOLUTELY DO NOT TOUCH" isn't fun enough, there's a nice juicy story of how some "sort of rugby types" in the audience found out exactly how painful a little jab of Violet Ray wand can be. Banks deadpans that "a large Tesla Coil [is] SO dangerous you could easily kill yourself or a member of the audience, and even I'm not irresponsible enough to take that kind of risk." Bloody good job this kind of gear never ended up in the hands of G.G. Allin is what I say.
There are entertaining and informative discussions of individual musicians' personal practices, in the form of Sarah Washington's "Please Undo Me (A Circuit Bender's Plea") and Sylvia Hallett's "Corruption & Trickery: My Personal Path Through Electronic Music", and both women's work is featured on the CD too ("Insul", by Washington's DIY electronic collective P Sing Cho, and Hallett's "Ligurian Transport"). Elsewhere Michael Chanan's "Six Reflections on Music and Memory" is a treasure trove of perceptive and quotable anecdotes, well backed up with appropriate and unpretentious (for once) quotes from and references to Barthes, Freud and Koestler, and there are also some choice extracts from the recent re-edition of Evan Eisenberg's wonderfully readable discussion of the history of recorded sound The Recording Angel. Originally published in 1987, it anticipated many of the consequences of recorded music's migration from analogue to digital, if not its sheer scale. "Music has come full circle," he writes in the Afterword to the 2004 edition. "But the geometry is not what I foretold. My compass seems to have been faulty. Music has indeed slipped the surly bonds of vinyl. It has shed its thinghood. It has reentered the lepidopteral realm of the fleeting, the flitting, the ephemeral. But not by entering the noosphere or the Samian kingdom of numbers, both of which are now so crowded with bits, bytes, tones, takes, riffs, mixes and mash-ups that no one can hear anything. The tyranny of digits, I now understand, must pass. Its slaves will either be deafened by their own headphones or else will turn, in exhaustion, to the stuff from which music was anciently hewn: the lungs, tongues, and sinews of men and women acting upon catgut, horsehair, cow hide, bone, wood, reed and empty air."

Which takes us the quotation that prefaces Phil England's magnificent and supremely depressing "Ecology of Sound Technology": "The problem with electronics is that you're using a dead energy in the first place – fossil fuel. What'll they do when it's used up?" That comes from Phil Minton (who has been known, however, to use a mic when necessary, and admits it later in the magazine), and sets the scene for an article full of disturbing revelations, solidly backed up by links to environmental / ecology-conscious websites, not so much food for thought as a veritable banquet, though by the time you've read through to the end you feel guilty about even putting the kettle on to make a cup of tea, let alone switching on your computer to forward England's gloomy predictions to a friend by email.
One of the artists England cites as having taken some concrete pro-environmental action is Matthew Herbert, who's decided to limit himself to one flight a year (you might want to check out why by reading "The Environmental Effects of Aviation in Flight" at As Herbert wrote in the liners to his last album, "It was going to be difficult to criticise apples being flown from New Zealand to England all year round if I was then taking flights myself every weekend. [..] I will also be delighted to leave the pitifully weak and uninspired vision of the world presented to us by airlines and airports.." To which cynics might add Matthew Herbert albums. As England points out, "Herbert's example presents a challenge to improvising musicians whose financial survival is frequently predicated on foreign concert and festival engagements." (Damn right, if the alternative to a gig at a French Ministry of Culture-subsidized festival paying $500 is a jam session in the Bonnington for a fiver, which would you choose?) Mr Herbert might be able to afford to lose 40% of his income, but I doubt the same can be said of the other improvisers featured in this magazine. And before you start burning up CDRs of your music to hawk around to foreign promoters in the hope of landing another lucrative (and ecologically catastrophic) gig, forget it. There are those carbon emissions to think about: you can calculate how much you are pumping out by scaring yourself at
As I write this I'm sitting on a train in Rennes station, watching the bloke sitting opposite me use his mobile phone to call his girlfriend, who's standing on the platform directly on the other side of the window, less than two feet away. And to think that women and children are getting raped, shot and tortured in one of Africa's bloodiest civil wars, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, largely over who gets to exploit the country's mineral resources, including Coltan, used principally in mobile phones. Aye, lad, it's a miserable bloody world when you think about it a bit. Fortunately, if you're prepared to put aside such heavy considerations for a few minutes, there's a delightful little video clip on the disc by Matt Wand of a bloke called Mike Pendell who handcuts 78 rpms in his flat in Brighton. True, as Bob Ostertag and Pierre Hebert's Between Science And Garbage concludes, "today's cutting edge technology is tomorrow's garbage," and Pendell's vinyls, like Ostertag's Tzadik CD, will one day find themselves in a landfill site (as will we all), but while we wait for the oceans to rise and the oil reserves of the world to peter out, it's good to have something entertaining and passionate to read, listen to and watch.–DW [photo of Susan Alcorn's guitar by Ken B Miller]

