SUBTLE LIP CAN – Subtle Lip Can

Drip Audio

Subtle Lip Can is a trio comprising percussionist Isaiah Ceccarelli, guitarist Bernard Falaise (of Miriodor renown) and violinist Josh Zubot. This CD, their debut release, stands among those albums instantly calling for a second, a third and perhaps a fifth listen after the first. The reasons are manifold, and all positive. Firstly, the practical impossibility of comparisons (although a few glimpses did remind yours truly of early Curlew, the Tom Cora era to be precise). Then, the brilliance with which the improvisers manage to defy anticipation by utilizing hundreds of different timbral characteristics – often contrasting – thus rendering the palette much more abundant and richly textured than one could expect by mentally picturing only three men at work. The sonic milieus are varying and constantly intriguing: raucous dronage, clattering raspiness, incendiary screeching, tickling repetition, over-charged lyricism, pungent dissonance. The musicians look for alternative methods to imperil calmness, without caring about hypothetical aesthetical judgements. This no-frills attitude keeps things on the scorching side of the matters, warranting 43 minutes of interplay that manages to distill juices even in the shrivelling components. It’s good to see someone who does not accept subservience to the improvisation market’s current laws; here’s hoping that we’ll hear again soon from such an unexampled unit.

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JOHN DUNCAN – The Nazca Transmissions

Planam

Nobody better than John Duncan is aware of the subtle line separating actual events from the ones generated by the mind, especially if the latter is altered by a state of anxiousness or discomfort. A body of work that has always privileged probing first and questioning later; moreover, very few of our needs of further understanding have been satisfied, which is probably why his music stands, to this day, as a distressing experience for the unqualified listener. This man exploits anything deemed able to cause a response from an audience, whatever it may be; the result is invariably a reason for the cognoscenti to celebrate, and become even more curious.

Just google name and record’s title to find about the circumstances that brought to the birth of this LP, whose foundation was established between the end of 2004 and 2005. In short, after a brief email exchange, JD received a set of sounds – allegedly recorded at the renowned Nazca Lines site (Peru) – from a mysterious German archaeologist hypothetically named Anton Düder who was interested in a sonic collaboration on the same grounds of Infrasound-Tidal, a prior release based on Densil Cabrera’s telluric input. Duncan agreed, fascinated by the uniqueness of those emissions, and started to subject the materials to his customary modification processes. Problematic life occurrences then caused several delays, and when he tried to get back in touch with Düder to let him listen to the finished product, there was no reply whatsoever – and, furthermore, a computer crash erased the pair’s earlier correspondence. This recording, and a series of meticulous technical annotations (reprinted in the album’s inside leaflet) are the relationship’s sole residues.

The previous paragraph’s content is not useful to understand what you’ll hear in The Nazca Transmissions. Its character, in classic Duncan style, tends to zones situated halfway through a “tangibly subterranean” physicality and an unfathomable impenetrability. Startling rumbles, rustling activities, pressurized ellipses, currents that seem to come from an incinerator’s bowels, something like a demon’s heavy breathing, ultra-acute frequencies that experts of shortwave radio should recognize. Elements that can be defined as “familiar” for those who follow this controversial artist’s career since the beginnings, but are still the conditio sine qua non for disposing of the trivialities that certain composers stuff in our mouth, speaking of absolute truths while counting the money of the umpteenth commission, and starting to realize what the possibilities of concrete evolution in terms of acoustic manifestations are, regardless of aesthetics and expectations, only led by the interest in being and becoming. Which type of matter, which kind of energy, it remains to be seen. There’s no time left for additional mental bullshit, for the molecules of authentic knowledge are here to showcase their power of corporeal infiltration – and Duncan definitely knows how to handle the ensuing shocks.

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LAURIE SPIEGEL – The Expanding Universe

Unseen Worlds

Laurie Spiegel: all instruments, composition

The dumbfounding branching of Laurie Spiegel’s aggregated activities is alone worth of utmost esteem. The quantity of works she has done and still does – in a great number of fields – is amazing. It would take a week to read the millions of words she’s written on various topics and the ever-intelligent statements scattered in the interviews. I feel like the illiterate that I am when poring over the methods utilized to conceptualize and manage her creativity, technical descriptions that leave me none the wiser about how old computers and now-defunct apparatuses perform their duties. Icing on the cake: she is also an animal rehabilitator, which confirms her being special if the rest wasn’t enough. Then again, if you feel like learning the background there’s a lot on the web to peruse which won’t be reiterated or condensed here just to fill paragraphs.

