Best of 2011

Posted in Uncategorized on December 29, 2011 by Orangettecoleman

Biosphere – “N-Plants” – Norwegian ambient legend Geir Jenssen releases his first studio album in 5 years, based around
field recordings of Japanese nuclear plants. Incidentally, these were composed before the events of February of this year,
and during the production Jenssen mused openly about the vulnerability of these plants to earthquakes and tsunamis… I
drove to Seattle last fall and saw him perform in a cathedral at sunset, with birds singing in the garden outside while the
dimming light played through the stained glass windows. One of my most cherished live music experiences…

Frank Bretschneider – “Komet” – Ultra-minimal bone-dry techno from one of the three founders of one of my favorite labels,
Raster-Noton.

Stephan Mathieu – “A Static Place” – A beautiful release, in which Mathieu uses old 78rpm gramophone records of Baroque and
Renaissance music as source material, extensively edited and processed into a very textural and accessible ambient work…

Ricardo Villalobos / Max Loderbauer – “Re: ECM” – Villalobos, the king of minimal techno, and Loderbauer, who I’m not
familiar with, assemble snippets and samples from ECM’s back catalog into a reverent tribute. A no-brainer for me, since
I’m a huge fan of both Villalobos and ECM…

Daniel Menche – “Feral” – The latest slab of resonant noise compositions from Portland’s Menche. To my ears, seems to be
sourced from field recordings taken during Menche’s frequent hikes in the Pacific Northwest. His blog and Facebook page
reveal that he is a grade-school librarian and former local juggling celebrity who dotes on his besweatered Chihuahua named
Arrow. So much for the idea of noise guys feeling the need to be intense and intimidating!

James Fella / Les Beyond – split cassette – Local music advocate, member of Soft Shoulder, Mangled Men, and Tent City, and
all-around good guy James Fella issues a side of noise/drone based on prepared piano, bowed cymbals, and guitar feedback
that I’ve listened to more than anything else this year…

Sungssang – “Anak Tanpa Bangsa” – A Tempe-based collective playing original pieces strongly influenced by Javanese gamelan
with elements of electronics and noise.
Bruno Pronsato – “Lovers Do” – A great album of warm minimal techno from this former hardcore drummer turned techno
producer and DJ.

Kenneth Kirschner – “Twenty Ten” – A triple-CD set of processed piano and electronic compositions running the gamut from
microtonal and glitch to ambient/drone.

Christina Kubisch – “Magnetic Flights” – German sound artist Kubisch has been active since the 1970s working with found
sound and doing installation works. In these pieces she uses specially-built equipment designed to convert inaudible
electromagnetic signals recorded during intercontinental plane flights to audio whines, drones, and clicks. The results are
of interest to anyone interested in field recordings and found sounds, glitch aesthetics, or aerospace engineering…

Wade Matthews – “Early Summer”

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on April 2, 2011 by Orangettecoleman

I happened across Wade Matthews in an IHM thread about laptop improvisation a couple of years ago and finally took the plunge on ordering a couple of his titles – first his duet CD with percussionist Ingar Zach titled “Morke-Lys”, and later his ‘live in the studio’ set titled “Early Summer”, which was released this spring on Madrid’s Con-V imprint. I had been enjoying the former title quite a bit, but I never quite know how to approach music which delves deeply into synthesis (Matthews improvises using a two-laptop setup, with one triggering a software synthesis system and the other manipulating field recordings). Perhaps because it’s not my background, I find musics that deal with synthesis to an extreme degree sort of alienating – it could be all in my imagination but I always think there’s some theoretical angle to it that I’m missing out on which limits my understanding of what’s going on. In any case, I assumed that he primarily dealt with the synthesis side of his approach on “Morke-Lys” while percussionist Zach supplied many of the other textures, but comparing the two recordings I notice that Matthews seems to utilize a lot of rustling, rattling, ringing tones in his field recordings on “Early Summer” which I may have falsely attributed to his collaborator on the previous recording.