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Rhodri Davies/Burkhard Beins/Lucio Capece
Ausland, Berlin
April 9th 2006
Post reduktionismus, referring to the German term for the movement that in these pages is more likely to be called EAI, is a breeze that's been blowing gently for a while here in Berlin. An air of disenchantment with the constructive mechanics of reductionism itself seems to be the order of the day, not that many players on the scene are keen to comment on it; several have been seen splashing in the sonic ocean of rampant white noise, or adding another page to John Zorn’s game piece Cobra, though such escapades can be considered as mere ad hoc experiments rather than deliberate attempts to free up what, in Berlin, has always seemed a self-imposed, tough aesthetic discipline. I am referring to the blocks of silence and tiny, gurgling sounds that this particular kind of improv is based on, as a means to develop a musical form which for some key players represents a conscious ostracism of free jazz and old school improv. Such gestures, however, quickly become pointless when repeated, codified and copied by many. Until a couple of years ago, it was somewhat frustrating to attend a concert where there was no discernible difference between the players; no matter how challenging the line-up may have seemed on paper, the music ended up sounding quite similar.

Tonight's concert featured two of reductionism's key players and prime movers, Berlin-based (now relocated to Rome) percussionist Burkhard Beins, and London-based harpist Rhodri Davies, teaming up with emerging contrabass clarinet and sopranino sax player Lucio Capece, who, originally from Argentina, set up shop in the German capital a couple of years ago after stays in New York, Paris and Brussels. As Capece wasn’t exposed to the early manifestations of Berlin's burgeoning redux scene, we had (as Argentinian expats both) been exchanging shifting points of view since. While he still adhered to the aesthetics of the conceptual non-narrative structure and its almost concrète cubism, the scene had for me, despite its lowercase trendiness (having attended almost every concert that took place during those early years), reached a point where some kind of development was required to makes things interesting again.

If rumours were rife of renewal, it wasn’t, happily, reductionism's noisy antithesis that was showcased tonight; it seemed more in accordance with the principles of intimacy to keep things on the calm side. The grey concrete structure and bare walls of Ausland, a revamped cellar in East Berlin's fashionable Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood, is well known for playing nasty tricks on musicians who rely on both decibel overload and micro-acoustic subtlety, but it proved surprisingly well suited to this set. The audience plays an important role in this kind of musical niche market, and tonight they created a warm atmosphere; among the punters were many players themselves – for these are social events too, with plenty of small talk, and good opportunities to plan future projects. I’ve seen Rhodri Davies in various contexts, and have always had great esteem for his playing, distinctive in whatever context, either with Apartment House doing Fluxus stuff or exploring post-Webernian intricacies with IST. Tonight he was keen to impart a sense of evolving warmth and reintroduce a sense of delicately crafted, organic development, both characteristics often explicitly ruled out in reductionism/EAI's code of conduct. Maybe it wasn't a radical departure, but it certainly was a pleasant one. His eBowing and electronics (recordings of his harp courtesy of John Wall) recalled the golden tone of Richard Leinhardt's treated tam tam work, creating an edgy dronescape for Beins' rubbed and bowed cymbals and Capece’s bubbling contrabass clarinet to float through. Parallels could have been drawn with Organum and Eliane Radigue too, perhaps, even if Beins was particularly adept at abruptly interrupting an approaching climax. The focus then was more on the product than the process, and if, to quote the title of Mark Wastell and Mattin's opus, "reductionism is dead", this concert was certainly a stylish eulogy. And maybe the first time a 4/4 bass drum beat propelled the music towards its conclusion.–MA [photo by Vitor Joaquim]

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Dom Minasi
With such a stellar cast as this – wait for it: Ken Filiano, Jackson Krall, Perry Robinson, Joe Giardullo, Jason Hwang, Tomas Ulrich, Carol Mennie, John Gunther, Herb Robertson, Steve Swell, François Grillot, Ras Moshe, Matthew Shipp, Mark Whitecage, Borah Bergman, Joe McPhee, Paul Smoker, Sabir Mateen, Blaise Siwula, Peter Ratray and Byron Olson – you can almost forgive guitarist Dom Minasi for basing the whole project on the novels of Ann Rice. Remember Interview With The Vampire? (The book, not the film..). Wow, that was a while back, wasn't it? Yes, and it's taken a full decade for the elusive guitarist – unless I'm mistaken nothing appeared on disc between his two 1975 Blue Note albums and 1999's Finishing Touches on CIMP – to gather together the forces necessary for such a huge undertaking. The Vampire's Revenge is an ambitious suite of ten major compositions ranging from the intricate openers, "The Seduction" and "Who's Your Dentist?" (can't decide if Perry Robinson on the former or Joe Giardullo on the latter is more outstanding, and who cares?), to the raucous march of "The First Day", or, on disc two, from the angular complexity of "Blood Lust" to the thrills and spills of the closing title track. Matthew Shipp's crunchy structuralist pianism is perfect for "The Dark Side" – would that he spent more time making records like this one instead of the corny rap crossover shit on the Blue Series (plus, how many albums do you know that feature both Shipp and Borah Bergman?). Spectacular performances abound, and it'd be doing a disservice to all concerned to single out just one or two, but Herb Robertson is simply awesome on the title track. The rhythm team of Filiano and Krall is exceptional, and Minasi is everywhere, buzzing around the charts like a mad cross between Wes Montgomery and Sonny Sharrock. OK, the vocals, courtesy of his partner, Carol Mennie, are a bit hysterical at times ("one more one more onemoreonemoreONEMORE BITE!"), and the odd snatches of the old Twilight Zone soundtrack might raise as much of a smile as the lurid purple inner sleeve cover art, but what do you expect from a vampire story, for Bram's sake? Even if you don't dig Ann Rice (I don't, to be honest), you'll have to go a long way to find a large scale project in contemporary jazz as convincing and rewarding as this. Go on, take a bite.–DW

