OCTOBER News 2004 Reviews by Clifford Allen, Nate Dorward, Richard Hutchinson, Vid Jeraj, Guy Livingston, Nick Rice, Wayne Spencer, Dan Warburton:

On Die Stadt: Organum / Asmus Tietchens / John Duncan / Kontakt der Jünglinge
Festival Roundup:
Messiaen at the Proms / New Music at the Edinburgh Festival
On Creative Sources:
Schwimmer / Tidszon / Rodrigues, Mota, Paiuk
On Improvised Music from Japan:
Yumiko Tanaka / Samm Bennett / Masahiko Okura / Tetuzi Akiyama & Martin Ng
Festival Roundup:
Gaudeamus MuziekWeek
w.m.o/roundup: Mattin & Junko / Heliogabalus / Mark Wastell / Bruce Russell
Die Enttäuschung / Brötzmann, McPhee, Kessler, Zerang / Jimmy Giuffre Trio / Groundtruther
Charles, Tétreault, Labrosse, KK Roll / Television Power Electric / Scrape / London Strings / Eugene Chadbourne
Ellen Fullman / Peteris Vasks / Luciano Berio / Lee Hyla
Coelacanth / Scott Smallwood
Last month


A warm welcome this month to two new contributors to Paris Transatlantic: Nicholas Rice has been out and about at the Edinburgh Festival and the London Proms — who says we don't cover classic events?— and, across the pond, Minneapolis-based Clifford Allen has been talking to Dave Burrell, an often overlooked major figure in the world of free jazz piano. Also back by popular demand (which roughly translated means three people asked me about it) is an interview given to Crouton Music's Jon Mueller back in 2002, and no longer online at the Crouton site. It's about time I updated the PT Audio Archive too, but there are still plenty of tasty sounds up there if you haven't checked them out yet. PT regular readers will notice that the Electronica section is rather thin this month, for which apologies are due: too much precious time was spent fighting a ferocious battle with a veritable army of unwelcome pests on the home computer system. (We won.) So a bumper crop of Electronica reviews comin at ya next month, OK? Meanwhile, over to Clifford: "Born September 10, 1940, pianist/composer Dave Burrell occupies an interesting spot in the jazz piano vanguard of the 1960s. Stylistically close neither to Cecil Taylor nor Paul Bley, Burrell's unique blend of pastoral melodicism, volcanic density and an infectious rhythmic sense owing more to early jazz piano styles made him the perfect choice for such eclectic groups as those of Archie Shepp and Marion Brown. Not content to be only a unique voice on his instrument, Burrell has worked tirelessly on his jazz opera Windward Passages, and is active as an educator and historian while continuing to engage both the music of Jelly Roll Morton and free improvisation." Now read on.. bonne lecture.—DW

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On Die Stadt

Die Stadt DS 62 2CD
Asmus Tietchens
Die Stadt DS 72
John Duncan
Die Stadt DS 65
Kontakt der Jünglinge
Die Stadt DS 69 3"CD
Die Stadt label manager Jochen Schwarz's championship of the music that emerged from the post-Nurse With Wound underground in the early 1980s is as unswervingly loyal as it is invaluable for students of the work of The Hafler Trio, The New Blockaders, Mirror and others, particularly Asmus Tietchens and David Jackman. Jackman, a foot soldier in Cornelius Cardew's Scratch Orchestra long before he started releasing spacious drone-based music under the Organum moniker, is often described as "obscure" - along with "underground" a much-overused adjective that people (journalists, mostly) love to throw about when talking about "legendary", "mythic" and "weird" figures such as NWW's Steven Stapleton, Current 93's David Tibet, when in fact they're perfectly normal human beings who simply value a little privacy - but, in the couple of interviews with him available for consultation online, comes across as refreshingly direct and straightforward. "I ride motorcycles, stare out of the window and have a nice time with my friends. And like a lot of people, I go to work in the morning. You know, just a normal life." His description of the recording of Vacant Lights, in the Die Stadt press release is equally to the point. So much so in fact that I might as well stick it in here verbatim (a whole lot of record reviews swipe great big chunks of accompanying press releases, after all - the difference here is I admit to doing it): "recorded live in the backyard of long-gone IPS Studio, Shepherd's Bush, London. Performed by Dinah Jane Rowe and David Jackman, with Steven Stapleton and Peter McGhee at the controls. Four recordings were made. Two survive and are presented on this CD. Originally released as an LP on Jon Carlson's Dom America label in the late 1980's, the CD version has been carefully re-mastered from the original reels. It was one of the easiest and most trouble-free Organum albums to make. Jane and I went to IPS on a sunny 20 August 1986, did the music in an hour and a half, went home. It was ordinary, a normal day." Nothing could be more normal than the not-so-distant rumble of passing London traffic that forms the backdrop to Jackman's occasional flute arabesques and the assorted jingles from the musicians' assorted impromptu percussion instruments (sounds like someone left a whole toolbox full of spanners, hammers and brushes in the yard) but closer listening reveals the cunning sleight of hand of Stapleton and McGhee.
Three of the five brief tracks that make up Rara Avis have also appeared before as 7" singles (though good luck finding them now): "Iuel" and "Wolf" also came out on Dom America, and "Hibakusha" on Syntactic. These versions are slightly embellished by Jim O'Rourke (who added some guitar to "Iuel") and Christoph Heemann (microphone feedback on "Wolf"). "Obon (Version)" is a remix by O'Rourke and Robert Hampson of earlier IPS material, and the title track "Rara Avis" is an outtake of 1990's Aurora sessions, which also featured O'Rourke, Dinah Jane Rowe and Eddie Prévost. Jackman's breathy flute on "Iuel" is far away from the Crowley-spouting 666 leather, blood-and-bondage weirdness often associated with England's Hidden Reverse (to quote David Keenan). Mix down those odd metallic squeaks after the two-minute mark and it could easily pass as background music for a wildlife documentary. "Wolf" is more muscular and jarring, a reminder that Jackman attended the weekly AMM sessions in the early 70s. ("I really owe them a debt of gratitude - one of the world's great bands. I think it was through them that I really began the process of learning how to listen. At about the same time, the ritual music of Tibetan Buddhism also had an impact. I liked the music because it appeared to be totally relying on texture for coherence. Note relationships didn't seem to have anything to do with it.") It's all delicate, direct and unpretentious, but "Obon (Version)" is rather slight (imagine a heavily sedated Clive Bell in duo with Werner Dafeldecker), and one wishes "Hibakusha" and "Rara Avis" could go on for thirteen or thirty minutes rather than stop just after three and a half. The total duration of the disc is under 20 minutes - both CDs together could fit comfortably on one disc with nearly half an hour to spare. Still, I'm not complaining. Limited edition of 600, so get your skates on.
Recorded just four years before Vacant Lights, the deliciously clunky synths and drum machines on Asmus Tietchens' third album for the Sky label, In Die Nacht, sound almost prehistoric today. The lovingly fussed-over reissue comes with a photo of the interior of Tietchens' Audiplex Studio A as it was back in 1982 (looks like something from Doctor Who), and after barely two seconds of the brutal binary bash of "Mit Zebras rennen", complete with tritone bass riff and tinny snare patch, you know damn well what year it is. Tietchens is refreshingly open in his liner notes about what he considers to be the inadequacy of the album's four longer cuts: "It is really not possible to create pieces of six minutes or more from ideas which are only adequate for tracks of three minutes, unless one is willing to risk musical redundancy or, worse, long-windedness." If only Tangerine Dream and the dozens of others who followed in their wake had been as self-critical. The fact is, though, that Tietchens went ahead and did the album - whether he now regrets the cheesy, queasy cabaret chromatics of "Höhepunkt kleiner Mann" and the lo-fi spaghetti western chaconne of "Spanische Fliege" I can't say, but he must be happy to see the punchier short tracks out and about again, from the cold wave noir of "Kopfüber in den Gully" ("Headfirst into the drain") - replace synth bass with Jah Wobble and presto! PIL! - to the Devo / DAF toytown shuffle of "Unter fliegenden Tassen". The four bonus tracks are, if anything, even more interesting than the album itself. "Aus dem Tag" takes a banal I-VI-IV-V chord sequence and sends it out into territory only The Residents might recognise, while "Würgstoffe" reconfigures the whole tone scale of Debussy's impressionism into a groaning horror movie soundtrack. I wish my German was good enough to understand what Tietchens (?) is rapping on about in the final "Lebende Regler", but alas, it remains a mystery.
Such talk of incomprehensible texts brings us neatly to Da Sich Die Machtgier…, a more recent collaborative work between Tietchens and John Duncan. Though Tietchens ended up, for reasons of his own, not wishing to accept credit for his involvement in the project, his contribution was essential, in that it provided the basic source material. This consisted of a already electronically treated recording of Tietchens reading from one of his favourite authors - E.M.Cioran - a cheery little extract from "Learning from the Tyrants", part of which reads as follows: "The scattered human herd will be united under the guardianship of one pitiless shepherd, a kind of planetary monster before whom the nations will prostrate themselves in an alarm bordering on ecstasy." Sounds suspiciously like a Prince concert to me, or a pro-Osama Ben Laden rally, and for can actually be understood of the text (with the possible exception of the brief third movement "Das Ich macht..") he might as well be reading an Al Qaida tract or the lyrics from Sign O' The Times. Whatever Duncan did to the recording - some sort of snazzy Plug Ins seem to have been involved - he certainly manages to embody the fatalistic gloom of Cioran's text (if that was what was intended), but it all sounds rather arid and fails to hold the attention. A classic case of the concept being more interesting than its realisation, or what Robin Holloway once memorably referred to as "getting the sound and the sense out of alignment." Duncan's concepts in the domain of visual and performance art are brilliant, often daring, even terrifying - but few of those he realises as works of music ever actually sound very interesting, and this isn't one of them.
One collaboration that Tietchens happily put his name to was (I use the past tense because the appearance of the Frühruin box would seem to indicate it's all over) his duo with Thomas Köner, the man who did for European electronica what Albert Collins did to the blues: froze it over, from his debut Nunatak, retracing the fateful end of Captain Scott's polar expedition, to Permafrost (no comment) and beyond. The duo's adopted name, punning on the titles of two bona fide masterpieces of Elektronisches Musik, Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Gesang der Jünglinge" (1956) and "Kontakte" (1960) isn't as ironic as it might seem, as I'd be prepared to argue that the body of work that Tietchens and Köner have produced - four 45-minute live CDs and a 15' studio session - can, when taken as a whole, stand as one of the major achievements in electronic music (not only from Germany) at the turn of the new century. The fact that the four full-length albums, numbered 1, 0, -1 and n respectively, were recorded live might lead you to describe KdJ's work as EAI - gaaah, the dreaded term reappears.. I'd better stop apologising for using it from now on, as we seem to be stuck with it - but it isn't. In concert Köner uses a laptop (so God only knows what he's doing) and Tietchens prepares his material in advance of the shows and "merely presses 'play' on a DAT player and looks serious", to quote one review. No matter: the music is awesome. As serious as one would expect, coming from Tietchens' fatalistic music-is-no-more-than-what-it-is asceticism and Köner's 'Asthetik der Untergang', it's beautifully paced, immaculately recorded and utterly compelling from beginning to end.
Though billed as their first encounter, the show at Bremen's Lagerhaus on December 17th 1999 that was released as 1 wasn't in fact their first collaboration. According to Vital Weekly's Frans de Waard, that that took place in The Netherlands in 1988 (an extract apparently made it to Sinkende Swimmer). Never mind: 1 is stupendous, a looming yet luminous monster of a piece heavily sourced in Tietchens' recordings of water - the balance between the two men tips slightly in Tietchens' favour here. The pair's second outing, recorded nearly 14 months later at (in?) MS Stubnitz, a boat moored in the harbour of the north German port of Rostock, is darker, with Köner's post-Basic Channel techno animal poking its head out once or twice from underneath the pillows he's trying to suffocate it with. Tietchens and Köner took some of the submarine claustrophobia back to the Lagerhaus in Bremen two and a half months later, when -1 was recorded on April 28th 2001. Of the four live sets this is the crunchiest, a clanking, groaning assemblage of machine noises that serves to remind us that Köner, despite that fascination with desolate polar wilderness, remains firmly attached to life in the city. "I would never move to the country," he told The Wire's Biba Kopf. "It's sometimes nice to visit, but after three weeks I have to go to the nearest town, sit down and get some good diesel engines and scraping metal sounds." He waxes lyrical about the post-industrial landscape of his hometown Dortmund: "When you walk through these abandoned industrial fields, there is this silence, but with very powerful motorised sound reproducing units in the distance." This is the atmosphere that permeates the fourth album, n, recorded in Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum on May 18th 2002. If Tietchens' hand was more evident in 1, n sounds more like a Köner outing than one of Asmus' austere menge series. After four such monumental slabs of music, the puny little three-incher called Frühruin might seem rather insulting (especially when you see how much it costs, though it's obviously destined for hardcore KdJ fans who want the cute white box to stash the entire collection in), but to a certain extent it's what all the fans wanted all the way along: a Tietchens / Köner studio recording. Not that it sounds any different from the other four outings: the only complaint I'd make is that it's just not long enough. A whole album of evanescent, elusive magic such as this would certainly not go amiss. Meanwhile, it seems the party's over; the box has the definitive look of a tombstone. But maybe someone can persuade our two protagonists to take to the road again, at some stage. Next time they could call themselves "Hymnen der Telemusik", or something. And if they came to a venue near you, you'd be there, wouldn't you? I would.—DW