Throughout “Early Summer”, which was improvised live and unedited in Matthews’ studio and recorded directly to disk with two microphones placed in front of the monitors of his stereo setup, sounds of obviously synthetic origin are balanced out with resonant field recordings from often indeterminate sources. While sometimes the two approaches are easily parsed by the ear, often Matthews will conflate the two; for example, you might encounter stuttering sounds that might be the result of granular synthesis or of two balloons being rubbed together. The contrasting textures and spatial resonances of the different sounds are used to gripping effect as well; I noticed while listening, and this was confirmed in Matthews’ informative liner notes, that there are a lot of intentional juxtapositions of spatial effects used, with extremely close-sounding events placed among others sounding like they were recorded in large, resonant spaces.  The sixth track, a combination of ringing gong-like sounds with rattling close-recorded clicks and footsteps in gravel along with distant dogs barking, is a wonderful little piece which illustrates the different types of stratified sounds Matthews works with and the tension he excels at between tonal and non-harmonic sounds, sharp and lush textures, and different spatial qualities ranging from sounding like the sounds were born in the speakers themselves to distant resonance. Several times during the process of listening to “Early Summer” I found myself confronted with sounds that were just on the cusp of recognizability, with the sounds manipulated and abstracted just enough to make me think I knew what they were sourced from but found that I couldn’t quite put my finger on it… An interesting way to play with the memory and perceptions of the listener if it was intentional… Beyond just throwing a bunch of field recordings at the listener and leaving it at that, it seems like there is a constant dialogue between what is recognizable and what is unrecognizable in these sounds, with both “sonic documents of a space” and fully abstracted textures present, but neither predominating, and both weaving in and out of Matthews’ lacy webs of synthesis. Certainly glad I ordered this one, it’s the best thing I’ve heard in months, and was worth the six weeks it took to get here from Madrid…

Visit Wade Matthews’ website here

Helena Gough – “Mikroklimata”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 8, 2010 by Orangettecoleman

Kept stumbling across glowing reviews for this record, and during a fit of ordering field-recording related works, obtained this from Erstdist. Helena Gough is only in her early 20s and is an English expatriate living in Berlin (where the climate for abstract electronic music is much more receptive, presumably). These are electroacoustic works made primarily (exclusively?) from heavily processed and edited field recordings made by Gough over the last few years. Although this is the case, the extent to which she transforms this source material renders it unrecognizable; I don’t think I’ve ever heard another work made from field recordings abstracted to such a severe extent. There is little trace of the sources audible, or indication that they were sourced from field recordings at all really, which is refreshing because most “field recording composers”, a lot of whom I like very much, trade extensively on the associations of the sounds with the environments from which they were taken.

Gough treats her field recordings as a basic starting point but the end result somewhat resembles the work of another of my recent favorites, John Wall. Although drawing their sounds from different origins (Wall from 20th Century classical recordings and live samples of free improvisors), they both end up with a somewhat similar pallette, liberally sprinkling granular microsound glitches and prickles with infrasonic/ultrasonic frequencies at the edge of perception and speaker handling capabilities. While Wall’s work is a bit darker and tenser, more given to extended silences, Gough has a lusher, more textural approach. An interesting thing about the two composers is that Gough was a child prodigy, starting composition and violin very young, while Wall started composing at age 40 when he bought his first sampler. So despite the 35+ year age difference, they have both been composing since the early 90s, which might explain some of the parallels between their work.

I think the thing I enjoy most about Gough’s work is her sense of compositional scope – she has such a great sense of pacing, where to place a sound or texture for maximum effect. So much of this type of music needs to be approached with the attitude that one needs to make an effort to maintain concentration on the piece to pull out the considerable enjoyment offered, but “Mikroklimata” is cinematic and gripping without pandering or giving in to the tendency towards excessive grand gestures. This would be just about a perfect introduction to anyone interested in modern electroacoustic composition in my opinion, and it’s already approaching the status of a modern classic in this genre, just a few months after release.

Helena Gough’s website is here.

Erstdist has “Mikroklimata” available. It’s a bit hard to find on this side of the pond.

