JUNE News 2007 Reviews by Clifford Allen, Nate Dorward, Lawrence English, Massimo Ricci, Dan Warburton:

Bruce Russell
On Emanem:
Freedom Of The City 2006 / John Russell / Terry Day / Lol Coxhill
Aidan Baker
Noah Howard
VINYL SOLUTION: Sun Ra / Jason Ajemian / Emil Beaulieau & Jason Lescalleet
Frank Gratkowski & Misha Mengelberg / Tigersmilk / erikm (Ferrari) & Lehn / Ov
Bruce Eisenbeil / Antoine Chessex / Kahl Monticone / Memorize The Sky / Doneda, Ielasi, Zach
Hanna Hartman / Iannis Xenakis / Jean-François Laporte / Lubomyr Melnyk / Philip Bimstein
Ilios / KK Null / Courtis & Wehowsky / Jazkamer / Tim Catlin / Coleclough & Liles / Heemann & Martin / John Watermann / Daniel Menche
Last month


Sumer is icumen in, as the song goes, and you probably don't have much free time to sit about reading new music magazines like this. Well, maybe you do, but unfortunately I don't have much time in the next couple of months to sit about writing new music magazines like this. Not content with nearly getting shot in a TGV train, detained for alcohol trafficking at Beauvais Airport, arrested for smoking just about everywhere in Sweden, beaten up in an after gig brawl in Geneva (all of which you can read about by clicking right here), I'm off on the road again with Aki Onda and Jac Berrocal. In case you're interested – hey, why shouldn't I use the magazine for gratuitous self-promotion? – that trio will be appearing in Marseille (Montevideo) on June 1st, Montreuil (Instants Chavirés) on June 2nd, the Kraak Festival in Ghent on the 9th (hey, I finally get to meet Nurse With Wound! I'm psyched!) and Amsterdam's STEIM on June 21st. Plus the Return Of The New Thing quartet with Jean-Luc Guionnet, Edward Perraud and François Fuchs will be playing Alchemia in Cracow, Poland on the 16th, and Rats (the indefatigable Perraud and myself) appearing at Aspro Impro in Besancon on the 27th. Come along if you're in the area. Anyway, if you're worried about your PT fix, be warned that this year there'll be a Special Summer Issue which will hit cyberspace on or shortly after the 14th of July – Bastille Day, thought that was appropriate – and then nothing until September 1st. I'm actually thinking of taking a holiday, would you believe.
But in the meantime there's a whole backlog of things to get through, starting with this month's long-awaited (by me, at least) interview with Tom Johnson. Don't forget to do your homework and visit his site before (or after) you read it. Thanks also go out to the usual suspects for their contributions, and to the many people who continue to send material in for review. Plenty of good stuff lined up for the summer issue, fear not. Meanwhile, bonne lecture.-DW

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Bruce Russell

Euskubalauron Press / Spirit of Orr (Book + CD)
Gilded Splinters is a collection of Bruce Russell's tape works created between 1995 and 2005, originally intended for Selektion but eventually released on Spirit of Orr, and here reissued along with an all-too-brief selection of Russell's writings: The Real 'Driver UFO', an extended version of a review that originally appeared in The Wire of Douglas Lilburn's Complete Electro-Acoustic Works, Time Under The Rule Of The Commodity (subtitled "Towards an epistemology of tape music"), To Think Is To Speculate With Images (subtitled "Rosicrucian linguistics revisited as semiological discourse") and some detailed notes to accompany the five pieces of music on the CD, of which more later. Scattered throughout the slim volume are Russell's own photographs of London and Bangkok, accompanied by choice quotations from Guy Debord's Comments of the Society of the Spectacle (Verso, 1998).
While it's wonderful to hear Russell's tape works, it would perhaps have been nice to have a few representative samples of Lilburn's as well. As New Zealand's foremost pioneer of electronic music, it's clear he was a powerful influence over not only Russell but his fellow cohorts in the Dead C. Their first "vinyl side-long epic", 1991's Driver UFO, was actually recorded on top of Lilburn's Poem in Time of War (though the only person who noticed it at the time was another New Zealand alt.rock pioneer, Clinton "Omit" Williams).
Time Under The Rule Of The Commodity is a terse manifesto of sorts dating from February this year, full of juicy aphorisms but best read perhaps in conjunction with To Think Is To Speculate With Images, a more extended investigation of Russell's ongoing fascination with late 17th century thinking and its possible connections with analogue recording. Summarising briefly but cogently the differences between Aristotelian and Platonic thought on the relationship between res et verba, words and things ("for Aristotle there was no inherent relationship between the two, merely an accepted convention that gave meaning to essentially arbitrary associations", while in the Platonic conception, "words participated essentially in the nature of the objects they described [..] Thus by knowing the right name of a thing, one could have power over it – to manipulate words was to manipulate reality itself"), Russell touches on "the quintessential Rosicrucian", Robert Fludd, Giordano Bruno (hence the quotation pinched for the article's title) and his beloved Kaballah, finally steering us to the mission statement: "Music constructed according to the rules of academic tradition – for all that it evokes a complex of Aristotelian instrumentalities (that is: conventionally accepted meanings) – runs the risk of putting too much premeditation and intellectual mediation between musician and listener. These are impediments to a direct, one-to-one human communication, happening in real time and space. [..] It is only once this dead weight of tradition and artifice has been set aside that human subjects can communicate directly."
Russell is far too smart a thinker to go along with Walter Charleton's call in 1650 to "quit the dark Lanthorne of Reason and wholly throw [himself] upon the implicit conduct of faith" without expressing some reservations ("of course the ultimately tautological nature of 'Rosicrucian' philosophy betrays its methodologically unsound extension of analogy into identity"), but the notion that the kind of free music the New Zealander has devoted himself to over the past couple of decades can somehow cut through all our preconceptions about music as both "language" and cultural commodity and communicate directly at some deep and inexplicable level is seductive indeed. I've long been aware of the total inadequacy of much of the theory and history I spent nearly 20 years studying to explain what's going on in the music of artists as diverse as Keith Rowe and Borbetomagus (to name but two). How does this music work? Why do hairs stand up on the back of the neck on listening to some albums but not others? What is the basis of any value judgement regarding music that has quite wilfully stepped outside the existing boundaries of conventional technique, form and music history?

The five works included on the CD don't necessarily provide any answers to these questions, but are welcome additions to the Russell discography, revealing him to be a composer (he may not like the word, but too bad) with a nose for a good concept and an ear to match. Like Toshiya Tsunoda, he's fond of providing the listener with serious background information about the compositional process. So we learn that Sonatas for Toy Fire Engine and Tape Delay (2000) was recorded on quarter-inch mono analogue tape and played back over both play and recording heads of Russell's machine at lower speed. For Laurie Penney (2005) uses as its source sound an archive recording of a lieutenant in the New Zealand army singing a Japanese folk song, and was originally an hour-long piece created for Resonance FM in 2002. Poi$on+Lie$=Money+Death[Version] (2004) began life as a recording of guitar feedback made in a laundry in Philadelphia, originally on a mini-cassette Dictaphone, slowed down and released as a 7" on Marc Masters' Crank Automotive label in 1995. For this "version" – Russell's love for vintage dub is never far away – he recorded the vinyl onto a digital video camera inside a cupboard, with the camera mic "recording both the acoustic sound from the needle on the vinyl and the amplified sound from the stereo monitor speakers on the roof of the cupboard." Canterbury Vignettes #2: From Space (2003) was sourced in a live improvisation in 2000 for electric guitar and electric toothbrushes recorded in the McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch ("the fantastic reverb of that building can clearly be heard"), which was reversed and played back over both heads of the tape machine while Russell improvised on top. And finally Tunnel Radio [Detour Autours] was commissioned in 2001 by ORF Kunstradio and RNZ's RPM, and was recorded in various cars driving through the Lyttelton Road Tunnel with their radios tuned to RNZ (675KHz AM). The noise that interferes with the reception is recorded ("every car is different", notes Russell) and mixed with studio-recorded backing tracks, themselves sourced in tunnel recordings, and edited once more on quarter-inch analogue tape.
So many verba about the res, all these words might seem to be "impediments to a direct, one-to-one human communication" whose virtues Russell seems to be extolling. Aspiring to "an instant communication of human reality by means of free music" surely means, to use the old cliché, "letting the music speak for itself" instead of encumbering it with baggage describing when, where, how and why it came into being. As is my wont, I took this music out on the road to listen to on the way to and from work before sitting down to read Russell's copious notes, and I'm not sure I didn't enjoy it more for being ignorant of the circumstances surrounding its creation. I'd don't think I'd ever have been able to guess how Tunnel Radio [Detour Autours] was recorded if Russell hadn't told me. If "to think is to speculate with images", there's nothing better than words to conjure them up. Now I hear Poi$on+Lie$=Money+Death[Version] as strangely claustrophobic (after reading all that stuff about laundromats and wardrobes) instead of evanescent and mysterious.
So, do we need to know all this? I suppose you can argue it both ways. Without the explanatory texts and accompanying manifestos, the music can perhaps attain Russell's goal, instant communication of human reality. But if that communication is one-to-one, it seems perfectly possible that reactions to the music will vary enormously depending on the person listening. Anyone not versed in the kind of sounds Bruce Russell makes might well find Gilded Splinters, with its tunnels and caverns of gritty drone and hiss, a pretty depressing experience. So the description of the concept and the working method is also a key for listeners to unlock the music with. In any case, as Lieutenant Laurie Penney says, as he steps up to the mic, "put cotton wool in your ears and close all the doors, because here it comes."–DW