Reuben Radding
Pine Ear
An increasing number of musicians and listeners are looking upon traditional free jazz as a stylistic cul-de-sac, and bassist Reuben Radding confronts the problem head on with this new disc on his own Pine Ear imprint. Assembling an ensemble of players at the vanguard of process- and texture-oriented improv, Radding spearheads a program of music that borrows from electro-acoustic and ambient musics, even though the instrumentation at first glance suggests a conventional jazz combo. Percussionist Andrew Drury makes use of a multitude of bowed and scraped surfaces, alternating clattering metallic dissonance with quietly precise patter. Trumpeter Nate Wooley’s dessicated drones and hollow breath sounds bring to mind the work of fellow tone scientists Greg Kelley and Axel Dörner, though he also produces some striking dynamic contrasts by throwing in more recognizable patterns. Tenor saxophonist/clarinettist Matt Bauder rarely sticks to a strict note-based lexicon either, instead gravitating towards harsher tonal extremes. Radding is often similarly abstract, but his sound remains enormous: his mighty pizzicato and thunderously humming arco still possess power enough to rattle the rafters. Six tracks, two of them little more than fragments, build up to the finale, "The Gradual Instant", on which Wooley's trumpet becomes a variable-speed metronome, and Radding's bass suggests the creak of wind-blown rigging on a sea-faring clipper. Drones and grainy scrapes abound, as well as lulls into near-silence. It’s a standout performance, and the piece's marathon 32-minute length feels fully justified. A word of praise is due too for the cover art by Susan Bowen: the images of junkyard materials recombined into new architectural configurations beautifully complement the music.–DT

Rudi Mahall
The number of solo reed recordings has grown by leaps and bounds in the last several decades, but solitary bass clarinet recitals are still a rarity. Recognizing the dearth, Rudi Mahall redresses the gap with this new studio disc of unaccompanied improvisations. Collage cover art brings to mind the visual style of Zappa while the tray card reveals Mahall's appetite for wursts of varying hues and girths (Uncle Meat, anyone?). The wry humour carries over into the music. Bouts of extended technique are scattered across the seven tracks, but Mahall doesn't clog the set with empty displays of expertise, and resists the temptation to indulge in Dolphy-derived tics or low end spelunking. Instead, he prefers the middle register, with results sounding sometimes uncannily like Braxton’s work on alto saxophone, and shows a Lacy-like attention to melody, space and repetition. Mahall makes room for roughness and imperfection in his improvising: notes are punctuated by audible huffing and puffing, and there's an occasional hesitancy that initially sounds unplanned but comes to seem entirely deliberate. The only misstep to my ears is a mercifully short segment where he submerges the horn in water, producing a spate of gurgling mingled with shrill overtones. Mahall has taken an instrument historically favoured by doublers and fashioned a personal vernacular on par with that of the saxophone family. The fact that the results are so damn listenable almost seems like a lagniappe.–DT

David Chiesa/Jean-Luc Guionnet/Emmanuel Petit/Eric La Casa
Creative Sources
Although there are several notable examples of what our Editor-In-Chief has dubbed "environmental improvisation", I can say without doubt that this is one of the most accomplished ones I've heard. Microphones were placed in and around the Villa Adriana, in the Ardèche department in southern France, home to a M. René Quinon (to whom the record is dedicated), each feeding a mixer sensitively manoeuvred by Eric La Casa, and the musicians walked in and out following their own instrumental signals, "working on the construction of a sort of an abstract and tentacle-like belvedere plunged into the acoustic space of the place". Amidst the ever wonderful singing of various kinds of birds and the unbelievably tuned buzz of the insects, listening to these rarefied sounds is a privilege. The most striking tones come from Guionnet, who explores resonant corners with his alto saxophone by playing long extracorporeal lines that send those auricular membranes into defence mode (all the while eliciting an interested response from some of his chirping buddies), until he ambles out and around with short staccato blasts that almost catch us by surprise, tiny smoke clouds which the gentle luminosity of the day turns into silky whispers of pliable truth. Chiesa's double bass is a house within the house, his bow murmuring on the strings with religious respect for silence, clicking microsounds like wood cracking and giving under the heat – picture an enlarged sonic photograph of Nikos Veliotis taken by Mark Dresser. Guitarist Petit remains barely visible, yet his feedback heightens the sense of tranquillity and excites wasps and flies, whose constant drone becomes a garden ceremony. Waves of charged string resonance – an infinitesimal fraction of Chatham/Branca-like turbulence – cross paths with Chiesa’s vibrational sensitivity and Guionnet’s ghost notes, skeletal textures reacting to the kind of magic that the Villa Adriana seems to transmit to the artists in their obscure evocation of inscrutable figures who approach, summoned by the sound, but remain too shy to show their handsome faces. The concluding dialogue between Guionnet, a passing plane and the forest voices is finally interrupted by a car stopping nearby, abruptly indicating that it's time to go. Too bad.–MR