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Festival Roundup
Messiaen in a Contemporary Context
Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, London
23rd July - 6th September
Edinburgh Festival
23rd - 28th August 2004
By accident or design, this year's Proms featured a retrospective of works by Messiaen. Of the six concerts in the series, four provoked a reassessment of his achievement, now that twelve years have passed since his death. These were George Benjamin and the Ensemble Modern (23rd July, Royal Albert Hall), David Robertson and the London Sinfonietta (13th August, Royal Albert Hall), Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Emily Beynon (30th August, Victoria and Albert Museum) and Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic (6th September, Royal Albert Hall).
The Benjamin concert, as one might expect from the Ensemble Modern, was thoroughly disciplined and professional. Both conductor and performers had mastered all aspects of the repertory involved, unsurprising given that Benjamin is a former Messiaen pupil and had composed or orchestrated all the compositions in the first half himself. The result was a certain lack of adventurousness, with Benjamin perhaps too immersed in the interpretative traditions of this music to be able to produce a truly original performance. Nevertheless, this also highlighted some of the more routine elements in the music itself. All the pieces on show were technically brilliant reworkings of previous ideas, but the reworking does not seem to have produced anything particularly fresh. Messiaen's continual reliance on older techniques is nowadays regarded as deeply problematic, and the most unusual feature of Benjamin's approach was that he seemed to embrace Messiaen's attitude to reworking just as wholeheartedly. The title of his pieces in the first half, Palimpsests I & II, underlined his predicament: a palimpsest is a seventeenth century word meaning a manuscript, frequently a sacred one, on which one text has been written over another text underneath. This brings to mind not only images of a recycled composition, but also of a juxtaposition of unrelated material: much of the problem with Messiaen's reworked ideas is that they pass through little extensive development, meaning that they cannot revitalize themselves. Themes are rarely cross-fertilized, resulting in a static reiteration of material. Although Benjamin's approach is a little more flexible, the basic forms were recognizable from his teacher's music: a central chorale, with complex harmonic and rhythmic ornamentation. Some of the "shock chords" in Palimpsest I even recalled another Messiaen pupil, Boulez: the work was in fact written for a Boulez tour with the LSO. Benjamin extended the link to the seventeenth century by prefacing these pieces with his own orchestration of Nicolas de Grigny's Récit de tierce en taille. De Grigny was a French composer who died aged just 32 in 1703, and his Baroque chorales and ornamentations are strikingly similar to forms favored by Messiaen and Benjamin. Des canyons aux étoiles…, the Messiaen work featured in the second half, emerged as part of a classic French tradition, extending through organists like Franck to the medieval composers. Messiaen felt particularly close to medieval music, both for its radical innovations and for its religious changelessness, but his connections to the warmer-hearted French Romantics were equally obvious: his collage technique and exoticisms reminded one of Saint-Saëns, albeit in a highly modernized form.
These themes were developed extensively by the London Sinfonietta, but with somewhat different results. Instead of placing Messiaen in a strictly European tradition, the programme concentrated more on his links with world music, in particular the music of the East with which he is so often associated. The UK première of a quadruple concerto by Bright Sheng, The Song and Dance of Tears, preceded a performance of the Turangalîla Symphony which dazzled with technical mastery and stylistic aplomb: Robertson brought a truly Dionysiac energy to the work which offset Benjamin's limpid, Apolline approach. In fact, this is the score of Messiaen's which consistently sounds the most Indian, the most daring and improvisatory, and it formed a perfect foil to the analytical separation of textures in the Chinese concerto. Despite an excellent performance by Yo-Yo Ma and his compatriots from the Silk Road Ensemble, the latter inevitably fared worse than the Turangalîla: the writing for cello and piano was pretty but unadventurous, while the two Chinese instruments were too soft to allow for any blending with the orchestra. This meant the work was divided into sections where the concerto instruments played practically without accompaniment and sections in which the orchestra played without the soloists. Dramatic development was consequently not high on the list of priorities, and the work eventually suffered from a lack of cross-fertilization - again, a feature of Messiaen's less successful compositions but certainly not a flaw in the case of the Symphony. Cynthia Millar and Paul Crossley (another Messiaen pupil) relished the exchanges with the orchestra and seemed fully attuned to the composer's humorous extravagances, while Bright Sheng's potentially entertaining mix of East and West allowed itself to stagnate in postmodernist pastiche.
The Aimard concert took us away from China and reminded one of Messiaen's links to American music. Le merle noir, a short piece for piano and flute, was coupled with Ives's Concord Sonata, which in Aimard's hands grew into a virtuoso masterpiece with curious affinities to composers like Prokofiev. The portraits of the American transcendentalist philosophers invoked a musical mysticism that reminded one not just of Messiaen, one of Aimard's mentors, but also of Prokofiev's forebear Scriabin. By comparison, the Messiaen sounded thin on the ground, despite the expansive patchwork of both men's work. Robertson, a Californian, had already exposed the quasi-American brashness in the Turangalîla, while Benjamin was a fine exponent of Messiaen's "wide open spaces": Des canyons aux étoiles… was inspired by the landscapes of the West, depicted here by unconventional instruments such as wind machines (often favoured by American composers). However, it was Aimard's program which made the necessary conceptual leap, and one can only look forward to an occasion when someone will couple a piece by Messiaen with a similarly eclectic offering by a composer like John Adams.
The final concert of the series developed the American connection still further, albeit more disappointingly. Éclairs sur l'au-delà… was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, but, despite some beautiful birdsong passages, the work has dated badly: the repetitive style becomes chronic at times and all the daring of Messiaen's earlier years slumps into portentousness. Much the same could be said of the performance with Rattle and the Berlin Phil: Rattle seems to see himself as Leonard Bernstein these days, and although the work was commissioned for Bernstein's orchestra, Rattle permitted an absence of detailing and a sentimentality that not even the late American conductor would have allowed himself. However, the soloists in the birdsong were impressive and, as ever, one was left wondering what the orchestra could do with the work if they performed it, say, with Jonathan Nott, whose recent Ligeti recordings with the Berliners have been so remarkably successful. No one expects Rattle to transform Éclairs into a masterpiece, but he could at least make it a more convincing example of the postmodernism to which he so ardently adheres.
The Edinburgh Festival has always been a staunch supporter of contemporary music. This year alone there were ten events dominated by modern repertoire, of which I was able to attend five: Sciarrino's La bocca, i piedi, il suono (XASAX, 23rd August), Birtwistle's Night's Black Bird and The Shadow of Night (Franz Welser-Möst, Cleveland Orchestra, 25th August), Lachenmann's Wiegenmusik, Guero, Ein Kinderspiel and Serynade (Marino Formenti, 25th August), Nono's Al gran sole carico d'amore (Johannes Harneit, Hanover State Opera, 26th August) and Goebbels's Eraritjaritjaka (André Wilms, Mondriaan Quartet, 28th August).
Birtwistle is currently enjoying a great vogue in British concert halls: this year marks his seventieth birthday, and there is a substantial retrospective of his work in the autumn at the Royal Festival Hall. The Proms, however, are celebrating the occasion rather differently, integrating it with Maxwell Davies's seventieth as well as the seventieth anniversary of the deaths of Elgar, Delius and Holst. This juxtaposition of their works raises the usual questions about the role of continuity in British musical history: it is relatively easy to relate the Manchester Group to Holst, but to what extent can we talk of connections with Elgar and Delius? Although the two pieces in the Usher Hall concert failed to provide any direct answers, they formed a suitable platform from which the ongoing debate could proceed. Night's Black Bird, a work for full orchestra, was followed by its companion piece, The Shadow of Night, with John Dowland's lute song "In Darkness Let Me Dwell" serving as an intimate interlude between the two. Despite the contrast in forces, Birtwistle has stated that the song was an important influence on both compositions, along with one of his persistent fascinations, Dürer's Melancolia I. The connection is twofold. Firstly, the opening to the song consists of a series of tentative, dispirited seconds, an interval on which much of the thematic material for the Birtwistle is based. Secondly, Dowland was a key player in one of the most remarkable periods in British art, a period in which both of Birtwistle's works are immersed. The title "The Shadow of Night" comes from the writings of George Chapman, a contemporary of Shakespeare's and a leading figure in the "school of night", a crucial influence on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. The melancholy that Birtwistle invokes was a vital source of inspiration for the radical artistic activity of the times, a radicalism that would only find a parallel in the Modernist period, as Stravinsky acknowledged in his homage to Gesualdo. Moreover, this artistic activity was fuelled by the theatre, both in Monteverdi's operas and in Shakespeare's plays, and would help inaugurate the non-conformist tradition in British drama. It is to this tradition that Birtwistle has most consistently appealed, just like his predecessors, including, of course, Delius. Although the two composers might superficially have little in common, both played very similar roles in their respective periods. Just as Delius was one of the last of the progressive Romantics, so Birtwistle is one of the last progressive Modernists. The accumulated richness that occurs at the end of a tradition is evident in the work of both composers, particularly in the