Having said that, The Expanding Universe – the reissue in my hands features two CDs comprising several previously unreleased tracks besides the original ones – has never managed to enter the private realm of favorites; in fact, the head is scratched when mentions of it in the same sentence with names such as Eliane Radigue, Terry Riley or Philip Glass are found. Perhaps it’s the disproportion between the magnitude of the applied compositional effort and the scarce emotive reaction in front of the outcome: as a matter of fact, this writer perceives the work as a compendium of interesting (on paper) experiments that, more often than not, return results whose melodic and rhythmic elementariness prevents us from accepting them as profound masterpieces “finally” ready to be recognized by today’s masses. If the LP was initially published by a minor label, then remained semi-forgotten until now while the above mentioned artists – plus the Reichs, Subotnicks and Oliveroses of the world – proceeded to ultimate renown and glorification in the meantime, there has to be an explanation beyond Spiegel’s career choices.

That reason is, plainly speaking, a lack of actual depth in the overall sonic tissue, in spite of the nice comments by the aforesaid Riley and other benevolent quotes. The finest components – the title track and especially “Wandering In Our Times”, both closing the respective discs – have to do with gradual modulations, droning textures, inscrutable glissando and – in general – an attempt to focus on dilatory ebbs and flows and mutating shades. Still, I want to be direct to death and declare that nothing in there compares favorably to the perceptual extent and sheer goosebumps that, say, a Phill Niblock’s piece transmits to my core essence. What’s absent is the physical and psychological impact on individuals inclined to get pervaded by the right kind of interior quivering. Regrettably, Spiegel’s music has never achieved that aim whenever I tried it; when tackling the shorter archival episodes contained in this edition (case in point, “A Folk Study”) there’s no way to force myself to regard them as worthy of serious historical consideration.

Even the renowned “Kepler’s Harmony Of The Worlds” – opener of the golden record that was placed on the Voyager in 1977 – leaves me pretty unconcerned, whereas “Patchwork” is a contrapuntal nicety that can sound sublime or just basic depending on your mood. Of course, if you take into account the obsoleteness of that technology the whole discussion is pushed under a different light. However, what can a poor man do if the resulting sonorities are, for the most part, not of his liking? It’s not the first time that this happens with early computer music, and it won’t be the last. On the other hand, what’s appreciable is the warmth irradiated by the compositions; certainly we can’t say that this stuff is frigid. On the contrary, a welcome “children song” aura (see “Pentachrome”) is occasionally emanated.

Quoting Spiegel: “The violence of sonic disruption, disjunction, discontinuity and sudden change desensitizes the listener and pushes us away so we are no longer open to the subtlest sounds. But with continuity and gentleness, the ear becomes increasingly re-sensitized to more and more subtle auditory phenomena within the sound that immerses us. Instead of being swept along, as with cascades of many running notes in suddenly-changing blocks of time, such as “minimalist” music so often consists of, we open up our ears more and more to the more minute phenomena that envelope us”. This listener – who had definitively archived the vinyl copy in the 80s but decided to spend two full days with the restored version, spinning it ceaselessly in order to discover what was missing to join the legion of adoring latecomers – begs to disagree. It takes EVERYTHING to “re-sensitize” an ear, including radical changes of tempo and unforeseen harmonic shifts. Not only quietness and bit-by-bit continuance. Talking about Glass, when I first listened to Music With Changing Parts the enlightenment struck right away, exactly for those unendingly intertwining lines and odd-metred pulses ultimately generating cerebral drifting, in turn enhancing consciousness. To this day I can detect all the “subtleties” in Einstein On The Beach, whose pace is at times next to overwhelming. In a word: the brain must adapt and shift gears, and the devil takes the hindmost.