Agnès Palier/Olivier Toulemonde
Creative Sources
Agnès Palier seems to find her sounds inside a small cave within herself, enervated emissions of breath and tiny vibrations of vocal cords coalescing into a highly personal fairyland – without the happy ending. Although a singer coming from a classical/jazz background, she uses her tools with a sort of repressed anxiety that sets the overall tone of Rocca close to those transcendental absurd theatre pieces which have the audience either scratching their heads or wailing in approval. Embryonic phonemes and timbral nuances coagulate according to their own strange morphology, at times sounding like a cassette player left on a towel at the beach with the batteries running out and the tape melting. Olivier Toulemonde's discreet amplified objects are the perfect complement to Palier’s frail digressions, microsonic crumbles, and percussive clucks and snaps; the deconstructed machinery of his caressing whispers underlines Palier's suffering postures, like those muffled earthquake thump-and-drag sounds made by children at play in the apartment above you. A valuable experience in uncomfortable pleasure and an inquisitive dismemberment of your listening attitudes.–MR

Tom Djll
Soul On Rice
Most of you out there could, if pushed, come up with a nice little list of so-called extended techniques trumpeters (I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't abandon the "extended techniques" moniker altogether, so widespread these days is the use of hisses, gurgles and wet splats, not to mention unconventional mutes and mic placements): Axel Dörner, Greg Kelley, Franz Hautzinger, Matt Davis, Nate Wooley, Masafumi Ezaki, Ruth Barberán – and Tom Djll. But perhaps the Santa Cruz CA-based trumpeter isn't as familiar to you as he should be. Though active in the lively Bay Area improv scene, Djll's recordings aren't all that easy to come by, especially here in Old Europe. Mutooator, a stunning set of duets with musicians including William Winant, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Tom Nunn and Myles Boisen, and the splendid Signs Of Life (with Matt Ingalls, Bhob Rainey and Jack Wright) are both well worth tracking down, and they're joined now by not one but two new Djll offerings, Bellerophone and Smudge. Both reveal the trumpeter as an alarmingly versatile player, and someone who's not prepared to rule out certain more "traditional" ways of playing just for the sake of ideological purity (unlike, perhaps, Dörner, who tends to keep his avant improv chops at a safe distance from his more conventional outings with Die Enttäuschung and Alex von Schlippenbach). Sure, on Bellerophone, there's plenty of ominous sub-bass growling (the title track), spitty blustering ("Feelautomie"), eerie whistling ("Gastrophonie") and innovative split channel mute work ("Haveitbothwaysophony" – shades of Ben Neill's mutantrumpet), but there's also a hilarious version of "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" on which he sounds like a giant kazoo.
On Smudge Djll extends his already wide vocabulary using a Serge Analog Synthesizer and digital processing to produce seven tracks of enormous variety and colour, from the high register acoustic beatfest of "Oxide" via the nasty mangled noise of "Flame" and the sweeping drones of "Schizt" to the ghostly resonances of "Patina". The horn is still recognizable, especially on the queasy "Exfoliate" and the ultra-reductionist "Covalents", and the most substantial offering, "Split", multitracks Djll's split-tone technique to create a one man Scelsi brass band. With typical modesty Djll cites Kyle Bruckmann's Gasps & Fissures and John Butcher's Invisible Ear as influences, but he has no need to be "in awe of [their] musicianship, attitude and generally evolved level of intelligence." Smudge is a worthy companion. Check it out. And Bellerophone too.–DW

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Terry Day
You don't see many one man bands about these days (remember Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins?) – after all, who needs to strap cymbals and bass drums to ankles and elbows when at the click of a mouse a machine about the size and weight of a Sunday paper can unleash a truly apocalyptic barrage of noise? But these 32 recordings by Terry Day, a one man band – People Band, that is – if ever there was one, date from those happy times when even CDs were just a figment of somebody's imagination. Originally earmarked for a cassette only release in 1981, they were recorded for the most part in various apartments and studios in London, Newcastle, Luton - and Amsterdam's STEIM. Day was (presumably still is, though he's sadly not as active now as he used to be) the quintessential "second generation" improviser – though that's a stoopid appellation if ever there was one, because the People Band he helped to found was one of the very first improvising outfits in the early days of 60s free music – meaning an ability to play as many different instruments as possible in as many different styles, more often than not at breakneck speed, was the order of the day. Unsurprisingly, in terms of aesthetic, the music on Interruptions recalls Day's other outfits of the time, notably Alterations, but here, with the exception of one brief appearance by Davey Payne and two by Alterations' Peter Cusack, he's all alone, creating his own orchestra by (decidedly primitive) multitracking. The number of instruments he gets his hands on is typically bewildering – in addition to your good old standard piano, cello, saxophone and electric organ, the list includes bird toy warblers, bamboo pipe, Chinese flute, African thumb piano, mandolin, poppers (?!), balloons, plastic trumpet, kazoo and a Michel Waisvisz crackle box – but if that isn't enough, fans of his raspy singing voice won't be disappointed. On "Be A Good Boy" (music by Cusack, btw) he sings along to a farty oompah that's as deliciously dumb as his lyrics, and on "It Ain't My Cup Of Tea" there's more than a smattering of Johnny Rotten in the delivery and articulation. In terms of recording quality I think we can safely say that this one isn't going to end up with a Grand Prix de Disque from the Academie Charles Cros, but for sheer fun and raw creativity, it's hard to match. Let's hear it for Terry Day, the man that put the mental into instrumental.–DW