Cleveland's selection of Birtwistle: the pieces shimmered with post-Stravinskian rhythms, wind and percussion writing worthy of Varèse, and a full range of harmonic techniques from before and after the war. The title of the first piece perhaps even alludes to Messiaen's Le merle noir, and although Messiaen's collages are nowhere in evidence, the work has a similar virtuosity and sumptuousness. As ever, Birtwistle's form, like Delius's, is sui generis, and it is easy to see why their "primitive" elements endeared them less to Britain than to the Continent. Delius spent a good proportion of his life in France and came from German stock; Birtwistle has a home in Lunegarde and had a strong exposure to Germanic music at university through Goehr. Both spent the earlier parts of their lives in Northern England, and the Northern attitude to art as craft lies at the centre of both men's work, refining it and even, arguably, inhibiting it, which is perhaps my only objection to both men's work and certainly my only objection to these night pieces in general. Although everything in Birtwistle's current output is immaculate, the melodic material and drama are perhaps too tightly repressed, undermining a necessary sense of surprise. Although on a certain level the compositions of, say, Boulez are equally controlled, Boulez's methods of development are sufficiently heterogeneous to permit more striking juxtapositions of material. This was unfortunately a point Franz Welser-Möst did little to rectify: despite scrupulous attention to rhythm, orchestration and counterpoint, his sense of melodic line was frequently flat. Although some praised his laissez-faire attitude to the orchestra, it is clear that Dohnányi did not achieve such excellence in this music by merely commissioning pieces, sitting back and watching the Cleveland bluster them through. That said, the orchestra seemed brilliantly attuned to the repertoire: it was only four days since the world première of Night's Black Bird and already they had mastered it as fully as The Shadow of Night, which was commissioned by Dohnányi for the orchestra over three years ago. Posterity's judgment of Birtwistle remains to be seen, but it is likely the Cleveland will play an important role in it.
By comparison, the events featuring Nono and his pupil Lachenmann had a greater sense of adventure, despite their varying lack of refinement. This may partly be explained by the element of populism in their works: social issues are central to both men's music, and at its best the music featured here has much in common with the spirit of the South American revolutionaries. Sections of Lachenmann's piano music harked back to Villa-Lobos, with cluster chords producing suitably martial sounds. Guero was an imitation of the eponymous South American percussion instrument: throughout its length, the pianist does not depress any of the keys, instead exploiting glissandi along the surface of the keyboard and noises made by tapping the wood or plucking at the strings. The whole of Nono's "scenic action" is one long hymn to Marxism, introduced by a quote from Che Guevara: "Beauty does not oppose the revolution". Despite its serialist radicalism, Nono tried to model the work on Bellini, and one suspects he may also have been inspired by the apocalyptic bombast of composers such as Penderecki. The libretto consists of key texts with no discernible stage directions or plot, deliberately encouraging the director to make an active "commitment" to the work. Peter Konwitschny's response to the challenge was mixed. Throughout the evening, the set was superb. The first part opened with Fourier's utopian glass house, a dwelling whose inhabitants are visible from the outside and hence have to be free from any malice or crime. In this case, it houses a bedroom of two reasonably innocent children, interrupted in their play by "The Spectre of Communism" (a fairy godmother dressed in white), who introduces them to an educational journey through the world of the Paris Commune, including a lecture by Lenin, a Punch and Judy show and arias from Che Guevara's lover Tania Bunke (a fine performance from Janina Baechle). The second part concentrated more on the mother than on the child, Mother Russia of 1905, to be precise, with heavy borrowings from Gorky and Brecht. The setting is more adult and claustrophobic than the first part: the cramped flat of the opening soon turns into a factory whose walls move together to crush rebellious workers. This "commitment" to Nono's bombast was matched by the performance, although one occasionally wished it could have had more of the subtlety of the set, particularly in the heavier polyphonic sequences. The chief letdown of the production was the movement on stage: the singers had a good grasp of Nono's coarse lyricism, but their actions rarely reflected the gestures in the orchestra. Above all, both production and performance required better pacing, as well as fewer technical blunders from the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Nono may have dismissed the piece as an "elephant", but there is no doubt that it is a more dignified elephant than this. The same could occasionally be said of Marino Formenti's performance of the Lachenmann: despite a total command of the music and an awe-inspiring technique, he sometimes succumbed to shades of Pierre-Laurent Aimard's circus tricks in the complete Ligeti Études at the Wigmore Hall last autumn. Formenti was more convincing in the straightforward absurdism of Ein Kinderspiel than in the tortuous dramatic complexities of Serynade, a thirty-minute epic with all the fascinations and flaws of the longest of Stockhausen's Klavierstücke. The massive tirade of forearm clusters at the climax is a technical section which Formenti had mastered thoroughly yet one which threatened to derail the piece. Perhaps the finest readings of the recital were inspired by the earlier works, Guero and Wiegenmusik. The latter was particularly suited to the late-night darkness of the Usher Hall: Lachenmann said he gave it the title of "Cradle Music" because he felt it sounded like a child fighting the urge to sleep. Formenti was instantly possessed by its febrile world and, as ever, his mastery of Lachenmann's revolutionary pedaling was complete. It is Lachenmann's seventieth birthday next year and one hopes that the Proms will grant him a retrospective; but, alas, he may be doomed to the fate of Ferneyhough, who, sixty this year, had not one piece performed at the Festival.
The work of Sciarrino and Goebbels formed an interesting contrast to the modernist manifestoes of their predecessors and compatriots. In particular, Sciarrino's exotic sonorities and minimalism frequently reminded one of Nono, particularly in his later, barer guise, although there are remarkable differences between their aesthetics. Nono's pieces are designed to appeal to an ordinary audience, but they do not include any room for ordinary performers. La bocca, i piedi, il suono, by contrast, exploits the talents of 100 saxophonists who emerge half an hour into the forty-five minute piece and do nothing but tap their keys and play the occasional harmonic, all with more than a hint of randomness. This approach lies at the heart of the divide between modernism and postmodernism: the ritualism of Al gran sole initiates the average listener into higher mysteries which he has no power to alter, whereas La bocca, i piedi, il suono creates a hieratic atmosphere through a mélange of expert and popular forces. The performance was boosted by its extraordinary setting, the huge rectangular neo-classical entrance hall of the Royal Museum, complete with two galleries running right round its circumference and room for the audience to position themselves as they pleased. The purity of the space was enhanced by its predominant whiteness and by the presence of two fish pools right at the centre. The members of the XASAX quartet stood either side of these pools and spent the first twenty minutes building up sounds out of nothingness, starting off with a simple repeated note and then punctuating the silence with flutterings and squawks. After twenty minutes, the intervals grew wider and wider and the interruptions broadened into a wistful minor chord. The quartet played together for roughly ten minutes and then subsided slightly for the entrance of the other saxophonists, 150 in this performance, who wandered along a walkway and among the audience, making inadvertent noises with their feet as well as their instruments. It is this particular effect that gives lie to the work's title, "The mouth, the feet, the sound". Although the work is not nearly as long as, say, the piece by Tavener at this year's Proms, the uncompromising subtlety of its contemplative atmospherics caused many members of the audience to make an early exit: Sciarrino, after all, is not as straightforward as Pärt.
The same could not be said of Goebbels, however, whose links to the modernist tradition are less obvious than Sciarrino's. Goebbels started off life in a rock band, and the material for Eraritjaritjaka consists entirely of quotations, literary ones from Elias Canetti and musical ones from a series of compositions for string quartet by Shostakovich, Mossolov, Oswald, Lobanov, Scelsi, Bryars, Ravel, Crumb, Bach and Goebbels himself. The piece began in the Royal Lyceum Theatre with the Mondriaan Quartet accompanying André Wilms as he recited a series of aphorisms dressed in a writerly three-piece suit. Wilms and the Quartet moved around the stage constantly, Wilms through a square of white light at the centre and the Quartet through the darkness in the aisles by its sides. This sense of movement and the austere dialogism of the medium of the quartet mirrored Canetti's texts to reasonable effect, although one was frequently left longing for something which would unsettle the listener as much as the disorientating texts themselves. That moment finally arrived in a brief interlude: Wilms positioned a model house centre-stage, and the square of light disappeared. During the ensuing blackout, the house was seen as if from an aeroplane, giant-sized in comparison to the roads running around it. The lights of the house in the midst of the darkness augmented the air of consolation in solitude. The idea was extended when Wilms left the theatre and took a journey by taxi to an Edinburgh flat, all of which was filmed and projected onto the back wall of the stage. This wall was later revealed to be the outer wall of the flat, and the play ended with Wilms absorbed in his writing, accompanied by the Mondriaan, who were by now inside the house. Although the piece was perfectly effective, it suffered from an inability to match the startling elegance of the quotations. Nevertheless, Goebbels's theatrical and musical sensitivity were everywhere in evidence, and the audience were more entertained than during the Sciarrino, which perhaps suffered from an opposite inability to relax; but, as Canetti points out, "Try saying to Shakespeare, 'Relax!'"—NR