In the case of The Expanding Universe, rational amplifications pop up repeatedly during the listening phases. What they suggest is essentially a single question: why all this fuss about a rather ordinary chapter in the book of electronic music? The answer might be: because it documents a rare specimen of woman affirming a vision, a bright-minded researcher who devoted her existence to something important and whose investigations have broken new technological grounds. Therefore, let’s acknowledge it on this basis and consider Laurie Spiegel akin to fellow pioneers Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire in a cosmos overcrowded by male counterparts who frequently weren’t deserving the honors received over the years. As far as musical substance and emotional contents are concerned, the genuine milestones fly at higher altitudes.

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RENT ROMUS’ LORDS OF OUTLAND WITH VINNY GOLIA – Edge Of Dark

Edgetone

This music was influenced by writers such as Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft; it is quite fitting, then, that a typo in the cover says that it was recorded in October 2011, namely almost five months from the moment in which I’m writing these lines. In truth, there’s no ultramodern approach in the improvisations of this gorgeous quintet; they just go with the flow in absolute empathy, trusting the total unclogging of the respective auricular channels. Purposeful stuff all the way, played with large doses of powerfully throbbing heart; evident fearlessness in attempting a collective appreciation of the thousands of unexplored facets through which Lady Melody seduces receptive musicians. The multitudes of contrapuntal designs ask to be followed, combined and rendered artistically significant, the group responding accordingly. The amicable disparity between the styles of the reedists (leader Rent Romus and Vinny Golia) is indeed manna for those who are tired of spelling a saxophone solo exclusively as “free-bop derivation”. The idea given by the pair is one of a two-headed injunction of meaningfulness, intelligent information released without surplus of virtuosic fat, with lyrical snippets to spare. Bassist Ray Scheaffer’s 6-string sturdiness fills the low frequency area alone; a constant troublemaking growl, still refined enough to produce feet-cramping subdivisions with restless drummer Philip Everett. Except for the anarchic twists of the title track, CJ Borosque’s contribution on trumpet and electronics is not instantly in your face (I realized about certain “deforming subtleties” only while listening via headphones). But try and exclude those silently destabilizing codes from the acoustic panorama, and the general taste is not equally spicy. Great record, unlegislated yet synchronized visionaries at their best. Get a copy.

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12k / Line Roundup

Recent – and less – outings by these labels. Thanks as usual to Taylor Deupree for the systematic support (I’ll try and analyze the DVD releases in another write-up, Taylor…)

PJUSK – Sval

The duo of Norwegian Rune Sagevik and Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik, Pjusk came to attention three years ago with the excellent Sart. This new work, despite its unquestionable elegance and the evident care applied in the functional placing of the single elements in the mix, is not on the same artistic level, resulting quite unemotional and in parts stereotyped. Mostly pulse-based, the music does show a handful of moments of radiation; yet it happens only in short spurts, also due to a compositional linearity that too often transcends to sequence-driven leniency and rather conventional electronic daydreaming – ghostly voices, interminable echoes, blurred visuals, you know the script. But there’s more than a set of well-rounded sounds to the realization of profoundness, and this time it looks like style has prevailed upon substance.

ALVA NOTO – For 2

Ashamed of himself, your correspondent must reveal that he never heard the first volume of For, the underlying notion being of course that of “homage to someone or something”. Carsten Nicolai conceived and collected these pieces over the years, each one dedicated to an artist or creative entity – this time including Heiner Müller, Phill Niblock and, of all things, The Kingdom Of Elgaland-Vargaland. I’m still under the influence of the unsurpassable UTP_ with Ryuichi Sakamoto and the Ensemble Modern, reviewed here a few days ago, therefore accepting a return to the exclusively electronic palette, uncomplicated geometries and steady pulses of these medium-sized miniatures was not the easiest task. But once we break through the real meaning of Alva Noto’s interior vision, everything suddenly connects and the minimal structures – imbued with typical refinement and connectable to a gestural rituality that make one envision the early morning activities of a lonesome individual – assume a wholly different weight in our transient reality, separating noise and pure frequency, ultimately generating a distillate of essentiality from the superfluous components of a milieu.

