More Random Picks From The Long-Waiting 2008 Heap

I’ll try to be short and sweet (or, when applicable, concise and honest). Got to get rid of this persistent sense of guilt, you know.

CARESS OF MY FIST – Etudes In Violence

Basically, COMF is the duo of violinist Mike Khoury and reedist Fred Bergman typically supplemented by a third rotating element. In this disc there are two, percussionist Curtis Glatter and guitarist Chris Riggs. Despite the project and record’s names and the pugilistic aroma emanating from the track titles (such as “Sucker Punch” and “Knocked The Wind Out Of Me”), this music mostly consists of a kind of well-dressed, ear-pleasing improvisation, frequently scented with oriental essences yet not scared of treading more dissonant paths, without exaggerating in one sense or another. Khoury and Bergman – who in this case plays sax and flute – are rigorous respecters of the value of silence, avoiding condescension and verbose chit-chat in favour of few crucial concepts exposed with clarity and good doses of soul. Their partners appear as valid contributors throughout, enhancing the overall feel of barely perturbed composure via rather restrained footnotes, controlled discharges and, in general, intelligent coordination. Although slightly inoffensive at times, this is a fine enough album which comes lodged in an interesting hexagonal sleeve whose mechanism of closure, which results in a sort of complex flower, is a thing of beauty. (Cohort)

MARINA PETERSON / PHILLIP SCHULZE / JONATHAN CHEN / ANDREW RAFFO DEWAR – Quartet Solo Series

Different artists performing alone, according to a conceptual design comparing their efforts to four separate “albums” on one CD. Cellist Peterson – whose resume is undeniably impressive – didn’t make me overly enthusiast with her rather drained improvisations, “enhanced” by the usual means (paper, clips, sticks). Aside from a couple of instances where the percussive traits of the cello are exploited to give birth to interesting, if not groundbreaking resonant symptoms, the music remains pretty unexciting, too linked to certain (by now abused) aspects of acoustic modernity that privilege the clinical dissection of an instrument. It doesn’t always work, this being a classic case. Schulze’s “Cause Unfold Proceed II” is a half-improvised, half-composed electronic abstraction that presents several intriguing points of access, despite an apparent difficulty. The piece, although very fragmentary and undergoing a perennial atmospheric shift, results well connected to a fundamental plan and gifted with a biotic synchronization of sorts, detectable down to the tiniest component. A façade of coarse coldness hiding millions of purulent micro-organisms, no time for excessive thoughts and analyses, good stuff indeed. Another composition for electronics is presented by Chen, who in “Drummer” utilized a child’s drum set (snare, tom and bass drum) as an equalizing filter for the feedback generated by “independent system/amplifiers without the use of a limiter”. The result is a continuously droning superimposition of buzzes, quite minimal yet extremely functional (especially via headphones – I almost went to sleep while listening, such is the mind-numbing power of these frequencies). Last but not least, Raffo Dewar gifts us with two excellent pieces for soprano sax, in which he demonstrates a complete control of the instrumental nuances fused with an inherently clever, intuitively rational melodic diagram and an uncommon sensitiveness in terms of emitted note-environmental response-reaction to the environmental response. The man has studied with Steve Lacy and Anthony Braxton, and it shows. A fitting conclusion for a (predominantly) substantial release. (Striking Mechanism)

JEREMY BIBLE & JASON HENRY – Vryashn

For the enquiring ones, the title is a contraption of “Variation”. Bible and Henry are extremely active figures in the musical realm that encompasses concrete sounds and heavily processed instruments, alternating recordings and installations in a seemingly unstoppable productive quest. Yet this is, if memory serves, the first time I meet them. The record consists of two extended segments. Part 1 is principally constructed upon permanently stretched pianistic emissions immersed in long reverberation, with just a change in the equalization towards the end. A single movement repeated ad infinitum, like a marine ebb and flow. Not transcendental, but also not annoying, this is nearly perfect as a circumstantial sonic commentary for a documentary about the abyss (of what type, it remains to be seen). The opening section of the second chapter is replete with muffled echoes of inexplicable activities interspersed with powerful hums and – once more – lengthy resonances which seem to allude to some sort of hidden subaqueous universe. One detects distant pulses, metallic intromissions and whispered fears, then it’s undying piano – complemented by additional indistinct timbres – all over again. On the whole: neither bad nor exceptional stuff, the bonus being a couple of emotionally charged events that raise the overall value, this would have definitely worked better at half a hour or so. (Gears Of Sand)