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On Creative Sources

Creative Sources CS013
Creative Sources CS014
Ernesto Rodrigues / Manuel Mota / Gabriel Paiuk
Creative Sources CS012
In the second half of the 1990s, the new "reduced" aesthetics pursued by Radu Malfatti and others threw down a fundamental challenge to the world of improvised music. Within a few years, a number of the original explorers of "reductionism" had begun to move beyond the principles and practices that had initially defined this austere musical movement. In issue 89 of Musicworks magazine (Summer 2004) the Berlin-based tuba player Robin Hayward observed that "by 2000 I was feeling in a cul-de-sac with the much reduced, static music I was producing" and explained how he subsequently sought to break his self-imposed rules by, amongst other things, including an element of narrative structure. More generally, the question of how a viable and relevant musical improvisation for the start of the 21st century should be approached in the light of the aesthetics, techniques and insights of reductionism (and their limits) has arisen not just amongst those identified (usually by others) as 'reductionists' but also a number of thoughtful musicians across the improvised music spectrum. To a degree, each of the three latest releases on Lisbon's industrious Creative Sources label can be seen as a response to this musical problem.

From the heart of Berlin's reductionist community comes Schwimmer, a quartet comprising Alessandro Bosetti (soprano sax), Michael Thieke (clarinet), Sabine Vogel (flute) and Michael Griener (percussion). In recording 7x4x7, the group utilized an unusual method. To quote Bosetti's sleeve notes: "a player (clarinettist Michael Thieke) played and recorded a seven minute long solo. A second player overdubbed a seven-minute long solo over this statement while listening to it. A third musician overdubbed onto the two previous tracks a third segment and so on in a chain reaction that leads to a longer structure (which could be reconstructed by those willing to do so, through the amazingly detailed graphic description on the CD jacket, an artwork in itself)". The effect of this procedure is to destroy any element of contemporaneous collective interaction; moreover, the task of ascertaining at any given moment who is alive to whom and who is merely providing a backing track surely imposes too great a cognitive burden to be compatible with enjoyment of the music. In consequence, the listener must abandon any hope of detecting and appreciating any substantive element of ongoing group interchange and collaboration and turn instead to the work as a mere sonic artifact. It's something of a surprise to find that the sound object so laboriously constructed rather resembles that of an ordinary improvisation (except, of course, without any element of extemporaneous collective engagement to be entered into by the listener). The sleeve notes indicate that the work was intended to explore the musical dimension of space by means of both the recording method plus "close miking, multiple miking, spreading many loudspeakers throughout the room [and] the virtuoso and massive use of noise and extended techniques", but none of this succeeds in opening interesting spatial dimensions within the recording. The reductionist vocabulary of exhalations, flutters, scrapes, etc. is duly employed in various combinations and densities, but what emerges seems uninspired, stilted and somewhat rambling. It also on occasions falls back into arrangements that resemble the quieter end of 1970s groups such as the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. For his part, Bosetti evidently regards the recorded contributions as commendably "detached and out-of-synch", but together they can hardly be distinguished from the sound of an improvisation that has simply failed to cohere.

The members of Tidszon are Birgit Ulher (trumpet), Martin Küchen (soprano and baritone saxophones, mutes and pocket-radio), Lise-Lott Norelius (live-electronics) and Raymond Strid (percussion). The group's sound is another variant of 1970s free improvisation dispensing with agitated crescendos and incorporating elements of the extended techniques and spaciousness associated with reductionism. The fusion is not entirely convincing: the reductionist playing seems relatively perfunctory and Strid, generally a rather busy percussionist, gives the impression of being sorely tempted to inject some alien propulsion into the music. More importantly, can the challenges and impasses of reductionism be resolved simply by absorbing isolated elements of the music into the paradigm it superseded in order to create what one might describe as 1970s free improvisation with the lid on? That would seem to be more of a conservative recuperation of reductionism than a vibrantly contemporary refashioning and deepening of its radical approach to musical space and time in conditions of "fast capitalism", to borrow Ben Agger's phrase.

For me, the most successful of the new discs is Dorsal. The music is not as radical as some that has appeared on the label: Ernesto Rodrigues brings his usual startlingly extended techniques to bear on the violin, but Gabriel Paiuk's playing inside and outside the piano owes much to contemporary classical music and Manuel Mota's guitar seems relatively conventional in comparison with the work of Keith Rowe, Annette Krebs and other cutting-edge reinventors of the instrument. If music is to explore beyond the miniscule fraction of the universe of possibilities regarded as legitimate by the arbitrary presuppositions of conventional western music, it would seem necessary to adopt much more radical approaches to sound generation than Mota and Paiuk bring to their respective products of the bourgeois era. Notwithstanding this, as a collective the trio succeeds in creating some captivatingly capacious improvisations that are characterized by responsive and creative collaboration amongst the musicians. It's not all entirely successful, and Paiuk's occasional introduction of jazzy touches into his playing drags the music back towards musical ideologies the group is straining to surpass; but the best of the trio's work points to some of the improvisational virtues and spacio-temporal approaches that a radical post-reductionism would arguably do well to adopt and makes the disc well worth acquiring.—WS

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On Improvised Music from Japan