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On Emanem
Various Artists
Previous years have seen the release of at least one, often two Emanem double CDs documenting the annual Freedom Of The City festival in London, but the 2006 edition has (so far) yielded just one single disc, Martin Davidson preferring this time round to concentrate on three of the somewhat lesser known groups who appeared at the Red Rose on April 30th and May 1st last year. Though it's always refreshing to hear some new talent – soprano saxophonist Chefa Alonso and percussionist Javier Carmona are new names to me, though I did have the pleasure of meeting the third member of their trio bassist David Leahy in Brussels last year – the 26-minute slab of music that kicks off this disc, "Chácara" isn't likely to have any improv nut falling off their barstool in surprise. Not that it isn't good at what it does, running the gamut from high-speed splatter to more pointillist textures via various permutations of solos and duos, but you do get the distinct feeling that if you were to drop in for a pint at the Red Rose in May 2016 you might hear something remarkably like it. It's about time we forgot about all that "non-idiomatic" nonsense and started calling it Improvised Music. With capital letters, too, because we know Martin D has never been all that taken with lowercase.
"Stipple" features four musicians Davidson (rather unflatteringly?) describes as "veterans" of the London scene (never cared much for the V word to be honest, half-imagining wheelchair-bound napalm-scarred Americans singing "We Don't Want Your Fucking War"): tenor saxophonist Garry Todd, violinist Nigel Coombes, bassist Nick Stephens and drummer Tony Marsh. It's a thorny but rewarding 32 minutes of music I've listened to about half a dozen times already without completely figuring out what Coombes is up to, though it's great to see him playing again, after keeping what Davidson punningly describes as a "low profile" since his SME days. It's certainly not jazz, even if Stephens gives a few tantalising hints of the terrific free swing he's capable of, and Todd's meaty tenor is not totally Rollins-free.
To my ears the most rewarding track on the disc is its centrepiece, the awkwardly-titled "Okgnig I", featuring a quartet of visiting Belgians. Guy Strale on clarinet, piano and percussion, Jan Huib Nas on guitar, Adelheid Sieuw on flute and Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg on voice. Readers of these pages and subscribers to the French magazine Improjazz will know Van Schouwburg as a writer of note (his recent career survey of John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Ensemble is the best thing ever written on the group, full stop, and if you don't believe me learn to speak French and read the damn thing), but he's also a versatile vocalist, even if his deep throated growls and gurgles inevitably recall Phil Minton. There's a lot of room for manoeuvre in the Belgians' music, and some splendid open-minded interplay between Nas and Sieuw – not surprisingly perhaps given the fact they're married. Here's to Freedom Of The City 2016, then.–DW

John Russell
Guitarist John Russell has been running the admirable Mopomoso ("MOdernism, POstMOdernism, SO what?") improv series at London's Red Rose since 1988, which is the kind of longevity that most new music organizers can only dream of. The programs usually offer three short sets by various ensembles, the last being a duet with Russell. Hence this CD, which brings together three such Mopomoso duos, recorded in 2004 and 2006, and adds (for a change of pace) a large-group improv from last year's Freedom of the City festival. Russell's debt to the instrumental vocabulary of Derek Bailey is clear throughout, especially in his attraction to wide intervals, his resolutely segmented, percussive attack, and his systematic variation of timbre and means of production (open string, fretted, harmonic, behind-the-bridge pling); it's in subtler matters of pacing and mood that his individuality comes through. He tends to dwell pensively, almost circularly, on chords or motivic cells that Bailey would have brusquely disposed of, and has a very different approach to group playing, preferring to merge into the larger ensemble sound (whatever the size of the group), and play with rather than against or aslant his musical partners.
"The Bite" reunites the guitarist with the craggily eloquent tenor saxophonist Garry Todd, with whom he recorded Teatime for Incus back in 1975, and the result is rather like a Parker/Bailey duo in the process of backwards-mutating into something like jazz again. Trumpeter Henry Lowther remains one of the UK's best jazz trumpeters, though his discography consists mostly of sideman appearances (if you can stand pub-gig din, hunt out his superb quartet CDR Fungii Mama with guitarist Jim Mullen), but as "Blart" shows, he's also adept at free playing, weaving Milesian rhetoric in and out of the rich sustains of Russell's chording and enticing the guitarist into passages suggesting modal jazz or droney folk-minimalism. "Chamarileros", Russell's duet with the Spanish soprano saxophonist/percussionist Chefa Alonso, shows his ability to find the exact counterpart to any texture – disappearing whole into the pell-mell percussion textures while fielding snappy ripostes to the sax's polymorphous gabbling. "So It Goes" (the title suggests a post-facto tribute to Kurt Vonnegut) pulls together nine players – including Phil Wachsmann, Steve Beresford and Ashley Wales – for one of the large-group projects Russell likes to call "Quaqua" (Latin for "whithersoever" – remember Lucky stumbling endlessly over the word in Waiting for Godot?). As you'd expect from this veteran of the LIO and Chris Burn's Ensemble, it's tightly organized and texturally varied, and admirably free of directionless everyone-for-himself playing. "Analekta", incidentally, is a Greek term meaning "a collection of the finest works"; evidence of Russell's self-deprecating sense of humour, for sure, but nonetheless a fitting title for this excellent CD.

Terry Day
2006 DUOS
Recorded at London's Red Rose at various improv events (Freedom Of The City, Free Radicals, Mopomoso, a benefit for Lol Coxhill..) between April and September last year, 2006 Duos is a rare opportunity to hear one of British improv's most distinctive performers, Terry Day (People Band, Four Pullovers, Alterations) in five extended duos with, respectively, Charlotte Hug (viola and voice), Rhodri Davies (harp and preparations), Phil Minton (voice), Hannah Marshall (cello) and John Russell (guitar). Rare because ill health has curtailed Day's activities over recent years, but you'd be hard pressed to spot any trace of it here. Back in the glory days of Alterations, his anarchic quartet with Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack and David Toop, Day was, like everyone else in the band, a multi-instrumentalist, playing everything from drums to balloons, and often performing his own outlandish free punk poetry to boot. On Duos he concentrates on three different sets of self-made bamboo pipes (as well as toy amplifier and plastic water bottle in places). In case you think that sounds like something you might hear in a hip New Age Zen sushi restaurant , think again: the bamboo pipe sounds more like a medieval crumhorn (if that means anything to you), a rich, reedy sound somewhere between a bassoon and a kazoo. And in case you think that sounds awful, and awfully limited, it doesn't, because Day conjures a huge variety of sounds out of it. As is usually the case with Emanem, the disc is jampacked full of music, and this time I'm not sure the inclusion of the duos with Minton and Russell adds that much, especially considering both men have just had their own Emanem outings in this same batch (see elsewhere). The most surprising and varied playing is on the tracks with Marshall (vicious!), Davies (some of the harshest Rhodri on record) and Hug, whose use of different bows and a whole range of special effects (showcased beautifully elsewhere on her Neuland, one of Emanem's strongest releases of the century so far) turns the duo into a veritable micro-orchestra. My one reservation about this track is the inclusion of Day's vocals towards the end, which seems to push Hug into "accompaniment" mode, as if in any combination of words and music music had to take second place. The nice thing about Day's songs with Alterations was that his three chums quite simply rode roughshod over them, as they did with just about the entire history of world music. But that was then and this is now – and on the strength of Duos 2006 it's clear we should be hearing much more from Terry Day.–DW