Paul Hood / Michael Rodgers
Michael Rodgers is, like John Bisset, proof that free improvised acoustic guitar music can be tonal, even rhythmic, without necessarily sounding like a dawn raid on the John Fahey back catalogue. On "Three Scenes For The Black Fortress", Paul Hood's skipping disc lays the foundations of a B major drone that Rodgers happily builds on with some heavy low strumming. If anyone ever released an album of unplugged stoner metal, it might sound something like this, were it not for those turntables. But Paul Hood is a refreshingly original turntablist who evidently had as much fun spiking the drinks with snippets of Arthurian legend, dubby videogame bleeps, low flying aircraft and revving motorbikes as he and Rodgers did gulping them down. So-called "second generation" British improvising outfits like Alterations were always good at supercolliding diverse musical genres, but while their work was often anarchic and frantic, a mad dash down the aisles of the supermarket throwing things willy nilly into the caddie, these eight brief tracks by Hood & Rodgers are more of a leisurely stroll through the stylistic backwoods. And what a joyfully unpretentious outing it is.–DW

Pascale Labbé / Jean Morières
In case, like me, you've passed 40 and now have to hold Japanese import CD reissue gatefolds at arm's length to read the small print (I think the word is "presbyopic" or something), this handsome twofer comes with a huge foldout insert you could probably read from about 50 metres away, though it doesn't tell you much more than the track titles that are already printed on the box. Unless, that is, you happen to like that slightly intellectual verbiage, sprinkled with just a hint of pretentiousness, that used to characterize those old In Situ liner notes. I can pass on the palindromic album title too, to be honest – let's skip the words and concentrate on the music. Improvising vocalist Pascale Labbé hasn't released much in recent times, and flautist Jean Morières, like that other reclusive player of the same instrument, Jérôme Bourdellon, hasn't exactly flooded the bins with product either – all the more reason to rejoice at this collection of 26 brief but superbly executed and magnificently recorded duets (sometimes more than duets, too, since our two protagonists aren't averse to a little multitracking here and there). Labbé's work makes for an interesting comparison with Agnès Palier's (see elsewhere), but remains more, erm, mainstream (i.e. most of the time she actually sounds like what you would call "singing"..). Similarly, Morières apparently has little time for extended techniques – Jim Denley / Alessandra Rombolá he is not – which all makes for the kind of album of improvised music you could, at a pinch, play to your mum and dad when they come round for afternoon tea without risking serious domestic trauma. Also, although all 26 tracks could quite happily have been contained on one disc, it's rather nice to see the set split into two halves, reinforcing the symmetry of the gatefold / duo / palindrome idea.–DW

Mattin & Cremaster
Not a collaboration between Basque laptop terrorist Mattin and cult filmmaker Matthew Barney, unfortunately (shame – sure he could have done a better job than la Björk). Cremaster, in case you don't know, is the Barcelona-based EAI duo of Ferran Fages (feedback mixing board) and Alfredo Costa Monteiro (guitar and pickups). No surprises here as to what to expect: lots of decidedly user-unfriendly noise, some of it relatively harmless – fine static drizzle, sprinkles of pops and clicks – some of it pretty obnoxious, ranging from howls of feedback to all-out screaming. It's jolly enjoyable stuff, if you like that kind of thing, wonderful for a hangover (as in Vyvyan's famous question to Mike in The Young Ones: "What's good for a hangover?" "How about drinking the night before?") but if you've got several Mattin or Cremaster albums in your collection you can probably do without this one. That said, if you have got several Mattin or Cremaster albums in your collection you're probably an Iberian Peninsula EAI / noise completist, in which case you won't want to pass it by.–DW

Joel Stern / Anthony Guerra
A lot of EAI these days has that inner city claustrophobia, humming like a substation or clattering like a cotton mill, but there's a distinctly rustic feel to proceedings here, not only in the album title and cover art, but in Stern's field recordings, which range from squeaky gates to all manner of flying creatures, tweeting, clacking, buzzing and twittering. Along with Guerra's explorations of the upper partials of sustained bowed tones, the title track sounds like Arnold Dreyblatt on a summer holiday on a poultry farm in the Gers. Le bonheur est dans le pré, quoi. "Old Whitechapel Silence" moves indoors, with Guerra's delicate pings and tweaks accompanied by a rattle of cutlery and crockery that sounds like it was recorded on a microphone hidden inside a teapot. The harmonies Guerra sketches in on "Rainy Day Woman #5" are relatively tonal, though not as unashamedly so as on his recent solo outing Empty Kingdoms. The final "Avierys" returns to the open air, planes miles above in a clear blue sky, birds singing merrily away somewhere in the distance, but its intricate rustles and scrapes are perhaps best appreciated on headphones. Beautiful stuff.–DW