Yumiko Tanaka
IMJ 507
Samm Bennett
IMJ 516
Masahiko Okura
IMJ 518
Tetuzi Akiyama / Martin Ng
IMJ 519
Tayutauta is the long overdue debut solo album by gidayu-shamisen virtuoso Yumiko Tanaka - after five brief solo tracks featured in the IMJ 10CD box set (now out of print, but you might get lucky) - and was recorded "in her four-and-a-half-tatami-mat room in Yashiro, Hyogo prefecture." A nice detail, but an important one - though known outside Japan for her appearances with Ground Zero (until the mythic group disbanded) and, more recently, in Heiner Goebbels' Hashirigaki, Tanaka is an associate professor of Japanese music history at Hyogo University of Teacher Education, and has written numerous scholarly articles and essays on the subject. Despite its investigation of extended techniques and preparations and its exploration of repetitive elements, there's a timelessness to her music that comes from familiarity with musical traditions spanning several centuries. Her patient and magical exploration of harmonics on the opening "Furuike ya" is as deceptively simple as it is beautiful, but she's not averse to showing off the roughness of the instrument: the gritty friction of "Chirei" (shades of Tetuzi Akiyama's dobro) and the bold scordatura of "Ruten" are as uncompromisingly experimental as the work of her erstwhile boss Otomo Yoshihide, and it's not hard to see why she has been sought out by the likes of John Zorn and Butch Morris.
The 19 tracks on percussionist Samm Bennett's Secrets Of Teaching Yourself Music were recorded - superbly - in concert at various different Tokyo venues, including watering holes whose names will be familiar to improv junkies (Off Site, Shinjuku Pit Inn..) and edited together very craftily to form a continuously running suite - for once, the word's historical associations with dance are appropriate - alternating relatively simple and at times downright foot-tapping grooves with more experimental sonorities. The album cover photo shows Bennett, originally from Alabama but resident in Tokyo since 1995, with a giant stethoscope inserted into his ears. Along with the snappy 1950s ad style "you'll be amazed how easy it is!" text inside the gatefold it sets the tone for the album. There's always an element of fun, or at least theatre, to a solo percussion concerts, acoustic or otherwise, and Samm certainly sounds to be enjoying himself here. With one notable exception, the eerie theremin-like swoops of "Erasing the inevitable", the pieces are short - 13 of the 19 tracks clock in at under two and a half minutes - and feature, in addition to the par-for-the-course contact mics and drum machines, a crank toy with portable karaoke mic, various vibrators, beepers and effectors (go figure) and something called a bumble ball (toothbrush is not listed, though I am 99% sure he's using one on "I'm in no mood").
Saxophonist Masahiko Okura's Time Service, like Stéphane Rives' Fibres on Potlatch, is a case study in music as acoustic research. If you're no great fan of raw extended techniques, you might want to leave this one in the racks, though don't scoff and say the guy can't play - Okura leads a double life with his decidedly funky post-jazzrock outfit Gnu (check out Suro on Cubic Music). Anyway, back to the lab.. after the opening basso profundo snore of the bass tubes on "Lavnta", Okura takes up the alto on tracks 2 - 4. "Sylome" alternates quasi-electronic blasts of half-pitched noise with silence, "My Cabin Home" explores more expressionistic upper registers (though we're a long way from the traumatic wails of Masayoshi Urabe), and "Indice" explores a world of Geiger counter clicks. At 10'40" it certainly tries the patience, and the booming rustle of the following "Gorillatoast" comes as a welcome surprise - quite what Okura has inserted into or onto his tubes to make them sound like a cross between a snare drum and a Harley Davidson is a mystery, but even its complex timbres sustain interest only up to a point. Fortunately the album goes out on a high - well, no, actually, as the last track is for bass clarinet, but you know what I mean - "Safety" patiently explores the delicate fluffy clicks of instrument's rich, woody lower octaves.
Oimacta is the latest offering from the remarkably prolific globetrotting guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama, this time partnered by turntablist Martin Ng in a studio session - just their second meeting - recorded in Sydney (so much for Improvised Music from Japan, but never mind) in July 2002. It's a slow, thoughtful and haunting set, from the shifting, glistening drones of the opening "Kyua Scattered" to the metallic bottleneck twang of "Silver-Brown" and "Dolphin Hotel", slipping in and out of pools of sine wave stasis. The dedication of the third track "Lost Angels" to Henry Flynt might have listeners familiar with Akiyama's gloriously self-indulgent Don't Forget To Boogie (Idea) expecting a return to the hinterland of pop. Instead the music remains in the world of mildly unsettling microtonally-inflected drone, Akiyama's gently pulsing chordal clouds floating above a low amp hum. If it's pop you're after, try and hunt down a copy of Akiyama's awesome seventeen minute cover of "Wild Horses" - CDR, Playback 09 commune@mpd.biglobe.ne.jp - meanwhile Oimacta is splendid, even if (like me) you can't work what the letters in the album title stand for.—DW

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Gaudeamus MuziekWeek

Amsterdam, September 2004
musiscoop projection
Some of the best performances during this week of world and Dutch premieres from an international line-up of young composers came from France’s Ensemble Aleph, well known for their quirkiness and dedication to thorny new music. Their back-to-back concerts in the Ijsbreker offered a sense of completion heard only rarely during the week – the ensemble had spent all summer working on their programs and recorded a CD, released the same day and offered (free!) to all members of the audience, complete with a lively Logbook. Interviews with the composers, trendy photos, and serious musical analysis make this an impressive souvenir, and make their effort on behalf of the eleven featured young composers well worth it. Highlights of the Aleph show included trumpeter Lutz Mandler’s simultaneous performance on two alphorns (connected to a single mouthpiece), Mayke Nas’ Musique qui sent la table et la pantoufle, a good example of the humorously serious work of this up and coming Dutch composer, and the pun and a grin of Dmitri Kourliandski’s Pas d’action (“action step” or “no action” depending on how you choose to translate it).
The Insomnio Ensemble presented an interesting program of electroacoustic music, with impressively seamless integration of electronics and live sounds, complemented by skilled –though rarely virtuosic – instrumental writing. Rather than consisting of odd or unexpected sounds which could only be generated electronically, the electronic element sounded distinctly acoustic in origin, reflections of and variations on real instruments, a maddening subtlety that made for a rather conservative-eared program, though a few pieces shone for their acoustic writing. The new instrument highlight of the week was a metal device called the Waterphone, performed with flair by Insomnio percussionist Claire Edwards. Heavily amplified, the Waterphone contains water in a metal disc 1 foot (about 35cm) in diameter at its base, from the centre of which a handle extends upwards, which Ms Edwards held in her left hand, while bowing metal rods forming a cone from the base to the top of the handle. These vibrated in sympathy with one another, and were bowed, beaten, and swung. The instrument was used to great effect in Lute of Aquarius, by Polish composer Katarzyna Glowicka, and the electronics made a fast and frenzied counterpoint to the performer’s athletic gestures (listen to a sound sample). Melissa Mazzoli and Juan Sebastian Lach Lau co-wrote Broken, a long slow ostinato of broken sounds, of plucked, staticky strings, jerky double bass, fluttering mandolin, and guitar, all trying to catch their breath, with occasional resolutions in the harp: marvellous, tense, and mystical (listen to our sound sample).
The philosophical conundrum of the week was posed by two pieces that were (by a process of convergent evolution?) from completely different spheres, yet resembled each other in wonderful and perplexing ways. In each composition a virtuosic soloist played with – and above and against and in contrast to – a western European new music ensemble: Appalachia, written by Giel Vleggaar and performed by the Nieuw Ensemble with Wiek Hijmans on acoustic steel-string guitar, was straight out of Tennessee, at least on the surface, and had an engaging lilt. It was immediately followed by Khara Khorum by Mongolian composer Sansargereltech Sangidorj, which also featured a traditional guitar-like instrument, the Morin khuur, performed by Purevjav Sambuu (listen to the sound sample). At what point does composition become colonialism, at what point is it tourism? Over a glass or two of Genever (the quintessential Dutch juniper gin, necessary after every new music concert), Vleggaar explained that he wanted not to create the actual sound of Appalachia, but rather the atmosphere, the groove. He added that finding the correct notation (also a problem for the Mongolians) was extremely difficult: easily playable guitar riffs are agonizing to notate on a classical stave. The pairing of these two travelogues was odd and intriguing, and would have been more so had the program also featured the music of Kagel or one of the Russians who has worked with issues of nostalgia / expatriatism / colonialism.

By way of delightful antidote to the seriously establishment feeling of Gaudeamus week, “Musiscoop”, which I caught during the Utrecht Dutch Film Festival, was full of humour and proof of the power of low-tech equipment used creatively. Divided into 4 pieces – Lines, Moiré, Switch, and Sand – this was a show written for Magic Lanterns (dating from the 1850s!) plus viola, trombone and contrabass flute. In the dark, film artist Ida Lohman, whose lively pastel visuals recalled Paul Klee, and assistant wriggled and shook and stretched and rolled gels and slides through the projectors (no motors, no computers: only a lens and a light bulb) while the musicians performed in direct, cheeky and punchy ensemble. Thoroughly enjoyable, even without the Genever. Check out their website at www.musiscoop.nl —GL