MICHAEL GENDREAU – Voûtes

Another installation, another CD documenting its sonic behaviour. The premise is Rue Tolbiac in Paris, under which a “group of arc-shaped vaults” is located. Gendreau recorded the vibrations generated by the surrounding structures, which were used as a sort of preamble for the actual concert in that exhibition space. The audible outcome is, to be blunt, pretty dull: tedious as a depressing winter afternoon, monotonous like the sounds from a subway, a series of indistinct presences halfway through gurgling pipes and ghostly currents, repeating themselves without deviations. The live segment, taped by Eric Cordier, utilizes the first piece together with additional manipulations – both of the original source and the basic track itself – and is also barely motivating (in spite of the different placement of the microphones and the “variations” in the mix). I’m not lying when telling you that, at times, the boiler and the wind beneath the roof at my house produce more appealing music. Typical example of “better enjoyed on site than reproduced in a room”. (Cohort)

THE PUSH-PULL QUARTET – At The Stroke Of Twelve

Formed by Ben Miller (alto & c-tenor sax), Chris Welcome (guitar), Shayna Dulberger (upright bass) and John McLellan (drums), Push-Pull gravitate around the planet of downtown jazz – Lounge Lizards came to mind, if only occasionally – mixing a rather straightforward exploration of angularity with expressive issues deriving from older illustrious pasts. They mostly perform without excessive pressure yet, even considering the generally stress-free mood, their way of interlocking themes and improvisations is often characterized by good-humoured dissonant bad manners, constantly informed by timbral clarity: no squeaks and shrieks, just mild contrasts and acceptable disagreements. While Miller and Welcome seem to be reciprocally attracted on a semi-melodic level, and Dulberger and McLellan are all but a typical rhythm section given the apparent tendency to wander across hardly welcoming harmonic regions, hearing how the quartet is able to travel in unison then abandon themselves to a quasi-uneducated chiselling of improvisational divergence – stylishness be damned – is alone worth an attentive try. You won’t rejoice for a new revolution after that; still, At The Stroke Of Twelve remains a thoroughly enjoyable CD. (Tigerasylum)

MIKE KHOURY / WILL SODERBERG – Volumen Drei

Khoury’s violin against Soderberg’s processing (…and electronics? I couldn’t say, but it would seem so), creating a strange kind of music that alternates complete abstraction and more stable sections – the ones this writer prefers – where repetitive loops and impressively deployed spacious resonances spread around my room consistently even at moderate volume. Short and uncomplicated string fragments, often bordering on the pseudo-introspective side of things, get utterly modified and retransformed into scarcely palatable food for the psyche, bouncing and bubbling in constant alteration and total unpredictability. All sounds are surrounded by several strata of grime, sort of a perennially lurking distortion that renders the whole less decipherable. The flummoxing qualities of the large part of the CD are balanced by the above mentioned “peaceful” vistas, the union of these different facets conjuring up memories of electronic pioneers. Amidst romantic impracticality and incorrupt experimentation, these artists appear to have fun and contemplate at once, the outcome a bizarrely attractive record that I’ve already played various times, and which is not likely to become annoying anytime soon. A low-budget, minor classic that comes highly recommended if you wish to forget about illuminated nonentities and celebrate instead erratic contaminations by two eccentrically sterling purveyors of ear-gratifying arbitrariness. (Tigerasylum)

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