Lol Coxhill
Lol Coxhill’s More Together Than Alone collects assorted duet recordings from 2001 to 2005, all recorded at London’s longstanding free-jazz oasis the Red Rose, but the standout performance is a solo soprano sax piece recorded at the Vortex in 2000. It’s a typically charged, fat-free 20-minute improvisation, a few surprising Ornette touches popping up in the middle, and offers a fine demonstration of Coxhill’s ability to attack an idea from multiple directions, undercutting arrogant assertion with wobbly uncertainty or split-tone abstraction and occasionally seizing on a note as if to wring its neck. This may be "free" music, but it has an implied, distended swing that will still set the foot tapping if you let it, and this is just as evident in the duet with Henry Lowther, which beautifully pits the trumpeter’s pristine Wheelerian runs against Coxhill’s prolapsed melodies. The other pieces find the saxophonist in his thorniest form, worrying at tiny, high-pitched crumbs of sound like a hen pecking at seeds. An encounter with Pat Thomas is particularly successful (indeed, it’s better than the pair's previous album together, One Night in Glasgow on the late lamented Scatter label). Thomas’s contributions on keyboard and sampler are admirably understated – gentle nudges and sputterings darkening into gathering-stormcloud static, and snippets of radio and TV voices reduced to circling insect buzzes – but the track eventually develops real gravitas, with Coxhill resorting to an extraordinary, racked lyricism. A track with guitarist John Russell is nearly as good, and the only disappointment is the brief duet with the late Hugh Davies (playing his homemade electroacoustic instruments), which starts out well but ultimately seems a bit underachieved.–ND

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Aidan Baker



All the sounds in the "spontaneously composed" Dance Of Lonely Molecules were generated by Aidan Baker's electric guitar, of which the Canadian is nowadays one of the most imitated manipulators. The CD is mastered in such a way that a three-part continuous suite is (criminally) abruptly interrupted at the birth of each track, breaking the music's flow. Horreurs! "Sarabande" is conceived like an arc: it begins with subsonic drones, evolves into psychedelic industrial mayhem replete with distorted dissonance and ends with ionospheric superimpositions of suspended harmonies and loops that lull us back into the land of Catatonia. "Trotto" is a slow seesaw between two neighbouring chords, dark oneirism of the finest blend enhanced by extracurricular scrapes, twinkling and plucking adding a touch of implosive movement to an otherwise overwhelming rumble. "Saltarello" starts with beguiling siren chants where different strata morph into each other, creating a perturbed function in which circular movement and expansion of consciousness coincide, at least until the definitive return to a basic pattern that mixes deep breathing, jet explosion and metallic resonance. Chaos finally prevails.
Broken & Remade is an atypical release for Baker, digitally constructed with 4-to-8-second samples of analogue instruments (including guitar, bass, flute, voice, drums, trumpet and violin) played by Baker, Richard and Lucas Baker and Sarah Gleadow. All the tracks take their name from anagrams of the CD's title: "Ab Mad Kern One Te" sounds like Dif Juz cut into subtle shreds that get entwined in garlands of Pink Floydian reflections, drums and bass appearing in short outbursts of reverse-tape serendipity amidst peculiar scalar accelerandos that leave you puzzled (to say the least). "Anna Broke De Dr Me" is a postmodern Pygmy song mixing Jon Hassell and the drunken local band in your favourite exotic holiday. Both "Bard Dna Reek Omen" and "Radar Been Mend Ok" mix rock and trance elements in about 12 minutes each, but the result isn't up to Baker's usual standard. The repetition undoubtedly overstays its welcome. It's nice to hear the guitarist attempting something new, but I'd be lying if I told you that Broken & Remade ranks among his best releases. An EP would probably have been enough.
Comprising three "songs" performed by Baker with contributions from Sarah Gleadow, Lucas Baker and Jonathan Demers, Thoughtspan is a different proposition altogether. "Speed Of Thought", despite its title, is a scarcely dynamic yet texturally rich piece that moves along the most contorted meanders of the psyche through disarticulated chords, detuned enchantments and obliquely zinging strings. "Thought Climate" presents even more impenetrable abstractions, beginning with high shrills, percussive titillations and swaying lines that, in their simplicity, give us several uneasy moments. This track's lo-fi vibe recalls Baker's self-produced first album Element, with heavier rhythmic presence and an overall sense of haziness throughout. Baker’s whispery voice sings the title track, immediately paralleled by rolling drums and immaterial "Aidantronics" pulse. Remarkably, it's the drumming that assumes command, establishing a continuous flux of beat'n'hit ritualism that waters its most arcane seeds into a fully-flourished plant whose different colours constitute a potentially intriguing facet of Baker's future experiments. The final minutes bring us back to the Kingdom of Loopscape, the kind of standstill the man from Toronto specializes in.–MR

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Noah Howard
No disrespect to my wife Marie (I'm still only halfway through that giant bottle of Roger & Gallet Vetyver Eau de Cologne), but the best birthday present I got last year was from my good buddy and crazy record collector (scratch the "collector" and insert "addict" instead) Didier Kowalski, who "just happened" to find a third copy of Noah Howard's Black Ark hidden away in his vast collection. Anyone in the vicinity of 47 rue Richer on the afternoon of June 26th 2006 will have fond memories (well, I hope so) of "Domiabra" played seven times in a row at earwax melting volume. Didier knew I'd been after an original Freedom copy of Black Ark for some time, in fact for over six years, ever since I discovered the joys of Arthur Doyle's tenor playing when Jérôme Génin of Fractal Records invited me to write liners for Doyle's duo outing with Sunny Murray, Dawn Of A New Vibration. I'd heard of but never heard Doyle until Jérôme introduced me to the delights of Alabama Feeling. From the howl of rage that kicks off the opening "November 8th or 9th - I Can't Remember When" I was hooked. A frantic exchange of emails with pals across the pond followed, and Scott Hreha came up trumps with CDR burns of both Black Ark and Bäbi, Doyle's 1976 monster blowout with Hugh Glover and [leader for that session] Milford Graves (before you ask, I still haven't got my paws on an original IPS vinyl copy of Bäbi, but if you happen to come across an extra copy in your attic, my birthday's coming soon).
Wait a minute, what's all this Arthur Doyle business? Isn't The Black Ark supposed to be a Noah Howard album? Indeed it is, but the chaotic fury of Doyle's soloing throughout, most notably on "Domiabra", the opening cut, is probably the single most important reason why Black Ark has long been a Holy Grail for devotees of Fire Music. That's most definitely not meant to imply that Howard's alto playing isn't absolutely awesome – his excursions into the stratosphere are just as thrilling as anything he does on At Judson Hall (ESP, 1966), and, in my opinion, more so than 1972's Live at the Village Vanguard (which, despite some heroic blowing from Frank Lowe has always suffered in my opinion from an overdose of sleigh bells). The Black Ark rhythm section is a killer too, with bassist Norris Jones (later known as Sirone), drummer Mohammed Ali and conga masta blasta Juma (Sultan) kicking up a real shitstorm behind the horn front line, which in addition to Howard and Doyle features the scorching trumpet of Earl Cross. And we shouldn't forget the one and only appearance on disc of Leslie Waldron, keeping the modal flames burning with some splendid piano (check out that "Queen Anne").
But Doyle is the reason why I keep coming back to The Black Ark, in the same way that Sonny Sharrock is the reason why I keep coming back to Herbie Mann's Memphis Underground (no disrespect to Messrs Mann, Ayers, Coryell, Vitous et al.). Indeed, the parallels between Doyle's "incoherent rage" (thanks Mal Dean, always loved those original liners, nice to see them reproduced here) on "Domiabra" and the spiky terror of Sharrock's solo on "Hold On, I'm Comin'" are striking. In both cases it's their sheer incongruity that sets them apart, the fact that the other musicians in the band can't (won't, daren't) stray too far away from the brightly-lit highway of the changes in case that wild man wailing in the undergrowth at the side of the road drags them in and butchers them in the bushes. Put it this way, when you're riding the subway in the same compartment as a guy who suddenly starts screaming and doing a Leonard Bernstein impression with a switchblade for a baton, the last thing you want to do is jump up and start providing backing vocals. Man, I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall at those Black Ark recording sessions in Bell Sound Studios in 1969.
The difference, I guess, between Doyle and Sharrock is that the latter ended up with some serious jazz street cred by playing later with Miles (even if Teo Macero did his best to paint over the blood stains on Jack Johnson) and Last Exit, whereas Doyle has remained resolutely underground. So has The Black Ark, sadly. If you have no qualms about selling your family into prostitution or slavery, original vinyl copies still pop up from time to time on eBay (beware though: some of the editions of this album contain only three tracks instead of four – if you don't see "Domiabra", "Ole Negro", "Mount Fuji" and "Queen Anne", steer clear!), but the Japanese CD reissue a while back came and went, and it's a fair bet this Bo'Weavil edition – beautifully produced and packaged, a real treat – will disappear faster than you think. So don't miss it