LOVESLIESCRUSHING – CRWTH (Chorus Redux)

Admitting one’s ignorance, part two. Not only I had never heard the first edition of Chorus, originally an extremely limited item released in Peru (!); your scribe hadn’t listened to Loveliescrushing until today, full stop. The duo of guitarist Scott Cortez and vocalist Melissa Arpin-Duimstra is active since 1991 on the basis of the extreme modification of the fundamental timbres of their sources. No other instrument is utilized except guitars and vocals, both rendered unrecognizable through heavy processing. With the above mentioned Chorus they went a step further, choosing to exclusively use and manipulate vocal snippets. CRWTH presents a complete redesigning of that work, maintaining some of the essential singing components intelligible in a slowly stretching cycle of angelic tones, subsonic vibrations and semi-real replicas (the seagull-meet-whale melodic cry in the striking “Nauv” is a nice touch). There are occasional reminiscences of Cocteau Twins (Robin Guthrie is thanked in the liners) and Eno circa Music For Airports, with a handful of episodes enlightened by contemplative majesty: the final triptych “Shemerr”, “Flrm” and “Viaux” – virtually inert harmonies directly connected to universal perpetuity – and the impressive unfathomable moaning in “Laujl Vfx” come to mind. As this writer remembers (with a sense of repulsion) Claire Hamill’s Voices – an atrocious New Age pastiche of easy melodies for shopping malls – hyped as a masterpiece many years ago, we can rest contented enough with this record, whose original version plus three fresher ones are downloadable if you buy a copy of this.

SMALL COLOR – In Light

A duo from Japan (Rie Yoshihara and Yusuke Onishi) performing overly melodic rudimentary songs on accordion, keyboards, guitar, banjo, bass with the addition of programmed rhythms. A few tunes are sung by Yoshihara (aka Trico!, we’re told) in sheer syrupy vocalization, or in Japanese. Apparently there’s a lot of people around the world who still loves this type of mellifluous oriental indulgence, yet I can’t force myself to give it enough relevance to consider it as really serious music. Some of it is half-heartedly funny, the large part is characterized by the kind of naiveté that tastes like a soft bonbon forgotten for many hours in a car parked under a hard summer sun. After ten minutes, my bitter realism suggests the consideration that there are thousands of real artists more deserving of being heard than Small Color. Initially, In Light might sound as a curiosity; in reality it lacks any sort of even slight interest, depth and inventiveness for this writer. More than a “departure” (as written in the press blurb), this is definitely a subpar release compared to 12k’s habitual levels.

GIUSEPPE IELASI – Tools

Seven brief rhythmic studies created by Ielasi with everyday objects. Specifically: cooking pan, rubber band, polystyrene box, metal rod, aluminium foil, tin can and paper lamp. The meticulous type of recording permits to catch details that a distracted listen might be missing: scratches, thumps and purrs given by the amassing of certain frequencies, intertwining sub-patterns under the basic beat and, in general, intriguing combinations of percussive resonances are all part of a recipe that results quite edible; in at least three instances – rubber, aluminium and lamp – the resemblance to real instruments is truly impressive. Some of this stuff could even cause someone to tap their foot for a while. A polite divertissement that, for our good luck and thanks to the composer’s sensibility towards the listener, is not reiterated for more than the necessary time: the record lasts in fact 19 minutes and 49 seconds.

TAYLOR DEUPREE – Shoals

As an artist in residence at the University of York’s Music Research Center, in England, Taylor Deupree found and immediately put to good use four Balinese gamelan instruments – Celempung, Gendèr, Saron and Bonang – belonging to the faculty. Shoals, his latest solo outing nearly three years after Northern, is entirely constructed upon layered loops that the composer generated by playing them in real time, but not in the expected manner. In fact, he stretched, superimposed, pitch-transposed and in general rendered more malleable the noisy features of the sonic tools, elicited by unconventional manipulations (scraping edges and undersides, or working on defects such as broken strings and the like). Once the activity was captured on tape together with the originator’s own noises as he worked in the studio, the whole was subjected to additional treatments under the guise of an Eventide Eclipse and a software called Kyma, which allowed Deupree to further develop his instantaneous intuitions. The result deserves to be warmly welcomed: in its semi-organic straightforwardness, this is a perfect paradigm of engaging reiterative music which, in the right circumstance – and even raising the volume a bit – reveals the complexities lying behind a world of subtle motion and attractive chiaroscuros while highlighting an intelligent approach to introspective improvisation. In this case, the ultimate key to a mitigating totality which works great both for active listening and for simulating an installation at your place.