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Bruce Russell
w.m.o/r 11
w.m.o/r 12
Mattin / Junko
w.m.o/r 13
Mark Wastell
w.m.o/r 14
These four new releases from w.m.o/r provide further indications that Basque sound artist Mattin's label is busily mapping the hitherto unimagined no man's land(s) between lowercase improv and mind numbing noise, rambling free rock and dry, austere minimalism. And if those sound like irreconcilable differences, remember that Mattin's the guy who professes equal admiration for Whitehouse and Radu Malfatti. In the same sentence. Pinknoise is the companion album to last year's Whitenoise outing with Malfatti, and as Mattin's apparently still not hooked up with Whitehouse's William Bennett (not that I have any idea whether he's actually tried to do so) he's settled instead for the inimitable "voice" of Junko Hiroshige of Japanese noisemeisters Hijokaidan. Popping a CD in your machine and seeing it display a total duration of only 30'54" might annoy some folk, but believe me 30'54" of this is quite enough. Suffering from a nasty hangover? Don't fart around with aspirins and OJ, go straight for the last seven minutes of this and turn the wick up as high as you can get away with without getting yourself evicted. Though perhaps not quite as harrowing as Junko's solo LP Sleeping Beauty (Elevage de Poussière EPP09, 2002) - to a certain extent Mattin's wall of screeching computer feedback serves to camouflage the naked terror of Junko's screams - Pinknoise is nonetheless one hell of a cathartic blast of an album. If you're teaching a course in acoustics in the near future and need to find a few good examples of difference tones in action, skip the Tony Conrad stuff and head straight for this.
Visit Mattin's website in search of biographical information on Heliogabalus (a New Zealand-based duo whose real identities remain a closely guarded secret, apparently) and you'll come across David Magie's 1924 translation of Aelius Lampridius' biography of Elagabalus Antoninus, aka Varius Avitus, a wondrously gory tale of rape, buggery, torture and sacrifice, complete with lions, leopards and bears, which will probably take you as long to read as the album will to listen to. Tourette Is Normal (Excerpt 2) is a perfect piece of real estate smack in the middle of w.m.o. territory - neither evolving very much over the course of its 26 minutes nor sitting still long enough to be called a drone, it's a strange mixture of broadly tonal but breathtakingly lo-fi free form psychedelic folk improv and late 60s minimalism, the kind of thing Alan Licht would be happy to acknowledge (there's praise for you), and though it's hardly as exciting as having your anus gouged out and being dragged through the streets by a pack of bloodthirsty centurions, it's certainly entertaining and enjoyable.
London-based lowercase improviser Mark Wastell has been in commemorative mood recently; not content with dedicating a piece to the memory of Who bassist John Entwistle (see below), he's also embarked on a series of compositions using instruments belonging to the late Roger Sutherland (formerly of Morphogenesis), to whose memory Vibra #1 is dedicated. It's a 24-minute composition that delicately explores the sonorities of a hand moulded Italian tam-tam, and deserves to take its place in the tam-tam top ten (well, six) along with La Monte Young's "Studies in the Bowed Disc", Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Mikrophonie I", Mathias Spahlinger's "entlöschend", Rhys Chatham's "Two Gongs" and Tobias Liebezeit's outstanding reading of James Tenney's "Having Never Written a Note for Percussion" (on the New World double album Postal Pieces). Gong fans - the instrument, not the group, dummies - will love it.
The real pearl of this set is Bruce Russell's Los Desastres De Las Guerras, an album haunted by the duende of Federico Garcia Lorca's "Theory and Function of the Duende", a text from which guitarist Russell extracts several quotations to illustrate his own essay "Practical Materialism: Lesson Three". This is one of three tracts accompanying this release, the others being Matthew Hyland's "Disasters of Peace", a Marxist analysis of Al Qaida's claiming authorship of the Madrid bombings on March 11th this year, and Mattin's own musings on the mass protests that took place in the Spanish capital two days later. That same day, Russell recorded the three magnificent and desolately throbbing guitar improvisations that open the album, Lorca poems once more providing their titles. The danger implicit in the concept of duende - the noun is untranslatable, combining the notions of evil spirit and inspiration - has long been a central element of Russell's work both as a solo performer and with The Dead C. "The duende resides in the guitar, in the electrical circuitry, in the exigencies of the performance itself. All these variables can conspire to seek to overcome me. [T]he performance is in a real sense a wrestling bout with an implacable foe." As foes go, there are few more implacable than Mattin himself, unleashing a torrent of terrifying feedback from behind his computer without batting an eyelid. On the album's title track, a thirty-minute duo recorded in Christchurch's Physics Room, Russell's mournful strums are suffocated by clouds of howling feedback in a slow-building electrical storm of hums and buzzes that might have a made a fitting epitaph to the bombings had it not been recorded a fortnight before they occurred. To quote Russell once more: "When the duende comes to the door of the bar 'dragging her wings of rusty knives along the ground' (Lorca), there is only one way to respond to the apparition - we play." She was there all right on February 26th.—DW

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Die Enttäuschung
Crouton 25 LP
Look closely and you'll see Thelonious Monk lurking in the abstract expressionist photo montage of Frankenstein movies, 50s-style fitted kitchen ads, 60s girl groups, dancing bears and hardboiled eggs (?), a reminder that Die Enttäuschung's debut double album on Two Nineteen consisted solely of Monk covers (which also featured prominently on their Grob CD, released in 2002 but recorded five years earlier). This time round all the material is penned by group members - bass clarinettist Rudi Mahall contributes five pieces, trumpeter Axel Dörner four, drummer Uli Jennessen three and bassist Jan Roder one - but reveals the same fondness for the angular, Third Stream-like quasi-serial structures beloved of early 60s pioneers on Prestige and Blue Note. Mention Dörner to most folk and they'll immediately think extended technique, circular breathing, icy blasts of breathy noise, sub-bass growls and all manner of noises that you'd normally expect to find in a sawmill or a sewage works. However, as an Invisible Jukebox for Signal To Noise magazine a while back revealed, Dörner is well versed in jazz, namechecking Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Roy Eldridge, Rex Stewart, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Kenny Dorham, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis and Tony Fruscella as among his favourites. And Booker Little, whose "Man Of Words" he identified in seconds. It's Little who comes to mind most often on this date, particularly - thanks to that bass clarinet - the Little of the 1961 Five Spot dates with Eric Dolphy. Of course, there's no piano here (friendly relations do however exist between the group and Alex von Schlippenbach), and though it's probably unfair to compare Roder and Jennessen to the Richard Davis / Edward Blackwell dream team that graced those legendary recordings, Roder attacks his solos with the verve and melodic forthrightness of Charles Mingus, and also has a nice line in Slam Stewart-style singalong bow solos, while Jennessen punches the music forward most effectively (Roy Haynes comes to mind). The horn players are, needless to say, superb throughout. The only doubt I have is to why they settled on the name Die Enttäuschung, which if my German is correct (that's a big if), means "The Disappointment". Because this most definitely isn't.—DW

Peter Brötzmann, Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, Michael Zerang
Hatology 589
The idea, according to producer John Corbett, was to record what used to be called a "ballad session". (No, I'm not making this up.) Of course, it's not the only such attempt to get Brötzmann's tender side on disc (cf. Fourteen Love Poems and Songlines), but by most musical standards even scaled-down Brötzmann is still pretty bruising stuff. In the event, the album's mood is closer to stark elegy than to balladry: it includes a series of memorials to bassists Fred Hopkins, Peter Kowald and Wilbur Morris, a pair of "Stone Poems" in tribute to the late Irving Stone (a much-loved enthusiast and supporter of the New York avant-jazz scene) and his widow Stephanie, and an Aylerish reading of the hymn "Blessèd Assurance". The Hopkins tribute, "Master of a Small House", is a stunner, its slow, majestic opening throbbing so beautifully and dangerously you just know it's going to explode - and, yep, it does, with some full-throated tenor from both horns and a delicious, snaking groove from Kessler and Zerang. It's the one genuinely dark and piercing moment on the album. There are a few vigorous Brötz and McPhee brawls - vivid enough, though missing the wildness of their best work - and some intriguing pieces like "Cymbalism" and "In Anticipation of the Next" that work a seam of quiet minimalism one hardly associates with Brötzmann. Kessler and Zerang offer solid, though restrained, support. On balance it's a fine disc, and comes recommended - but make sure you get the right disc: the first pressing of Tales Out of Time had a mastering glitch on "Master of a Small House", and though Hat Art has since fixed the bug and issued a new version, a few of the old copies may still be hanging round the shops. While you're there make sure you also pick up the recent Live at Spruce Street Forum on Botticelli, a hell-for-leather encounter between Brötzmann and the Eneidi/Ellis/Krall trio that'll put a smile on your face.—ND

Jimmy Giuffre, Paul Bley, Steve Swallow
Hatology 2-595
Hard on the heels of the Jimmy Giuffre Trio's triumphant reunion in the 1980s came the ECM reissue of their first two discs and a surprise from the Hat Art label: the belated release of tapes from the group's 1961 tour of West Germany on the CDs Flight (1992) and Emphasis (1993), now reissued as a handy twofer. The most historically significant release is Flight, recorded on 23 November 1961 in Bremen. By that point in time their first album, Fusion, had receded into the distance: the trio plays only "Cry, Want" from it. They play five pieces from their second album, Thesis, recorded in August but not yet released at the time of the concert. But there is also a fascinating glimpse of new repertoire - Giuffre's "Call of the Centaur", "Stretching Out (Suite for Germany)" and "Trance", and Carla Bley's "Postures" - that otherwise went undocumented, since the trio's furious pace of self-reinvention meant that by the time they recorded their third and last album, Free Fall, in 1962, they'd already left the pieces behind. The second disc, Emphasis, is a recording of a Stuttgart concert two weeks before Bremen. It includes another "Stretching Out (Suite for Germany)", but otherwise the repertoire is familiar from the studio albums: four pieces from Fusion, three from Thesis.
Despite the glimpse of new repertoire on the Bremen disc, in some ways Emphasis is the more startling of these two discs. Paul Bley is the dominant player, at times virtually unbalancing the group with his jangling attack and rattly preparations. Giuffre plays more simply as a result, rarely seizing the foreground - he drifts through the seven and a half minutes of the bluesy "Emphasis" like he's half-singing to himself - and often verging on microtonality. On Flight the balance of the group is more even, though Swallow is strongly featured, notably on a version of "That's True, That's True" that comes in at double the length of the studio version and leaves the "So What"-ish theme far behind. The discs are a goldmine for obsessive cross-referencers like myself: compare, for instance, the tremulous piano at the start of "Sonic" on Thesis with the lengthy, nervous morse-code opening to the reading on Emphasis (Swallow playing arco), and then switch to Flight to hear the same tune again, now grounded more comfortably in Swallow's steady (pizzicato) pedal point. Tracks like "Venture" or "Carla" (both on Emphasis) have a raucous, jittery vibe you'd hardly anticipate from the studio renderings, and "Jesus Maria" (Emphasis again), stately and serene on Fusion, has a stronger south-of-the-border flavour in the live version. At the Bremen concert "Flight" retains the fluttering, birdlike quality of the studio version, but the theme itself has a newfound violence, with Bley delivering body blows to the piano's interior.
Like just about any classic album from the 1950s/1960s jazz avant-garde you care to name, Emphasis and Flight are among other things great blues albums, linking the earliest recorded examples of the blues - Giuffre's clarinet has the yearning, elemental sound of an old-time blues singer - to modern reworkings like Kind of Blue (note the affinity between "Jesus Maria" and "Flamenco Sketches"). Reference books may call the Giuffre Trio's music "abstract" or "cool", or discuss it largely in terms of its subsequent influence on European free improvisation, but they're missing the point: it's a music as authentically blues-drenched as Ornette Coleman, and like Ornette's early work its power seems clarified and sharpened rather than diluted by every passing year.—ND