Sun Ra
Art Yard
Originally released on El Saturn, Hiroshima has long been a sought-after Ra-rity a) because it features Mister Ra playing pipe organ (is it the only Ra pipe organ solo in his discography?) and b) it also contains "Stars That Shine Darkly", a live recording from Montreux in November 1983 by the Sun Ra All Stars, starring (wait for it) John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Lester Bowie, Philly Joe Jones, Richard Davis, Clifford Jarvis and Don Moye (more from the same concert appeared on Outer Reach Intensity-Energy in 1985). If that's your idea of a wet dream, just remember Band Aid: just putting ten outstanding musicians together on the same bandstand doesn't mean you get something ten times as good as what they could do individually. It's a pretty dreary jam, with Ra stubbornly banging away at a two-chord riff throughout, maybe deliberately to piss off Archie Shepp, who apparently was prone to a bit of showboating during the event, as reported by Hartmut Geerken in his notes. Geerken can't resist showing off either, informing us that he has no fewer than four copies of the original El Saturn, each with different covers or something. God knows why you'd need four copies of anything, unless you're planning on topping up your state pension one day by some strategic hawking on eBay. And who in their right mind would shell out big bucks for a dodgy Saturn pressing with hand-glued informationless cover when you can have one of Art Yard's superbly produced and impeccably packaged reissues, complete with apocalyptic cover art courtesy John Martin (1853)? Play "Hiroshima" and you might wonder why you need a copy at all. OK, you know by now pipe organ isn't my favourite instrument, but we're not even talking Notre Dame de Paris here, more like theatre in downtown Atlanta Georgia. The occasional blasts of added percussion (castanets, tambourines, drums..) only make it all sound more like the soundtrack to a silent movie than a commemoration of / meditation on the events of August 6th 1945. But maybe Hiroshima was a silent movie of sorts after all. Anyway, Ra completists probably have their copies already, and by the time you read this the limited edition will have sold out. So I'm saving my copy – mint condition, only played five times – for later. See y'all on eBay in 2028.–DW

Jason Ajemian
It didn't take long for pop musicians to discover the joys of tape manipulation and its potential for hidden messages (more of this, plus all the silly Satanist "Stairway to Heaven" stuff over at http://www.triplo.com/ev/reversal – a jolly good read, go for it). In From Beyond, Jason and Lucas Ajemian have taken the idea one step further, by actually transcribing and orchestrating a reversed pop song, recording (and filming) it and then playing it all backwards. The result is also presented as an installation featuring the score and the film of the performance, played, of course, both forwards and backwards. The song in question is Black Sabbath's "Into The Void", a cheery little ditty from 1971's Master Of Reality ("Leave the earth to Satan and his slaves / Leave them to their future in their graves".. you get the idea). Appropriately enough Ajemian's Chicago-based ensemble – heavy on strings, which sound better played backwards than horns and reeds – recorded it all in a church. It's a cute idea, gently poking fun at rock's obsession with backwards guitar solos and vocals, or, if you want to take it all more seriously (this from the website of the Danish Art Gallery that first put on the installation): it "describes a movement out in space away from the earth, which is marked by physical and mental decay to a new and better world where freedom rules. The journey into the void anonymizes and detaches the traveller from any connection with the surroundings. When Ajemian sings the song backwards he emphasizes the detachment from the context and a loss of language." Wonder what Ozzy would make of all that. Or this little 10" vinyl, not credited to any label as such but available (Jason informs me) at www.sundmagi.com.–DW

Emil Beaulieau / Jason Lescalleet
Ever seen Le Ballon Rouge, Albert Lamorisse's beautiful 1956 court métrage about a red balloon that follows a little boy around the streets of Ménilmontant? It won the Palme d'Or in Cannes that year and an Oscar in 1957. Lovely. Go to: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048980/. Quite what it's doing as the cover art of this evil little split 7" shared between Emil Beaulieau, aka RRRon Lessard, the self-styled "America's Greatest Living Noise Artist (though there's some healthy competition out there for him these days) and Jason Lescalleet I don't know. But if the kid in Le Ballon Rouge had had this belting out his ghettoblaster the other nasty little buggers who beat him up and burst the balloon would have run the other way mighty fast. At least the Beaulieau side, that is. Lescalleet's offering is more, shall we say, sedate. To thicken the plot, it's entitled "Toys In The Attic", and Beaulieau's side "Rock'n'Roll Pts.1&2". I'm guessing the former is a nod to (finger to, more like) Aerosmith (though I see it was also the title of a 1963 film with Dean Martin), and the latter a stoopid shot out to Gary "to my knowledge I have not had sex with anyone under 18" Glitter, the man that put the bang in the gang. But if you can find any trace of those 70s chestnuts in the music on offer here, you're doing better than I am. Edition of 333 ("half the devil, twice the punch..", as the Absurd website puts it), happy listening kiddies.–DW

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Frank Gratkowski / Misha Mengelberg
As you know, I'm as big a fan of New Dutch Swing as the next man, but it makes a welcome change to hear Misha Mengelberg go the distance with a horn player from outside his circle of ICP footsoldiers. Not that Frank Gratkowski lacks that peculiarly wacky sense of humour that jazz in the Netherlands seems to demand, but he's less likely to be drawn into Misha's ironic Monk(ey)ing about than, say, Ab Baars. The result is one of Mengelberg's (and Gratkowski's) strongest albums to date. Misha is very good at pretending not to be able to play – those frantic hit and miss clusters and deliberate wrong notes are as much part and parcel of the Mengelberg schtick as the funny hats and the cup of coffee (and the cigarette that used to be before he kicked the habit ten years ago) – but vis-à-vis (seems that should be lowercase, even if the music isn't) reveals that he's still got the technique to match his ear. Gratkowski is typically superb – I'm hard pressed to think of another saxophonist / clarinettist on the scene today, with the possible exception of Baars, who has mastered his instruments so thoroughly. He's also a little less "jazz" than Misha's usual playing partners, which pushes the pianist gently into the free improv territory that he all too often seems happy to wander out of. Each of these six tracks is a pure joy to listen to. A consommer sans aucune modération.–DW