Doc Chad
House of Chadula
Eugene Chadbourne’s greatest virtue is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously (would that other so-called "free" improvisers followed suit more often), and Duck, Chad is a glorious selection of covers, standards, improvisations and protest songs recorded and/or documented during 2004 and 2005 in venues and studios in USA and Germany. In keeping with the samizdat aesthetics of the release, the package consists of assembled collages glued onto old record sleeves with the CD-R. The opener, Nick Drake’s "One of These Things First", played on 12-string guitar with some additional German musicians, starts with a paraphrased intro of Tom Waits’ version of "Somewhere" and is followed by "Grey", with lyrics written by Chadbourne’s daughter Lizzie. Right after, Chadbourne sessions on Captain Beefheart tunes in New Haven with Doctor Dark band, playing some mean guitar on "Veteran’s Day Poppy" and "Plastic Factory". Harburg/Allen’s "If I Were King of the Forest" presents the Doctor's growlingly ironic vocals accompanied by Brian Jackson, pianist of Gil Scott Heron’s band (remember?). On the traditional "Rattler" Jackson helps Chadbourne out on flute, while Chadbourne’s "Old Piano" and the Heron/ Jackson classic "Lady Day and John Coltrane" are banjo and piano duets. Chadbourne’s improv chops are once more to the fore in a duo with Han Bennink, playing Coleman’s "Legend of Bebop" (I only wish I could see it on DVD). The rest consists of solo tracks, including the hilariously premonitory "Cheney’s Hunting Ducks", recorded months (!) before Mr Cheney had a bad day hunting, "Lyndy", dedicated to the torturing lady officer from Abu Ghraib prison, a C&W arrangement of Coltrane’s "Pursuance" and "Sleeping through Concerts", where Chadbourne remembers his days of being a music critic.-VJ

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Vinko Globokar
It's not just the album title that refers to Verdi: in the 1980 work that gives this album its name, Vinko Globokar quotes not only "La Donna e' Mobile" but also a paso doble, tango, bolero and even a funeral march, interrupted by blasts of car horns, sirens, police megaphones and whistles as the players – here a group of (sadly unnamed) students – move around the performance space (which can be anything from a traditional concert hall to a sports stadium or a public square, the composer informs us) in accordance with various predetermined geometrical figures. The music is "simple and easy to play", but is probably more fun in concert than it is on disc, like its upmarket "serious contemporary" older cousin, Stockhausen's Ylem. Dédoublement is a tougher nut to crack, but there's more protein in it. The clarinettist – here Michael Riessler – is required to perform "increasingly complex sounds" while simultaneously controlling the head tension of two pedal timpani, and playing the clarinet in close proximity to the mighty drums, modulating the sound in quite remarkable quasi-electronic ways.
Globokar, as well as being a prolific and resourceful composer, is also a fine trombonist, best known for his work in the improvising group New Phonic Art, from 1969 to 1982, and as a member of Stockhausen's band in Aus den Sieben Tagen (touchy subject that – wrangles over royalties eventually leading him to appear on the discs merely as "Anonym"). Globokar and his former NPA playing partner, percussionist Jean-Pierre Drouet hadn't played together for nearly twenty years before these two tracks, respectively 25 and 6 minutes in duration, were recorded in Sogna in September 2001. And recorded quite superbly – every wheeze and splutter is right in your earhole. It's a reminder that Globokar's name belongs with Rutherford and Malfatti in the Improv Trombone Hall Of Fame. Meanwhile Drouet, trained as a classical percussionist and delightfully free from the prevailing dogma, isn't averse to the odd foot-tapping pulse, not to mention throaty Indian war whoops, and the two men are clearly having a ball (so is the audience). It's a shame, in a way, that improvised music as mature and dynamic as this should be hidden away on a contemporary music label such as Atopos instead of on a higher profile improv imprint like, say, Emanem, but it's well worth seeking out.–DW