Thirsty Ear THI 57150.2
Latitude is the first part of a trilogy of releases - Longitude and Altitude are to follow - featuring the double act of percussionist Bobby Previte and guitarist Charlie Hunter, with special guest Greg Osby on alto sax (one assumes the second and third chapters of the project will feature different guests). The inner sleeve goes to pains to inform you that "what you hear is played 99% live... and 100% improvised", presumably because the polished post M-Base surface of many of the album's eleven cuts might lead you to think it was all scripted long before the musicians arrived at the studio in Brooklyn. But no, listen more closely and you can hear the music putting itself together as it goes along. Hunter's work is not surprisingly more abstract than on his Blue Note outings, and Osby snakes along in his inimitable fashion while Previte - an all-too often overlooked original when it comes to building and driving a groove - is consistent and impressive, but once the final "South Pole" has faded away you'll be hard pressed to recall a single theme, harmonic progression or riff from the album. I've heard it five times and am frankly mystified by how forgettable it is, despite being well played, superbly produced and not uninteresting to listen to. There's plenty of latitude, to be sure, but perhaps not enough attitude.—DW

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Xavier Charles, Diane Labrosse, Kristoff K. Roll, Martin Tetreault
Victo CD 090
Recorded during the 20th Festival International de Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Canada last year, this CD features five musicians from various backgrounds: French reed improviser Xavier Charles, former feminist activist Diane Labrosse on sampler, fellow Ambiances Magnetiques stablemate conceptual-artist-cum-turntablist Martin Tétreault, and the French live electronics duo of Carole Rieussec and Jean-Christophe Camps, aka Kristoff K. Roll. The concert starts slowly with bleeping and clicking, low level tones and contact miked textures evolving into a hum broadening throughout the stereo spectrum, with noises emanating from the background while Kristoff K Roll's kitchen percussion holds the front line. A passage of white noise, punctuated by Labrosse's sampler, opens up a very slow, and almost casual, bass-beat that serves as a fine bottom-line for Charles' splendid array of tongue and throat extended techniques, until Tétreault's tumultuous feedback envelopes the horn's itchy sound. The second piece begins with a much more severe drone, a brighter and airier noise in the speakers, until the ensemble settles for electric antics and analogue glitches à la Quintet Avant. As silence tries to re-establish itself, the background echoes with distant feedback enriched by filtered sounds of the spoken word, a "new electro-acoustic improvisation" between turntable and saxophone. The tension is subsequently raised to the max with Labrosse's loud helicopter samples. Chamber manoeuvres in the dark are all that's left. Put it down to Labrosse's activist history, or take it as a reference to critique of our militarised times, a damn good way to end a record.—VJ

Television Power Electric
Kuro Neko KN02
Recorded originally in November 2002, at Chicago's Splinter Group, these four improvisations that make up the second release by Television Power Electric, Chicago-based TV Pow (Todd Carter, Michael Hartman here: Brent Gutzeit doesn't seem to be performing but is responsible for three of the remixes) plus guests Efzeg's Boris Hauf (Austria's most frequent flyer into the windy city), Ernst Karel (of EKG) and Toshi Nakamura (who needs no introduction here). Instrumentation isn't listed but it's very much a laptop affair, apart from Nakamura who sticks to his trusty no-input mixing board. The eco-friendly packaging (tree-safe elephant and giraffe dung papers it says on their website, though it looks remarkably like the wallpaper in my great aunts' old terraced house in Bury, Lancashire) doesn't quite prepare you for the chilly bleep'n'buzz of "Title Track", which accounts for more than half the total duration of the album. "Seguros y Pasajes" is a little more combative, especially after it explodes into noise at about 1'11". The closing "Storks International: Chicago Chapter" pulses grimly on until the static spitting monster suddenly retreats into its lair, to sneak out once more. Whether it claims a victim or not isn't clear, as Gutzeit pulls the faders brutally at the 6'44" mark. Enigmatic and intriguing stuff.—DW

Shambala 04011
Guitarist Marc Sens teams up with percussionist Cyril Bilbeaud to deliver nine slabs of noisy improv on his second full-length outing for Shambala. Sens, as his earlier Faux Ami revealed, comes at improv from the noisier end of leftfield (witness his occasional duo with Noir Désir's Serge Teyssot-Gay) - think Moore, Grey and Haino - and the louder and more fucked-up he gets, the more fun it is. Bilbeaud's stylistic influences are harder to pin down, but seem to be more improv than rock, friction as well as percussion. Unlike Sens, who's all over the guitar, he sounds curiously hesitant at times ("Workers"); his grating metal is gritty enough on "Point of Origin", which builds spectacularly thanks to Sens who gradually inserts vicious cross accents. A bit of all out power drumming wouldn't have gone amiss (someone send the lad a Chris Corsano CD). Sometimes plugs get pulled just when they're warming up ("Mantra"), while elsewhere, perversely, tapes continue to roll when they should probably have been switched off. The, um, imaginatively-titled "First Fist Fucking Experience", the album's longest cut at 9'12", consists largely of Bilbeaud doing something squelchily obscene with what sounds like a rubber glove (though you can put that flight of fancy down to the track title.. had they called it "Blood Sucking Swamp Monsters" I'd have written something about a giant leech, anyway, you get the idea). It rather overstays its welcome, so it's just as well the album goes out with a bang with "Bastard Connection". This features a double bass, or at least a recording of one, and a vocal sample (sounds like a TV) which the dynamic duo blast to smithereens. Ouch.—DW

Angharad Davies / Rhodri Davies / Phil Durrant / Mark Wastell
AbsinthRecords 004
After Berlin Reeds, Berlin Strings and Berlin Drums, Absinth Records' Marcus Liebig has decided to abandon his distinctive format - four 3" CDs in a stitched 20 x 20cm sleeve - which means that London Strings will, sadly, not mark the beginning of a trilogy of London releases (it's not the end of Absinth though, happily - an Axel Dörner / Robin Hayward duo is in the works). The four protagonists here will no doubt be familiar to aficionados of what Ben Watson once dubbed "New London Silence" - violinists Phil Durrant and Angharad Davies, her brother Rhodri on harp, and the ubiquitous Mark Wastell, this time on double bass as well as his customary Nepalese singing bowls. Both violinists explore slowly bowed sustained tones, but while Davies' instrument is prepared, with its upper spectra rich and reinforced, Durrant explores the raw sonority of the instrument, those "in between sounds" that result from tackling ferociously difficult double stops and tricky harmonics. Rhodri Davies' "Perdereau" belongs more to the domain of composition than improvisation - though, as I've argued on numerous occasions, the distinction is becoming ever less important - using no fewer than four players (the other performers are John Wall, Jonathan Dunstan and Taku Unami), Davies' objective was to sound as many strings as possible, 40 out of a possible 47, and record the resulting clusters from inside the soundboard. The first section plays on the idea of decay, and the latter half of the piece concentrates on sustain through the use of e-bows. It's a solemn slab of music, in keeping with its dedication to the memory of French new music promoter and journalist Jacques Perdereau, whom Davies met at the Rencontres Européennes de Musiques Improvisées in Paris in 1998. In point of fact, Phil Durrant's "almost", is the only work on offer here not dedicated to the memory of someone; Angharad Davies' "Tri swn" is marked "in memorial of Charles-André Linale" and Wastell's 21 minute offering is entitled "For John Entwistle 1944 - 2002". Virtuoso violinist Linale would surely have found much to marvel at in Davies' work, but quite what the late lamented Who bassist would have made of Wastell's piece is open to question (perhaps it's the first episode of a Who tetralogy - if so, I can't wait for Keith Moon). With its various timbral permutations of a low D - A flat tritone punctuated sporadically by quiet resonant pings on the Nepalese bowls, it's a sombre, ritualistic funeral march of a piece, a discreet but curiously haunting work closing another fine Absinth set. As always, these come in limited editions of 200, so once again it's a question of buy now or cry later.—DW

Eugene Chadbourne
Leo CD LR 406
Has it really been nearly a quarter of a century since There'll Be No Tears Tonight, Eugene Chadbourne's first self-styled album of free improvised Country & Western be-bop? Yes, I suppose it has. But the good Doctor Chad is still touring the world with geetar, banjo and travelling bag full of CDs, CDRs (the KKK Mart, he calls it) and C&W sheet music. This latest outing features four different Chadbourne pick-up bands and was recorded between 1996 and 2002 in various locations, ranging from the French Basque country to London's prestigious Purcell Room. If you haven't already had enough of Chadbourne's slightly skewed covers of Country favourites (and the odd pop standard) you might enjoy it, but I'm led to wonder exactly how many Chadbourne albums one actually needs in life. This one is frankly not a patch on 1998's Insect Attracter (Leo), or The Acquaduct, the hilarious outing on Rectangle with daughters Molly and Lizzie (who are now probably old enough to thoroughly regret having recorded it), and Tears, 24 years on, still remains pretty untoppable. The difference between the musicians who joined Chadbourne on that epic date - John Zorn, Tom Cora, David Licht..- and the noodlers he hangs out with now is that those Downtown cats really knew how to play the right wrong notes. A lot of this sounds as if it's trying to be weird for weird's sake, and unfortunately it quickly tries the patience.—DW