Family Vineyard
After the titular half-nod to Sun Ra in "Cosmic Tones for Sleep Walking Lovers" on the recent We Are All From Somewhere Else debut outing by the Exploding Star Orchestra, you might think that the title Android Love Cry is a similar shot out from Rob Mazurek to Albert Ayler, but in fact it refers to a novel by Helder Velasquez Smith, an 82-year-old Brazilian novelist of Mazurek's acquaintance who's been working on the project since 1964. Not being able to find out any more information about it, we'd better concentrate on the music instead. And it needs concentrating on. This is the third outing on Family Vineyard from Tigersmilk, a geographically-challenged trio featuring Chicago's Jason Roebke (acoustic and electric bass), Vancouver-based Dylan van der Schyff (percussion) and Mazurek (cornet, laptop, synthesizer, banjo), who normally hangs out on the banks of the Amazon in Brazil, when he finds time to go home. You can imagine they don't get together all that often, but, man, when they do they really cook. Mazurek has been broadening his electronic palette for several years now, incorporating recordings of his beloved Brazilian electric eels along the way, and Android Love Cry is even more texturally diverse than its predecessor, 2005's From The Bottle. I remember Rob thrilling to a Masayumi Takayanagi track when I blindtested him for The Wire last year, digging "that inner slipping and sliding", and he's very good at doing it himself, on both this and the new Chicago Underground Trio disc (review to follow..). But digging Mazurek's music means digging everything from Blue Note to Mego, and if you're not prepared to approach it with an open mind, you won't get much out of it. Purists who like their jazz/improv unadorned and uncut may find some of the studio trickery irritating, while free rocksters and new weirdsters who might have drifted into Tigersmilk's secret garden while exploring the Family Vineyard could find it all a bit too jazzy. For Mazurek's impeccable bop pedigree is never far away – the ghosts of Art Farmer and Miles Davis appear from time to time ("Falling Signals Rising", "Spirit Spore Flash"), and there's plenty here that indicate that those chops are still as impressive as they were when he started out strutting his stuff on the Hep label. But like Miles (and Bill Dixon, who also comes to mind on listening), he's not afraid to take full advantage of technology, using effects pedals and laptop to devastating effect – check out "Before A Blinded Spirit Light Planet". But there are as many acoustic as electric surprises on offer: what's that banjo doing in "Minimal Distress Code"? Van der Schyff, in addition to providing typically colourful cross-genre percussion (if Chad Taylor in the Chicago Underground Trio is more "jazz", Dylan is a tad more "improv", but having written that I have no intention of removing those inverted commas), is also responsible for the superb mixing and mastering, and teams up with Roebke to form one of the most flexible and dynamic rhythm teams in business today. It all adds to up to a monster of an album. Check it out.–DW

eRikm / (Luc Ferrari) / Thomas Lehn
One of the odd things about the music of Luc Ferrari is how much the man himself emerges from it, increasingly so as he neared the end of his life. Whereas the field recordings in the seminal Presque Rien No.1 were edited together seamlessly to create a landscape so beautiful and realistic that the composer simply wandered into it and disappeared, to quote the old Zen tale, it's striking how, with the passage of time, Ferrari felt the need to play a starring role in his works, particularly the autobiographical Cycle des Souvenirs, the USA travelogue / hörspiel Far West News and the final collaborations with electronician eRikm, Archives Sauvées Des Eaux. "I can still hear that laugh," David Grubbs wrote in a touching obituary published soon after Ferrari's death. So can I when I see that Ferrari is actually credited as appearing on this album, albeit in brackets (Zeppo: "Do you want the body in brackets?" Groucho: "No, it'll never get there in brackets. Put it in a box."). He was supposed to have been there onstage at the Musique Action festival in May 2005, but was indisposed due to ill health (and died in Italy a few months after this was recorded). And yet his presence is keenly felt in the field recordings eRikm uses for his instant composition (as opposed to "improvisation" – eRikm's live appearances have always struck me as very composed affairs), so much so that analogue synth virtuoso Thomas Lehn, called in at the last minute to replace Ferrari, seems curiously relegated to providing background noises, albeit jolly good ones. It seems a wasted opportunity for an exciting performer who usually stamps his impression on whatever group he performs with. This is an entertaining half hour of music, but not an essential addition to the discographies of the musicians concerned, living or dead, present or absent.–DW

Soft Abuse
Much of the free-form psychedelic folk music that's appeared in the past few years in what's become known as New Weird America (I do hope David Keenan copyrighted that after his Wire feature on the subject in August 2003, because he should have received several handsome royalty cheques by now) is so intimate you almost feel embarrassed to be listening in. Even if Loren Chasse and Christine Boepple weren't married, you could probably guess they know each other very well from the ten delicate conversations they've released together on Noctilucent Valleys. The music isn't surprising, nor does it set out to be, but it's touching, even haunting (and the disc gets better towards the end, so don't give up after track two). Not all that weird though – much of it is unashamedly tonal, or at least modal – and only really new because it was released this year; if someone told you it had been recorded 5, 10, 20 or even 40 years ago you might not be all that surprised. Mark and Daria could quite easily have frolicked in the dust of Zabriskie Point to Loren and Christine instead of Papa Garcia. And if Dick Latvala were still alive he'd probably be collecting Chasse recordings. There are certainly plenty to collect, after all, and here's another good one.–DW

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Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet
Though released as a follow-up to the intense Carnival Skin, guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil’s Inner Constellation was actually recorded the previous year. Some familiar names to contemporary improvisation are featured here: the stellar freebop percussionist Nasheet Waits (who's worked with Andrew Hill, Jason Moran and Peter Brötzmann, to name a few), bassist Tom Abbs (formerly of Triptych Myth), and trumpeter Nate Wooley (of Jeff Arnal’s Transit, among other projects). The sextet is filled out by altoist Aaron Ali Shaikh, a newcomer to these ears, and violinist wunderkind Jean Cook. Eisenbeil leads this group like a torch-carrier to jazz-rock days of yore, wielding his Fender Stratocaster as muscularly as Ray Russell or a young John McLaughlin and cutting through the densest areas of group improvisation with a brassy ring. Most of the disc consists of the forty-five minute title suite, which is subdivided into 27 tracks that flow together not unlike a Don Cherry medley; despite numerous thematic segues and areas of varying density and tonal stratification, the results are extremely unified. Each subsection is given a different subtitle, demarcating subtle, organic shifts in mood – shattered trumpet smears, muted string interplay, or hard-charging swing. Cook’s lilting-but-dervish-like violin works elegantly in concert with Wooley on "Dream Breath" and counterbalances the massive engine of Abbs and Waits with a mournful duskiness. The rhythm section indeed holds down the proceedings, as guitar and violin dance around one another in delicate counterpoint, alto and trumpet slashing and diving in. The disc closes with three trio tracks featuring Eisenbeil on acoustic and electric guitars in very Bailey-like fashion, supported by Abbs and Waits. Whereas the guitarist creates fragmented rhythms on "Rain in the Face," the tug-of-war between bass and percussion push Eisenbeil to his limits on "Cues to the Vagabond." Inner Constellation gives a clear picture of Eisenbeil as a composer, bandleader and instrumentalist. It’ll be interesting to hear what he comes up with for Volume Two.–CA

Antoine Chessex
Last time I looked, Berlin-based saxophonist Antoine Chessex's releases were in the "Improv" bin in my local rekkid store (particularly his SwiftMachine on Creative Sources with Gilles Aubry and Torsten Papenheim), but it might make more sense to file Lost in Destruction under "Noise". After all he has been taking to the stage with Dave Phillips recently, and DP certainly ain't jazz. But the fact though that "all sounds [are] produced by a tenor saxophone through guitar amplifiers and some shitty effects pedals" just about justifies its inclusion in this magazine's "Jazz / Improv" section. Like Borbetomagus, the closest point of reference to what Chessex is doing. Couldn't really put the Borbetos in "Contemporary [Classical]" could you? And chucking a pair of mics down the bell of your horn doesn't exactly automatically make it "Electronica" either. Enough, already. You know as well as I do that these categories don't mean as much as they used to. The six tracks on Lost In Destruction (another oblique nod to the Seventh Art, perhaps, though I doubt Sofia Coppola could have used this as her soundtrack material) were recorded last year, two of them chez Chessex and the others live in Berlin (Audio Cue Tonlabor, Stralau 68), and The Hague (De Garage). Behind the walls of screaming feedback you can hear people clearly having a good time – face it, there's often more fun to be had listening to noisy shit than you-can-hear-a-pin-drop-just-for-Chrissakes-make-sure-you-don't-fart EAI – though whether Chessex is in control of what's going on, or whether he even needs or wants to be, remains tantalisingly open to question.–DW