Phill Niblock
This triple CD set starts right where 2003's Touch Food left off, adding another chapter to the recorded history of dronemeister Niblock, the guru of outrageous auricular membrane excitation. Static minimalism has never sounded so full of movement. Disc one opens with Seth Josel's eBowed acoustic guitars, and on Sethwork the tiny acoustic imperfections deriving from adjacent resonating strings are perceptible in the harmonic cloud generated by the superimposition of tones typical of the composer's method. The second track – contrary to what's erroneously printed on the CD itself – is Lucid Sea, featuring the alien wooden flute-like sounds of Lucia Mense's recorders, a gradual oceanic drift from octave consonance towards serious microtonal vibrational skull massage. The powerful low frequencies of Arne Deforce's cello on Harm trigger the kind of irregular oscillation of acoustic beats which is clearly perceptible even at volume levels lower than Niblock recommends. It's simply sublime, a celestial bagpipe weeping for a dying forest, another milestone in this man's oeuvre. For Parker's Altered Mood, aka, Owed To Bird, which opens the second CD, the composer asked German saxophonist Ulrich Krieger to choose a Charlie Parker theme to build the piece on, and the resulting take on "Mood" (six superimposed recordings of the first thirteen notes of the theme) is Touch Three's most luminous and meditative offering: think Jon Gibson and Dickie Landry's lines in Glass' Music With Changing Parts played into the wind, all slippery quarter tones and phantom harmonics. When you hear music like this, a different light shines on reality. Another saxophonist, Austrian Martin Zrost, lends his name to Zrost, in which the interference patterns of his soprano, though perhaps a little easier on the ears than some of the other pieces on offer here, still leave you feeling like you're standing on the quayside waving goodbye to your loved ones as they sail off to battle, warships blasting their horns as they pull away from the shore. Impressive stuff, and it needs all the space of a large room to be fully appreciated, especially after 16 minutes or so, when those giant helicopters zoom in. Franz Hautzinger plays trumpet on Not Yet Titled, which starts out with a "normal" intervallic layering of tones until something happens halfway through, an enormous swarm of bees invade the living room to dispel whatever false sense of security you've been lulled into, aided and abetted by a squadron of Lambrettas and an orchestra of didjeridoos (both non-existent, of course). Valence, featuring Julia Eckhardt's viola, begins the third disc by returning to the principles of spectral staticity that always seem to correspond perfectly to Niblock's choice of string instruments. Its complex mosaic of contiguous tones forms a background for intense reflection, a harmonic utopia whose ever so slightly different voices can be singled out even in the ebb and flow of timbres. It falls once more to Krieger to bring proceedings to a close with two further pieces. Alto Tune, like several other Niblock works, begins in consonance before shifting into slow mutations of the imagination (I hear looped segments of a Christmas carol sung by indefinable children's voices), while Sax Mix, whose mathematical complexity is worthy of Benoit Mandelbrot, is performed on alto, tenor and baritone saxes, meshing old and new materials (it's a 75-track mix of three existing sax pieces, Ten Auras, Sea Jelly Yellow and Alto Tune itself) into a single harmonic monster whose distance from conventional reed music is directly proportional to the mesmerizing effect it produces. Complexity leads to freedom from every useless aspect of sound organization. No bullshit indeed.–MR

Roland Kayn
At 72, Roland Kayn's vision is brighter than ever, the perpetuation of his endangered species of self-regulating music guaranteed by a totally autonomous release schedule which treats us to periodic jewels like this double CD, another compendium of acousmatic / cybernetic emotion whose sound colours dissolve in rarefied nuances of timbral amazement. Invisible Music (2003) is a three-movement composition whose whopping 122 minutes stretch over one and a half discs. As usual with Kayn, the malleable "harmony" determined by his unpredictable scores is a polychromatic experience that defies effective description. Translucent orchestral chords are dissected, decomposed and woven together in alternation with parabolic chorales, eliciting long moments of wonder(ing) as sudden poignant appearances of celestial electronic beings and surreal transfigurations lead the listener deep into the twilight zone. There is no time to ask, no way to understand; just accept events as they are, and allow the body to be pervaded by a mystifying sensation of undefined / undefinable knowledge. Camouflaging his sound sources through masterful equalization work contributes greatly to the sense of dislocation, even if some elements are recognizable (notably in the third movement): fragments of organ, brass and strings and, paradoxically, the occasional "easier" melodic line seemingly mocking Rick Wakeman and Vangelis. But not for long. In short, we're talking "masterpiece" again. In contrast, Hommage a K.R.H. Sonderborg (2003) is surprisingly atypical. Starting out with the kind of engrossing string cadenza Michael Nyman would have loved to pillage, it's an eventful collage of icy wind, looped particles of chamber minimalism and incomprehensible white noise eating away at electronic rhythms until a muffled bell sounds the death knell of any hope you might have had of fathoming out what's going on. Roland Kayn's music (I've said it before) is like the sun: any child can sketch it but nobody can watch it long enough to fully memorize its actual shape.–MR

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Anthony Pateras / Robin Fox
Editions Mego
Face it kids, if you're going to invite the ladies of the local parish church's knitting circle round for morning coffee, you're not going to reach for a Mego album as background music. The majority of releases in the Mego catalogue are the aural equivalent of having shards of broken glass spat in your eye. And despite the fact that in real life they look about as harmless and affable as your old high school geography teacher, Anthony Pateras and Robin Fox are as good at gobbing as the audience at the 100 Club used to be in the glory days of punk. (Though if you're a fan of Fox's recent Substation with Clayton Thomas on Room 40, or Pateras' mighty trio with Sean Baxter and David Brown, you'll know this anyway and will already have your goggles on.) Flux Compendium is as tight and funky as early Xenakis, and a splendid example of the kind of music that ought to be required listening for any music undergraduate – but probably never will be, because our boys are having too much fun they're playing tiddlywinks (on "$2.50") into a set of Tibetan prayer bowls. The virtuoso cut'n'splice of "Throat in Three Parts" makes Bob Cobbing and Yamatsuka Eye sound like Prima Materia. It's not all shatter and splatter, though: "Perilymph" layers slowmoving, shifting cluster drones for nearly ten minutes before they're gradually replaced by morse-code like beeps and cheeps. Still, on the closing "Flex & Belch" it's the farts and burps that win in the end.–DW