Recent Acquisitions

Posted in Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 by Orangettecoleman
Where I visited during my trip to Minneapolis record stores and what I bought:
Electric Fetus:
Skuli Sverrisson – Seria
Tran Quang Hai – Landscape of the Highlands (Vietnamese Dan Tranh Music)
Music of the Aborigines of Taiwan Vol. 2 – Polyphonic Music of the Amis Tribe
Michael Mayer – Immer
Hafler Trio – Four Ways of Saying Five
Forbidden Planets: Music from the Pioneers of Electronic Sound
George Russell – Ezz-Thetics
Taylor Deupree – Shoals
Oren Ambarchi / Z’ev – Spirit Transform Me
Ricardo Villalobos – Fabric 36 

Cheapo Records:
Stravinsky – Pulcinella Suite (the OOP Bernstein/NYP version I’ve been hunting for 10 years)
John Tilbury plays Howard Skempton – Well Well, Cornelius
Moslang & Guhl – Knack On
Suk – Ripening (OOP RLPO version on Virgin Classics)
Ligeti – Wergo volume with Artikulation and Glissandi (Been looking for them on disc for years)
Steve Lacy – Anthem
Ekkehard Ehlers – Plays
Eugene Chadbourne – Jesse Helms Busted
Freeform Audiotourism – Vietnam/China 2CD set (field recordings with remixes by Jan Jelinek and many more)
Corrupted – Llenandose de Gusanos
Xenakis – Persepolis + Remixes

Treehouse Records:
Rene Lussier – Le Prix du Bonheur
Tower Recordings – S/T
Richard Youngs / Brian Lavelle – Radios
Stockhausen – Tierkreis/Zodiac
Christan Marclay / Otomo Yoshihide – Moving Paris
Paul Metzger – Canticle of Ignat / All Glass

Keith Rowe

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 26, 2010 by Orangettecoleman

“Q: There is a strand running throughout this interview—the number of times you have referred to visual artists. [Picasso, El Greco, Whistler, Rothko, Degas…]

Keith Rowe: That is what I am, and that is what I do on the instrument. What I am doing on the instrument is not making music. AMM was a philosophy and the vehicle for the philosophy was music. What I do is painting, and the vehicle for it is sound.”

Barry Chabala/Daniel Jones – “Undercurrents”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 24, 2010 by Orangettecoleman

I’ve been out of the music-listening loop lately, lacking energy, in a funk, what have you. A lot of studying (foolishly attempting to become a scientist at age 35) and dealing with my dad’s declining health have left me with little time or motivation to sit down and actively listen to things. Fortunately, I’ve managed to make a little time recently to listen, which is beneficial to my well-being in ways that few other things are… particularly listening to EAI and lowercase music, since it seems to attune my perceptions to smaller events, sounds, and occurences I encounter from day to day… Listening to something made of very small unique sounds, meticulously spaced out over the course of an hour is an interesting experience. After some time doing this, you go back into the world and it’s like you have taken off a thick pair of gloves and feel the texture of everything more acutely.

To come to the point, this particular release is something I ordered from Squidco a few months ago. “Undercurrents” is a long-distance collaboration between New Jersey guitarist Barry Chabala and UK lowercase electronics and turntable alchemist Daniel Jones. I know all I ever write about are guitarists but I play guitar so that’s what I know and I’m particularly impressed by Chabala’s playing here. He uses a guitar and a Fender Princeton amp from the 60s and that’s it, no effects, no postprocessing. The first track is punctuated by recognizably guitar-oriented sounds, clanging gonglike timbres, but after that the musicians become indistinguishable to me. Sub-bass drones and static fields give way to cricket-like chirrups and long periods of silence. What’s amazing is that Chabala is able to use the inherent buzz, crackle, and hum that lives in the electric guitar in such a musical and chameleonic way. I suppose it can’t be considered fully improvised because as a long distance collaboration there is probably a lot of editing and the musicians obviously had a chance to listen to the music as it unfolded and consider their musical responses on a time scale one couldn’t have the luxury of enjoying in a live improvised setting, and it’s not quite lowercase because the sounds build up to quite an immersive wash at times, but it is definitely immensely enjoyable and approachable for me. It’s quite an accomplishment to make something so abstract and alien sound simultaneously so warm and inviting.

Herzog – “Fitzcarraldo”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 17, 2010 by Orangettecoleman

“Taking a close look at what’s around us, there is some sort of harmony… it is the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder, and we in comparison to the articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity of all this jungle, we in comparison to that enormous articulation, we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid, suburban novel, a cheap novel, and we have to become humble in front of this overwhelming misery and overwhelming fornication… overwhelming growth and overwhelming lack of order. Even the stars up here in the sky look like a mess. There is no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony as we have conceived it. But when I say this, I say this all full of admiration for the jungle. It is not that I hate it. I love it. I love it very much, but I love it against my better judgment.” – W. Herzog

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