Kahl Monticone
Self-released CDR
There's a practicality to the title of this record that understates its worth and measure. Kahl Monticone, a long serving member of the Brisbane rock underground, has developed a language on guitar loaded with skilfully deployed actions that drift from technical accuracy to spatial compositional excellence. Recorded to bring out much of the character of the instrument, including a richly detailed audio image of the strings (as much as the tones that follow their strumming), Solo Nylon String Acoustic Guitar assumes a pensive quality over the course of its ten pieces, each of which enquires into the melodic possibilities of the instrument. Most impressive are "four", which leaves a series of open chords to waver amid clusters of pitches, and "eight", a more picturesque sound tale, generous in movement and scaling a variety of playing styles. The rustling of Monticone's clothing emerges from time to time, adding a sense of the "person" to the musical space. Effortless, handsome and ultimately charming.–LE

Matt Bauder / Zach Wallace / Aaron Siegel
482 Music
After three three-inchers and a collaboration with Anthony Braxton (2+2 Compositions), here's the first full length release by Memorize The Sky (that's the name of the group as well as the album), Matt Bauder (tenor sax, clarinets and percussion), Zach Wallace (bass, vibes, percussion) and Aaron Siegel (percussion). They've been working together as a trio since the end of the 90s, and it shows in the subtle interplay and concentrated listening on these eight pieces. It's all very organic stuff, from the track titles ("Etch of Wood", "House of Wind", "Path of Spider" etc) to the instrumentation, which, though evidently influenced by the laminal improv of post-AMM EAI, revels in its wood and metal. With the possible exception of "Etch In Wood", on which all three musicians reveal a sensitivity to melody and harmony on a par with their timbral sophistication, each of the tracks maps out and then stays within the confines of a small plot of land defined by a small number of specific techniques, from the taps and high multiphonics of the opening "Raft of Stone" to the rich low drone of the closing "Path of Spider". Along the way there are luminous bowed vibraphone clusters ("Lake of Light") and all manner of impressive but never showy extended techniques ("Field of Ice" is particularly striking) in what is an attractive if a little introvert set.–DW

Michel Doneda / Giuseppe Ielasi / Ingar Zach
A quick Google informs me that Michel Doneda's soprano and sopranino saxophones first met Giuseppe Ielasi's guitar and electronics and Ingar Zach's percussion back in February 2003 at a concert in the Instants Chavirés I recall attending. This album was recorded in the studios of CCAM in Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy in January 2004, eleven months and a few gigs down the road, and features three leisurely – 17'02", 16'45" and 11'58" – accomplished explorations of space and sonority. Doneda, whose flutters and chirps can seem dry and tense in the company of Jack Wright, sounds more relaxed here, maybe because he has more branches to flit in and out of in Ielasi's verdant electronic jungle of clicks and clangs. Zach's percussion is equally colourful, cymbals fizzing and button gongs clanging merrily on the central "One Wing Of Matter". It's an enjoyable listen – anyone who says post-redux improv is cold and unfriendly stuff should think again – but one that leaves me wondering where these three gents might take it from here. Ielasi has always come across as a highly pitch sensitive performer – parts of "Run Fingers Over Turquoise" are positively Feldmanesque – while for Doneda avoiding most recognisable pitches altogether seems be something of a point of honour. It falls to Zach then to provide rhythmic and harmonic links, which he does very well but not without leaving the impression that we're listening to three great musicians playing together rather than a trio.–DW

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Hanna Hartman
Born in Sweden but now resident in Germany, sound artist and composer Hanna Hartman has released some impressive work over the past few years, and Ailanthus continues along the same road as 2005's Longitude / Cratere (Komplott) and 2002's Färjesänger (Elektron), crafting subtle, superbly recorded musique concrète that makes little attempt to disguise either its source sounds (birds, insects, wind, water and various instruments and voices are all clearly identifiable) or the treatments they undergo (backwards soundfiles, loops), without ever sacrificing ambiguity, surprise and formal complexity. It's closer in spirit to Ferrari than Henry, accessible without being naïve. Att fälla grova träd är förkippat med risker ("felling trees is fraught with risks"), which was awarded the prestigious Karl Sczuka Prize in 2005, is a ravishing piece of cinema for the ear, creaks and twangs alternating with blasts of radio, cries, coughs and crunches. On Wespen Vesper, tiny shuddering consonants are juxtaposed with buzzing insects, twittering birds and smatterings of wickedly funky claves. Plätmäs features disturbing metallic scrapes, looped seagulls and what sounds like someone merrily crunching apples. Musik För Dansstycket Jag Glömmer Bort is more rhythmically regular (perhaps due to the fact that it was commissioned by a ballet company) and harmonically coherent, the pitches of its percussive rattles cunningly mirrored by the clucking of hens and piano and string samples. Hartman never overloads her textures – there's plenty of silence to frame the exquisitely precise samples – but curiously enough this only serves to highlight the complexity of the isolated sounds themselves, and the music seems to last longer than it actually does. The longest of the four works on the disc lasts just over nine minutes, and the album as a whole clocks in at just 28'21". But what glorious, action-packed minutes they are.–DW

Iannis Xenakis
IANNIS XENAKIS 1922 - 2001
The liner notes were written in 1975, the performances were recorded in 1977 and 1986, and the six pieces date from between 1960 (Herma) and 1979 (Palimpsest), but they still pack a mighty punch. Hi-fi purists might moan about the muddy recording quality of the 1977 session, which features the two solo piano works Herma and Evryali (1973) and the perennial thriller Eonta (1963) for piano and brass quintet, but pianist Geoffrey Douglas Madge's heroic performances are still well worth a listen, even if clearer and cleaner recordings of the works have appeared more recently (notably Aki Takahashi's 1999 set on Mode). The 1986 session, featuring Dmaathen (1976) for oboe and percussion, Epeï (1976) for oboe, clarinets, trumpet, two trombones and double bass and Palimpsest, for 11-piece ensemble, is better recorded, and features some splendidly raw brass playing, notably on Epeï. Xenakis completists probably won't want to be without it, but there is something to be said for the 24-bit definition on the recent Modes. Depends how you like you Xenakis, really.. a punch in the gut or an icepick in the forehead. Either way, it hurts.–DW

Jean-François Laporte
Unless I'm mistaken this is only the second disc to appear featuring the music of Jean-François Laporte, after a mini-CD entitled Mantra in Metamkine's Cinéma pour l'Oreille series a while back. That's now out-of-print, it would seem, but fear not: the full-length version of the piece, all 26 minutes of it (five too long for the 3" CD format) is one of five pieces on offer on Soundmatters. Electro-Prana (1998) is composed exclusively of the sounds of wind during the ice storm that hit Montreal in January 1998, recorded through cracks of doors and windowpanes. On Boule qui roule (1997) Laporte takes the sound of machinery (unspecified, and it makes no difference anyway as the raw source recording is transformed beyond all recognition) and passes it literally hundreds of times through bandpass filters to create a cloud of slowly shifting glissandi, as rigorous and uncompromising as Xenakis, yet as sensual and slowmoving as Radigue. Dans le ventre du dragon (1997) was recorded in the empty hull of a boat moored in the port of Montreal, and the real star of the piece is the space itself, with its extraordinary 15-second reverb, as the rich overtones of Laporte's instruments (not sure what they are, and more information would have been welcome) resonate throughout the vast space. Epic stuff. Mantra (1997) is a 26-minute long recording of a cooling compressor for an ice rink, whose overtone-rich power hum is subtly filtered live by the use of PVC tubes and metal plates. Think Gen Ken Montgomery meets Phill Niblock. The most recent piece on offer, 2005's Plénitude du vide, scored for saxophone quartet and self-designed instruments, including the sax-trunk, siren organ and circular-breathed Tu-Yos ("tuyau" is French for pipe, if that gives you a clue), is the hardest to access but the most rewarding work on offer. This is a superb disc that should appeal as much to devotees of contemporary composition, both instrumental and electronic, as to fans of 23five artists such as Michel Gendreau, John Duncan, CM von Hausswolf and Francisco López.–DW