Howard Stelzer
Expect to read quite a bit about Howard Stelzer in these pages in the months to come, as it seems 2006 will see a whole slew of new releases coming onto the market of music by the Boston-based electronician, of which This Map Is A Gift is the first to come my way so far. It's a 39-minute continuous span of music picking its way through a forest of sounds, recognisable and unrecognisable, near and far. And the forest seems to be somewhere in New Zealand; squiggles of guitar, laptop and percussion (courtesy Clinton Watkins, Richard Francis and Stefan Neville, respectively) flit in between the trees, while somewhere out of sight a hammer throwing competition in a sheet metal factory is in full swing. Stelzer is, or at least used to be, a Peter Greenaway fan – as I recall, one of his early bands was called Tulse Luper, after the character in Greenaway's perplexingly dense early structuralist short films. There's something of a puzzle element to Stelzer's music too, which like Greenaway's films pulls you in, forcing you to search for meaning and structure in the midst of a welter of information. Unlike Greenaway's work, whose seeming impenetrability can often come across as chilly, even frigid, Stelzer's soundworld is hot and sweaty. It's a jungle in there - OK, maybe it's not New Zealand after all - so wear light clothes. But be sure to take all necessary precautions against insect bites, because there are some mighty strange and nasty things flying about.–DW

Giuseppe Ielasi and Howard Stelzer
Korm Plastics
The Brombron project, which temporarily houses two musicians at Extrapool in Nijmegen for cross-pollination purposes, is one of those rare examples of creative curatorial acumen. The endeavour presupposes collaboration, but the aesthetic decisions made by the Extrapool and Korm Plastics teams are well rendered, so there’s little doubt that the outcome will be at least an interesting adjunct to the artist’s primary creative energies. On the downside, there’s always the threat that artists won’t rise to the occasion, and at least one Brombron disc has been clumsy and slightly wilful, though that’s probably more an indicator of the creators’ own temperaments. Polite middle ground ensues when the collaborators circle each other deferentially, bowing and doffing their caps; most thrillingly, sometimes the two artists push and prod each other out of creative comfort zones.
Ielasi and Stelzer’s Night Life sits down somewhere between the latter two. They’re comfortable in each other’s presence and share awareness of general modus operandi, but there’s enough benign transformative energy thrown down to ensure the disc gestures toward new possibilities. Stelzer’s tape manipulations are transparent, often evoking process or flux as they acting as bedrock for electronics and acoustic guitar. He sometimes favours queasy or seasick sounds; the tape is gnarled out of existence, fed through playback heads as the oxide flakes away and gathers in whorls of dust over the record button. Ielasi’s tone is immediately identifiable; his guitar playing is generous and rich even at its most minimal, yet he harbours great tension within phrases and chords, harnessing a sound that is as tense and mutable as it is melancholy and gorgeous. Night Life’s tracts of buzzing drone, populated by insectoid stammer and sidereal presence are repeatedly disturbed by pointillist mediations. Stelzer and Ielasi reach a fantastic entente cordiale, pushing and pulling at the right moments. They are at ease in each other’s space.–JD

Sébastien Roux

Since the last outing by Sébastien Roux that came my way, Pillow on Apestaartje, though outstandingly well recorded and beautifully produced, was just a leeeetle on the soft side, I was delighted to discover that this collection of seven pieces, recorded in and taking advantage of Parisian state-of-the-art studios including La Muse en Circuit and IRCAM, is more angular, intricate, fragmented and rewarding. The dreamy Day-Glo blue room chillout waves of bliss have been replaced by the kind of crunchy complexity even Boulez might grudgingly enjoy, though he'd probably turn up his nose at the occasional passages of gentle tonality from Roux's source instruments (prepared piano, metallophone, guitar, cello, harp and bass). There's a lot to get your teeth into here: each "song" is packed with myriad pristine shards and flecks of sound, exquisitely crafted and carefully sequenced and panned, but despite the complexity there's not the slightest hint of Mego-style overload / overkill. Roux hasn't lost his feel for harmonic coherence either: check out how "The Cello Song" circles around E flat, and how the instrumental sounds and their electronic transformations are dovetailed with the kind of clockmaker precision Stravinsky admired in Ravel. A superb piece of work – Roux's best so far by far – definitely worth seeking out.–DW

Petite Sono
My fellow journalist Charlie Wilmoth over in the webpages of Dusted is on the one when he compares the work of Italian sound artist Luca Bergero to that of Keith Berry. There's the same concern for detail throughout this excellent and elegantly packaged CD (I admit it, I have a Rodgers and Hammerstein-like fondness for things that come tied in string), and the same ability to create music that manages to convey a sense of space and distance without being spacey or distant. Discreet, intimate and poetic, rather; and, once more like Berry (who seems ever happy to throw in quotations of Basho), Bergero isn't afraid to append evocative titles to his work – though even if the album were called ST/4-1,080262 or Composition N° 247 instead of Le baptême de la solitude it would, I suspect, work its charms. The delicate fluttering high frequencies, luminous but never obtrusive drones and carefully treated field recordings are, however, best appreciated on headphones. Unless, that is, you happen to live in a place quiet enough to baptise your solitude by appreciating its many subtleties on a good pair of speakers.–DW

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