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JEAN-LUC GUIONNET – Non-Organic Bias

Herbal International

I’m not the kind of person who squanders precious time in decoding people’s visions when they’re expressed via written concepts that, even after an accurate translation, bury the exact aims and grounds of an artistic statement under the dozens of question marks engendered by a (willingly?) unclear explanation, or the transliteration of a daydream. This happens when I try and read Jean-Luc Guionnet’s notes to the three pieces comprised by Non-Organic Bias, which make your purple prose merchant resemble a hieratic minimalist in comparison.

Therefore this writer reverted to the more palatable food. That means the music which, in this occasion, was born from the sound(s) of organ(s), subjected to various types of alteration, granularization and dismemberment. It was not an easy mission to accomplish, despite the hypothetical unfussiness of the music’s gestation and overall structure. The main motive: a big discrepancy in the results generated by the two traditional methods of enjoying the content of a disc. In fact, the frequencies privileged by Guionnet are so damn near and below the ground that, from the speakers, the large part of this double album behaves like an all-engulfing gathering of humongous purrs and potent winds as heard from within a padded room, sporadically interrupted by jarring clusters in the higher registers, or rendered totally awesome through the use of sloping slow motion and other kinds of techniques. In those circumstances, the composer nears some of our favourite masters’s expressive nuances. Xenakis (mais oui!), Kayn, a smidgen of flanged-out Palestine and Niblock in a few brief instances. I’m shivering at the thought of the nonentities who might have the guts to sample parts of this record and reprocess them for their own worthless businesses.

But if you need to assess the actual compositional value of this outing, headphones turn out to be necessary. Also, they must be able to tolerate the centre-of-the-earth throbbing grumble that a piece such as “Espace Bas” constantly elicits, otherwise what you’re hearing is going to be inexorably blemished by the gnarly rattle of earphone membranes unable to perform a truthful conversion of the acoustic mass (in this place a recent cheap Philips worked much better than an old expensive Beyerdynamic). Only at that point one is in the condition of acknowledging Guionnet’s subtle craft, his finely tuned superimposition of roar, wheeze and flutter, the diligence in placing slight substrata and virtually inconspicuous details in the mix. And become acquainted with the presence of extremely acute pitches and foreboding virtual choirs (“Estuaire” is fantastic in that sense). We’re as distant from “ambient” as a metropolitan inferno is from an airport’s waiting hall, regardless of what can be peeped around the web. These are the organ’s bowels screaming, get the picture?

This stuff should be experienced intensely, differently and continually to merely break the external ice of its impenetrability. Success is not a given, which is one of the many reasons behind my attraction towards this thick slab of a release. Consequently, let me join the admiring queue and declare that a copy of this item is mandatory in a serious listener’s collection. The verbal contortions are entirely forgiven.

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Creative Sources Avalanche

Ernesto Rodrigues shows no mercy for us poor reviewers. Enjoy this sizeable roundup of semi-synthetic (but hopefully still useful) write-ups, in the hope that it helps a bit to self-orientate amidst the huge quantity of releases by this imprint. Needless to say, more episodes of this collective-reviewing saga will appear pretty soon. Stay tuned.

UDO SCHINDLER / MARGARITA HOLZBAUER / HARALD LILLMEYER – Rot

Classily rigorous, probing improvisations for soprano sax/bass clarinet (Schindler), cello (Holzbauer) and electric guitar/electronics (Lillmeyer). More oriented towards the archetypes of XX-century chamber music than your average CS release, Rot is distinguished by the considerable methodological preparation of all participants. Preparations, in another sense, are also utilized on the instruments to generate a hybrid electroacoustic connectivity whose transcendence rate is to be determined via its balanced investigational ramifications, often hiding behind silence, thus eliciting a mood of enigmatic mystery in various tracks. Specifically, Schindler is a dispassionate dispenser of pragmatic countermeasures whenever the collective need arises, his firm statements and sudden deviations freshening the air even in the (rare) cluttered sections. Holzbauer is as supportive as remarkably delicate, extracting individual reminders and caveats from the cello in a kind of visionary discipline. Lillmeyer’s six-stringed inventions make him appear loyal yet slightly noncompliant, an ideal partner for the depiction of defaced prototypes. The record definitely does not belong to the iPod-on-the-beach category but after three spins everything is falling in place, working impeccably. Speakers in a silent setting highly recommended.