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Ellen Fullman
Anomalous NOM 29
Memphis-born drone queen Ellen Fullman's been getting some well-deserved coverage recently, notably in a fine piece written by Gino Robair for this autumn's Signal To Noise, but a lot of it has been directed at her ventures into the world of song on Ort, her collaborative album with Berlin's Jörg Hiller on his Choose label, which means that Staggered Stasis, documenting Fullman's groundbreaking work in the late 1980s, has slipped off the radar somewhat. Shame, because it's a splendidly recorded presentation of Fullman's work with her own Long String Instrument. (Further information on this splendid creature is available at Fullman's website - www.ellenfullman.com - though devotees of excited string music by the likes of Paul Panhuysen, Arnold Dreyblatt and Alvin Lucier will probably have had it bookmarked for ages already.) The three-part title track was commissioned by Deborah Hay's dance company in Austin, Texas, where Fullman set up her 100-foot-long monster in an unfinished office block from 1986 to 1989. Thanks to the harmonic configurations of the instrument as much as Fullman's chosen pitches, it's a fantastically rich piece - compared to the monastic austerity of Lucier's epochal "Music On A Long Thin Wire", "Staggered Stasis" is as dramatic and colourful as a Mahler symphony. In contrast, "Duration", the second piece, gives the C overtone series one of the best workouts it's ever had, and in case anyone's in a hurry, recaps the whole 23-minute process in just two and a half in the closing "Speed Duration". Why anyone would want to speed through this magnificent music is beyond me, though: as La Monte Young says, the best drones are the ones you can get inside, and that takes time. There's no point putting this baby on while you go jogging round the park or clean the bathroom floor - it's a sit down and pay attention affair.—DW

Peteris Vasks
Nonesuch 79695
Luciano Berio
Montaigne 782155
According to a recent New York Times article by Adam Shatz ("Quartets Changing With the Times They Changed"), between them the Kronos and Arditti Quartets have commissioned nearly 1000 new works for string quartet since forming in 1973 and 1974 respectively. Back then the Second Vienna School was a touchstone marking both as "avant-garde," but in recent years only a handful of composers have been recorded by both quartets - Gubaidulina, Lutoslawski, Saariaho, and Berg. There is very little overlap between the two any more. "I think they're playing very light stuff," commented violinist Irvine Arditti on Kronos. Clearly the two groups are not competing in the same avant arena anymore, and have come to represent two divergent strands in contemporary music: one tonal and populist, the other unremittingly abstract, carrying on the high modernism of the mid-century - in short, the postmodern and the modern. Nor are the two arenas of equal size: the PoMo tendency is more accessible and has a larger audience, meaning the Arditti is outflanked geographically, focussing on works from Western Europe, while Kronos plays works by the American minimalists and the Eastern European "holy minimalists".
The two styles are perfectly captured in recent recordings of Luciano Berio by the Arditti Quartet and Peteris Vasks, the Latvian composer, by Kronos. Vasks' String Quartet No. 4, commissioned and first performed by Kronos in May 2000, is a five-movement piece of about 30 minutes. The closing Meditation, the longest movement at 11'35", features a long violin solo for David Harrington. Lyrical and elegiac, it's not exactly highly original, but has excellent models: the composer declares that the second and fourth movements, Toccata I and Toccata II, are "in a spirit close to that of Shostakovich's style" - "aggressive, and at times, ironic," and in a notable departure for him namechecks Shostakovich's 8th Quartet. The first, third and fifth movements (Elegy, Chorale and Meditation), are, however, in the style Vasks is known for, the so-called holy minimalism of Pärt and Gorecki, with Latvian folksong motifs and romantic gestures that some might find to be overly ripe. He draws on one other influence here - the climax of the central Chorale movement closely parallels that of Barber's Adagio. Referencing this and Shostakovich's 8th (dedicated to the victims of war and fascism), both emotionally direct and powerful works, certainly makes sense in a work the composer describes as a reflection on the 20th century, in which "[t]here has been so much bloodshed and destruction, and yet love's power and idealism have helped to keep the world in balance."
The Arditti Quartet's superb set of Berio's complete works for string quartet (Arditti Edition #38 on Montaigne, and one of the finest) could scarcely be more different. Performed with the AQ's usual startling precision and energy, these are complex, knotty works with no easy reference points for the tonally oriented ear. The two long quartets, Notturno (1993) and Sincronie (1963-4), are presented in that order, and followed by two shorter works, Glosse (1997) and Quartet No. 1 (1956). Heard after the others, the 1956 work sounds the most random, the purest example of using the then new serialist language to utterly pulverize all conventions, leaving a fragmented pointillism. Several years later, with Sincronie, Berio produced a masterpiece, an 18-minute work with a clearly perceptible form based not on pitch, but on timbre, clusters, and "gestures," both sonic and formal. It represents the emerging innovative voice that the composer would develop in the solo works known as sequenza, and the elaborate concerti of the chemins series. The two 1990s works, written in a style that incorporates Berio's intervening interest in folk music and his synthesis of the pre-modern with the high modern, make a fascinating contrast with his earlier music. Notturno's lyrical and tonal passages, emerging from and returning to dense complexity, could be perceived as a compromise with, or even expression of, postmodernism, but are better understood as the maturation of modernism. In other words, there is more than one type of polystylism; Berio, like Carter, remains true to both the spirit and the form of modernism while becoming less rigid and more catholic. Both composers have the strength to broaden their palette without losing their vision or becoming eclectics, let alone reverting to earlier styles. One can only hope that some of the Kronos' larger (and more predominantly American) fan base will stretch their ears towards some of the amazing music being performed by the London-based Arditti Quartet. Minimalism and world music/classical fusion are no longer new, but there is still a strange wonderful world waiting to be discovered in that corner of the map marked BEWARE: COMPLEX, ATONAL MONSTERS LURK HERE!—RH

Lee Hyla
New World 80614 (2004)
It’s tempting for writers on contemporary music, in an attempt to broaden the appeal of esoteric music appealing only to the Elect, to use flashy analogies that they think will make the music sexy and exciting. Reading about this disc, I was bombarded with such references as “raucous rock-and-roll,” “source materials ranging from the Art Ensemble to Alban Berg,” “jagged honking and barking,” “avant-garde jazz, rock and even punk.” For better or for worse, the music of Lee Hyla, chairman of the composition department at the New England Conservatory, here performed superbly by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Artistic Director Gil Rose, is nowhere near as eclectic as all that, and takes its place amongst the best of modernist visions, from Olivier Messiaen to Magnus Lindberg, alongside fellow Americans Elliott Carter and Roger Reynolds.
The Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Orchestra (1988), a short (10’52”) dramatic piece, does indeed feature some “jagged honking and barking” from Tim Smith, but it’s a highly controlled work lacking any sign of improvisation; rather than indulging in any long cadenzas, the bass clarinet is the pivot for complex maneuvers by the orchestra. While the Carteresque intertwining lines of the title piece, Trans (1996), a maddeningly elusive 18-minute work for orchestra in three movements, lead the listener deep into the heart of a modernist vision, the Violin Concerto (2001) turns in a different direction. More accessible and vivacious, its most obvious influence is Olivier Messiaen: the recurring brass theme could have been lifted straight out of the Turangalîla-Symphonie, and Hyla even uses percussion, strings and winds to evoke.. bird song! It’s surprising Messiaen is neither mentioned nor credited in the title or the liners. Laura Frautschi’s violin sounds naïve and pastoral, with several extended passages featuring long, bent notes in a folk idiom, summoning up Bartók. With such stylistically diverse source material the work arguably does approach a postmodern style, but Hyla’s polystylism is hardly likely to appeal to imagined legions of free jazz/punk hipsters. Even so, he deserves far wider recognition, and this fine disc should be heard by all those devoted to contemporary music.—RH

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Helen Scarsdale HMS 003 CD
Coelacanth, as well as being the name of a fish previously thought to be extinct, is a duo comprising what the press release fondly (and accurately) describes as "audio speleologists" Loren Chasse and Jim Haynes. Chasse's work with the Jewelled Antler collective, Thuja, The Blithe Sons and the Dielectric Minimalist All Stars will doubtless be familiar to many readers (if not, it ought to be, as he's certainly prolific enough), and Wire readers will no doubt have come across Haynes' astute writing on leftfield electronica and what that magazine delightfully calls "Outer Limits". Mud Wall is the pair's third outing (though a shorter version appeared on Mystery Sea), after last year's excellent The Glass Sponge on 23five and The Chronograph, also on Helen Scarsdale. Sourced from a performance the two men gave in 2002, it's just under an hour's worth of dark, churning sounds, many of which sound like they were recorded at the bottom of a mine shaft, or in a diving bell. Exactly what the source sounds are is hard to figure out - intentionally so, one imagines - which adds to the mystery and poetry of the experience. Talking of poetry, the disc comes with three square moss green cards, whose texts read, respectively: "I had seen it once before many years ago, rising suddenly before us from that inlay floor, set high in its surface", "Of glistening lines, shadowy pits and canals was a convexity - an amber bubble - behind which a light not of our afternoon, our world even, swam with shapes" and "I can describe it in no other way than this: in that moment, I was certain there ancient forces listening… in a silence like fossils." Voilà: I think that describes the experience better than I can do. Wear potholing helmets and carry breathing equipment in case of subsidence.—DW

Scott Smallwood
Deep Listening DL 29-2004
This is a collection of 13 pieces sourced in sounds emanating from early 20th century electrical devices (induction coils, UV ray oscillators, diathermy machines..) belonging to a Mr Pete Barvoets. Goodness knows what he does with his sectorless wimshurst machine, whatever that is, but Smallwood certainly seems to have had a ball recording it. I am however led to wonder to what extent the original acoustic identity of the objects is respected by morphing their sounds into cheap, tinny technoid titbits like "Electreat". If the name of the game is to create a virtual glitchy drumkit, Stefan Betke or any number of musicians on the fällt label can do it better; for elusive and imaginative loops, go to Autechre; for surprising and impressive use of antiquated equipment as sound source, check out Brutum Fulmen's Flesh Of The Moon; for a more satisfying and evocative field-recording based outing from Smallwood, see his Desert Winds: 6 Windblown Sound Pieces and Other Works from a couple of years ago.—DW

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Copyright 2004 by Paris Transatlantic