Lubomyr Melnyk
Unseen Worlds
Minimalist pianist-composer Lubomyr Melnyk’s debut recording, originally issued in 1979 on Music Gallery Editions (home of the CCMC and Nihilist Spasm Band, among others), falls somewhere between Charlemagne Palestine’s Strumming Music and Cecil Taylor’s Indent (a broad range, indeed). KMH is subtitled "piano music in the continuous mode"; as in Palestine’s piano music, the pedals are kept down throughout so as to maintain a continuous sonic overlap, phrases melting together in a field of constant motion and production. Melnyk’s music works in two different areas: in the first, the pianist plays a series of rising and descending notes in melodic arpeggiated fashion, while a second area is more energetic, involving repeated clusters.
Like his forebears Taylor and Palestine (we could throw Anthony Davis’s Wayang series in there too), Melnyk is heavily influenced by dance – indeed, the reissue’s liner notes reference choreographer Carolyn Carlson as an inspiration. KMH seems lighter on its feet than Strumming Music, its transitions more fluid despite using some of the same methods (yes, Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko both use paint, but…). Melnyk certainly differentiates himself from the big names in minimal music, though, by the greater affinity to Romantic piano music evident in the sections of overlapping arpeggios. If there is a tension between arpeggiated flow and the stark repetition of clusters, the overlap created by pedal depression manages to resolve it somewhat. KMH is never exactly static, but when it's over you don't feel to have moved significantly from where you began. Rather, you're more aware of where you are – and, perhaps, the beauty of that place. This is how Melnyk taps into a rich vein of humanity.

Philip Bimstein
I remain convinced that Steve Reich took a wrong turning with Different Trains, when he started using samples of human speech to generate melodic material. Of course, nobody dared say anything against the piece (perhaps afraid that taking a stand against a work that itself took a stand against the Nazi Death Camps might be interpreted, in some perverse way, as condoning the latter), but very few people followed Steve down the path he opened up with Different Trains, The Cave and subsequent works. One composer who apparently did is Philip Bimstein, a graduate of the Chicago Conservatory and UCLA, former lead singer of Phil 'n' the Blanks (for anyone who remembers them, I don't) and sometime Mayor of Springdale, Utah, at the southwest entrance to Zion National Park (those familiar with Luc Ferrari's Far West News Episodes 2 & 3 might recall that Bimstein was one of the people Luc and Brunhild Ferrari stopped off to see on their way to LA). The Bushy Wushy Rag features recordings of Robert "Bushy Wushy" Logan selling beer at a St Louis Cardinals game, Casino the voice of Las Vegas "philosophizing dice-caller" Tom Martinet, and the title track the reminiscences of Springdale resident Larkin Gifford (b.1906). If Bimstein had left it at that and let these people just tell their stories, Ferrari-style, with some discreet and well-edited field recordings, it might have been OK, but he insists on writing his own mawkish instrumental music around it all. Fabulous field recordings of canyon tree frogs at Checkerboard Mesa are relegated to the status of cute backdrop to a sugary post-minimalist piece of kitsch oboe music, and the amazing soundscape of a Vegas casino, already wonderfully documented elsewhere by the likes of Bernhard Gal and Jonathan Coleclough, is reduced to a few slot machine bleeps and gurgles that would sound more at home in Toy Story 2 than in Carnegie Hall, where Bimstein's music has been performed, apparently to considerable acclaim. The fact that he's received substantial support for his work in the form of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the White House Millennium Council certainly raises questions about where serious contemporary music is heading in the United States. Jesse Helms kicked up one hell of a fuss about Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano. I bet he'd love Larkin Gifford's Harmonica.–DW

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The eight track titles for this album have been swiped from the second verse of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", immortalised by Frankie Valli in 1967, but if that's a photo of Frankie on the cover I can only say he isn't looking all that good these days. There's no other connection with Frankie Valli as far as I know. Why, what were you expecting, samples? Ilios, aka Dimitris Kariofilis, currently residing in Santander, Spain, I believe, is about as far as you could hope to get from fun lovin' plunderphonics and smash'n'grab dancefloor-friendly DSP (hey, whatever happened to Kid 606?); Ilios albums aren't just serious, they're goddamn scary. Ever heard Old Testament? Perfect soundtrack for apocalyptic floods and folks slaughtering each other with asses' jawbones. Love Is My Motor is equally austere, but more varied. In fact, it's my favourite Ilios album to date (though talking about a "favourite" Ilios album is like choosing a "favourite" poisonous plant or "favourite" serial killer). From the eerie whistling glissandi of the opening (maybe it's just because he's Greek but I'm sure I felt the chilly breath of the ghost of Xenakis as it passed through the wall) to the woofer-fucking thrills of "But if you feel like I feel", via "The sight of you leaves me weak", which apparently features the cello of my pal Nikos Veliotis, though I'd never have guessed, this is gripping stuff. It finally explodes with some terrifying blasts of white noise halfway through "Please let me know that it's real" (if track five buggered your woofers, this should put paid to the tweeters), after which "You're just too good to be true" sounds like a field recording from a railway station in the outer circles of Hell, and the final track is 18'47" of sheer desolation. Terrific stuff.–DW

KK Null
The increasingly psychedelic works of KK Null suggest his "cosmic" fascinations show no signs of abating. Tapped into some alternate wavelength, each of his most recent recordings has been a galactic frenzy of intense sonic detritus, but sonically not what might be classed as "noise". If anything, Null's work is courting a more fractured sonic relationship – one in which sound sources are brought to the fore through exhaustive but overwhelmingly chaotic processing and sonic maximisation. Synthetic pulse, warbling rhythms and piercing electronics on works like "three" take on an almost post-techno vibe – the evidence of the kick drum replaced or subsumed into a wall of pulsing slabs laid down across the stereo field. The results are disorienting but not without direction; as one element is introduced, another slips from the audio scape in a perpetual cycle of replacement and transformation. "Five" is decidedly darker, the rhythms again permeating through a rich forest of dense audio foliage that gives way to screeching bird calls that dominate much of the work. There's a conflict going on in many of these pieces, a push and pull as various elements collide, erupt and eventually combine into a gloriously frenetic and overwhelming sound experience. With intermittent field recordings, including a perfectly suited flock of Little Corella that shriek with an intensely disturbing quality, this album marks a refinement of Null's practice over the past three years. His post-Metal dabbling of the 1990s seems a long way off – in its place comes a new, brutal sonic assault, one involving full frequency walls of sound. Fertile indeed.–LE

If you ever wondered what localised but severe narrowing of the left feral artery of a 48-year-old man sounds like, "God Damn This Ugly Sound", the opening track on this album, is for all you and your fellow budding heart surgeons. Dreadfully sorry Carlos Giffoni, but Lasse Marhaug and John Hegre, aka Jazkamer (somewhere along the way they lost a "z" and an "m" in the name) have always been fun to listen to, and Balls The Size Of Texas Liver The Size Of Brazil (a fun name if ever there was one) on the new Czech Purplesoil imprint is one of their most bewilderingly multidirectional and entertaining outings to date. Though there are one or two moments that might induce cardiac troubles substantially more serious than a systolic murmur, notably on "Not Half Bad To The Bone", it's also further proof that the worlds of brain melting noise and slowmo EAI are moving inexorably closer together, and this time it's the noiseniks who are slowing down and spacing out instead of the EAI people speeding up and getting down and dirty. Hegre recently released a charmingly intimate if diffuse collection of "ballads" with Maja Ratkje, and I'm looking forward to hearing the results of an encounter between Marhaug and the quiet man of London improv, Mark Wastell. Meanwhile, here are seven slabs of Norwegian sound art at its finest, from the scuzzy well-worn run-out grooves of "A Bucked Of Mayo" to the epic spaciousness of "Tentacles of Broken Teeth" and the closing title track, more Rypdal than Ratkje. At this rate these lads might even end up with an album on ECM, but any collaboration with the Hilliard Ensemble still seems to be some way off.–DW