MARK O’LEARY – Fabrikraum

Better known as a perceptive jazz guitarist, O’Leary is here credited with “sound design”, showing another facet of his artistic interests. The key word is “industrial”: this music was in fact generated by assembling location recordings at the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, Ireland. It is, under any aspect, an installation whose temperament is extremely metallic, ominous noises and huge reverberations stretched for long periods, at times with more pronounced percussive features verging on the regular tolling. Think of a cross of the most harmonically pleasing work of David Jackman and Z’EV, with a lesser number of layers. Devotees of similar “forlorn echo” atmospheres – which were highly en vogue in the late 80s – could find a lot of interesting matter. It’s a little bit out of its time and does not present anything considerably striking, yet Fabrikraum works very well for “dynamic background” purposes, not offending the ears when you decide to put further attention to the consistency of the textural tissue.

BIRGIT ULHER / HEINER METZGER – Blinzeln

One is, as always, attempting to deconstruct the normal sounds of a trumpet; the other works on something called “soundtable”, which says everything and nothing, given that the noises that he conjures up range from bowed wood and metal to zing ’n’ sting sharpness and close-microphone scrubbing and scratching of (maybe) sandpaper, or plain paper, or (insert your object here). The combination is functional, despite the fact that we’ve already wandered through these lands time and again: Ulher’s flapping, hissing, sucking, gentle tooting in her stimulation of zillions of irregular upper partials do have repercussions on the listener’s part of the brain that’s more oriented to irony, whereas the extreme concreteness of Metzger’s manipulations add a touch of thickness to the overall sonic tissue. While the record is nicely conceived and completely pleasurable, it also shows that the well of expressive means for this kind of improvisation is not bottomless. A good release sounding like another hundred of similar efforts, the whole masterfully executed but – at this junction in history – hardly groundbreaking.

TONY DRYER / JACOB FELIX HEULE / JACOB LINDSAY – Idea Of West

The instrumentation comprises contrabass, drum set and clarinets. A personal favourite in this batch and, in general, CS’s recent output. A sort of dim-lit chamber music – described as “pragmatic applications of controlled improvisations and compositional structures” – thoroughly relying on the power of extremely low frequencies, contrapuntal answers often consisting of gritty secretions generated by the reeds’ overtones and by the bowing of cymbals and other parts of the percussive arsenal. A critical condition of suspension between the subtle rippling of silence by sparse elements, a “pinch-but-don’t-awake-me” maintenance of a semi-lethargic awareness that nevertheless lets us carefully consider any incident, minuscule or important, which manifests its weight one way or another. Apparently dispassionate, the interaction of the musicians is on the contrary revealing an utmost responsiveness to the slightest movement, a reciprocal will of listening actively which translates into numerous instances where auditory fulfilment becomes almost physical. Diversified approaches to a well-known palette that discard automatic actions in favour of a persistent fragrance of purposeful investigation, with more than a few sections worthy of admiration for the respect of the pure essence of instrumental connectivity.

PAURA – The Construction Of Fear

An atypical combination of talents: Alípio C. Neto (saxes), Dennis González (trumpet, voice), Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), Guilherme Rodrigues (cello, radio) and Mark Sanders (drums). The only thing that puzzles me is the rather preposterous theory about surprise and fear in jazz expressed by a Davide Sparti in the inside leaflet and, for good measure, rendered incorrectly in English from the (already incomprehensible) original. But Italy is the country in which books and movies have a different meaning than in the rest of the world due to the hard-to-believe incompetence of translators, so no big news here. Instruments exists, thank god, to deliver us from words and this particular project sounds great: strong, determined, both muscularly affirmed and barely whispered, the improvisations suggesting indeed that kind of anxious feeling that what’s unknown and/or unexpected elicit in frail minds. The timbral melange is at times exceptional, the corpulence of Neto and González versus the fascinating meagreness of the Rodrigueses with Sanders acting as a gifted master of percussive ceremonies. There’s no trace of mellifluousness in this intriguing crossing of free jazz and EAI dipped in theatrical stir, and which defies the inevitable conventions of unrehearsed music for its large part.