Anla Courtis / Ralf Wehowsky
Beta-Lactam Ring Black Series
One can only hope that the Wehowsky residence in the quiet Black Forest town of Eggenstein has double glazing, or that Ralf's recording studio is as impenetrable as David Fincher's Panic Room, because on November 5th 2005 (don't suppose either of these hombres knew anything about Guy Fawkes, but it's rather appropriate for the explosive stuff they cooked up that day), he and visiting ex-Reynols poncho honcho Anla (or Alan) Courtis went into meltdown using a variety of instruments including guitars, Argentinian and Cambodian violins, cappuccino shaker (?), coils and "stuff in a plastic bag" (Courtis, of course). Wehowsky, with his customary post-prod perfectionism then went through the debris and built another towering edifice of, well, post-everything electronic composition. I'm rather proud of the fact that they also incorporated, in the final track, "...Mit Ihren Weidenringen Die Steingeister Zu Fangen", samples of a remix I talked RLW into doing a few years ago of George Antheil's Ballet Mécanique (for a semi-aborted Antheil remix album that may yet see the light of day, but don't hold your breath), though if you're an Antheil nut who's drifted over to PT from our sister Antheil site, I guarantee you won't be able to ID the original source material. It's a ghostly postscript to the rest of the album, with its soaring howls of guitar noise and blocks of savage feedback, all the more powerful for being carefully filtered and bottled in the Wehowsky distillery, as opposed to being left raw and bloody. It certainly packs a mean punch, I can tell you. Only 100 of these black beauties, and mine's numbered 90, so you'd better get your skates on.–DW

Tim Catlin
23 Five
Audio stasis is a wonderful condition, especially when it can be created through the use of ever so slight variation and tonal phasing. Here, Melbourne guitar improviser Tim Catlin delivers a series of measured drone works that resolve many of the issues he's investigated in his recent live performances. Split effectively into three sections – works involving acoustic guitar, electric guitar and also, interestingly, cymbal – Catlin tends his instruments with a smoothness, ensuring their vibration is, for the most part, kept at a suitable level. Without question, it's the tentative stasis on Radio Ghosts that is the album's supreme asset, a sense of uncertainty resulting from Catlin's tendency to alternate between withdrawing from and developing his ideas, refocusing the sound palette and ensuring that at no one point does the listener become complacent. Nowhere is this stealthy transformation more apparent than on "Everything Must Go", which finds Catlin exploring a series of ill-fated high ringing tones that eventually deconstruct to reveal the slowly modulating E-Bow underbelly. "Mirage", with its constantly emerging bowed tones and motors gently pounding the surface of the cymbal, is a fine closing thought for the record, a summary of sorts, crystallising these six exercises in tonal variation and gradual transformation.–LE

Jonathan Coleclough / Andrew Liles
Die Stadt
The highly anticipated pairing of Coleclough and Liles, two among the most bright-minded dispensers of unusual sounds from England, had already caused my mental bells to ring out joyously in advance. Geoff Sawers' poem "I dreamt I was a river" is painted on the white cover of a double LP that, in its special 250-copy limited edition, also contains a CD EP featuring about 25 minutes of Coleclough's original set at Preston's Intergration 3, where the two protagonists first met in 2004. Liles (a prolific musician if ever there was one, with an average of an album per month these days, not including his collaborations with the likes of Nurse With Wound and Darren Tate) took the recording of Coleclough's performance home and proceeded to "add, subtract, multiply and divide" additional source sounds provided by his latest collaborator. Each of the eight soundscapes on Torch Songs finds the perfect spot for every sound to exist and be accepted in that grey area where uneven energies try to work our knowledge into forgetting conventional codes and meanings. Elements of pulse are not totally absent in the manipulation of sound objects, location recordings and drones, each "torch song" analyzing them exhaustively, combining manifestations of real activity (including the wonderful voices of Nature) with a cathartic, profane consciousness of something that no religion or philosophy will ever be able to explain. The overall sense is one of solitary awareness, and it feels great. Torch Songs is a minor classic, and I look forward to a swift CD reissue (it often happens with Die Stadt) to save us from having to get up and change sides, and dispense with occasional distortions that appear during the most charged surges.–MR

Christoph Heemann / Andreas Martin
Dom Bartwuchs
This 21-minute CDR by the Heemann brothers, long-time collaborators in HNAS, Mirror and other projects, is pretty perplexing to these ears, maybe because I have so much respect for their craft and never expect anything under average from them (indeed, this dates from 1993 and was originally intended as a special item for the Brainwaves Festival) . These guitar-based tracks, built upon predictable chordal strumming and obstinately repetitive arpeggios, complete with psychedelic electric solos at times, are largely inferior to the deeply touching experiences these artists usually offer. After listening to Mirror, In Camera and Heemann's solo milestones, or to Seclusion's Yukigafuru, for that matter, I have a hard time accepting something that, for the large part, sounds like a mix of avant folk and - heaven forbid - Franco Battiato circa Fetus (not a compliment in my book, but Heemann apparently likes him very much, so who am I to judge?). Is this some sort of homage, then? A divertissement? Why deciding to release 14-year old material after all the great past work, since Heemann himself defines them as "sketches"? I really have no idea, but know there a few moments I really appreciated, and most of them were in the final track. No hard feelings, then: it's just the reaction to a love delusion. You can't always get what you want.–MR

John Watermann
Die Stadt
Already reissued in CD by Cold Spring last year, Calcutta Gas Chamber is now released for the third time by Die Stadt on a splendid picture disc in 444 copies, a project John Watermann had started to work on shortly before his death in 2002. He had originally published the album after a 1990 visit to Calcutta which somehow traumatized him into conceiving a sonic experience that might describe the various phases of death by machines through the organization and deployment of field recordings (made not in Calcutta but in a deserted power station in Brisbane, Australia) into 57 minutes of harsh hiss, glacial clatter, distant vocal malaise, and looped noise. It's like being locked in some kind of lightless, airless antechamber with no hope of being liberated any time soon, intuiting that something bad is happening to others in the same condition. Truth be told, it's not a "pleasing" listen, and probably not meant to be; consider it instead an aural documentary about psychological oppression, and remember to situate it in the right temporal frame: the early 90s, when this kind of Industrial-connected music was all the rage. Nowadays Calcutta Gas Chamber makes sense more as a collector's item than a groundbreaking opus. Not a record I'll be revisiting often, though far from shallow.–MR

Daniel Menche
I still have to figure out how in the world the graphic designer of the Polish label Emd could conceive the sleeve containing Animality, as the disc can only be taken out while dangling from a surprise box-like cover that opens like a cutout design book for kids. Gorgeous! And the music's even better: a refined version of the percussive approach of Menche's recent three-incher For The Beasts (P Tapes), with a more relaxed (kind of), entrancing vibe favoured by the attention he devotes to the choice of timbres, here heavily conditioned by the different tensions of the drum skins. As a matter of fact, the large part of the album sounds like an army of refugees from Reich's Drumming (here we go again) who decided to dedicate themselves to homemade rituals by superimposing odd-metred patterns in irregular geometries. Different stages alternate over the course of about 51 minutes, interlocked without the extreme ferocity of other similar outings – absurd as it may sound, some of this wouldn't be out of place on a Rapoon album – and affirming that Menche should now be considered a "minimalist" in the purest sense: a few sources – maybe even only one – and repetition are all he needs to generate his musical therapy. And goodness knows how our nerves need it in today's times.–MR

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