DARIO SANFILIPPO – Premio Malattia

Computer music, or – more precisely – “Feedback Network Based Non-Linear Digital Signal Processing System”, also known as FeNeBaNo-LiDiSProS. Easy, isn’t it? Trapani, extreme west of Sicily, a splendid area of fishermen and transparent seas, is the place where this record was realized, although this young composer (1983) – an alumnus of Domenico Sciajno in that city’s conservatory’s electronic music class – hails instead from the inlands of Agrigento. Sanfilippo shows a good command of the mechanics of the utilized means and an appreciable disposition towards non-exaggeration: his palette makes use of buzzing and murmuring in (often) subdued fashion, yet the recordings are equally geared up to surprise with sudden scathing outbursts and fairly irregular unfolding. At first the frequencies are rather ear-wrapping and, in general, brain-cuddling and that’s the face of Premio Malattia that I prefer; as the time goes, the trajectories becomes just a tad predictable, harsher feedback secretions and earth loops quite similar to dozens of other records conceived with the same means. My unspecific sensation gives birth to a vague approval: this man is expected to future improvements, to be followed with curiosity from here.

MAGDA MAYAS / TONY BUCK – Gold

Subtle duet for piano (and relative innards) and drums, where the accidental and the uncalculated seem to have a decisive prevalence on the preconceived. Music made of obscure clusters and liquefied tints, enriched by the concreteness of an underlying percussiveness in a constant reorganization of instantaneous flows of thought. The level of reciprocal listening is extremely high, and this is the reason which defines the restraint of this conversation as its most engaging attribute. A sonic environment in which even the listener is required to move around with circumspection, almost in a “do not disturb” frame of mind, in which unnecessary ornaments and superficial appearances are forbidden, concentrated expressions coming from the core of individual artistry put at the service of altruism. Gold doesn’t show virtuosity deriving from over-trained, worn out expertise but lets us look at a world of intuitions and foresight, finally leading to a peculiar kind of brooding that allows just a couple of short and snappy flare-ups. A dark horse in this lot, a sleeper which time will appoint as one of the deepest releases in Creative Sources’ catalogue. It leaves faint traces in the ear’s memory, but relates strongly to our consciousness.

POWERTRIO – What We Think When We Walk And What We Walk When Thinking

Powertrio are Eduardo Raon (harp, electronics), Joana Sá (piano, toy piano) and Luís Martins (classical guitar). In the 33 minutes of this CD they reveal themselves to be a very interesting ensemble, working in serious commitment at the margins of a somewhat disturbed quietness, even if not exactly in a “reductionist” sense (on the contrary, occasionally erupting in full-exhilaration mode in pieces such as “Improvisation II” and “Hart Auf Hart”). The notes played and the noise made are always clearly exposed, perhaps slightly modified by the electronic treatments while maintaining a degree of palpability which generates a welcome tension in the music. Their structures are often scraggy and ill-coloured yet possess an evident definition and show personality to spare. The resonance factor is in great evidence, and the ability of letting every event manifest visibly before fading to grey is worth of praise. And, what’s more, the record is greatly functional also in the habitual “open-window” test which I systematically run with this kind of stuff: it meshes gorgeously with the environment, but the presence remains commanding due to its bigger body of sound. Excellent, sober, intelligent work at times surrounded by a late XIX century classic aura. Recommended.

ABDUL MOIMÊME – Nekhephthu

The title, says the protagonist, is “probably a word from a long forgotten language”, while the music was made with a valve amplifier and a couple of prepared electric guitars, the whole recorded live sans overdubs or effects. Grimy, darkish textures tending to an oxidized sort of six-stringed malaise, a gritty tranquillity from which sparse noises and even less “musical” elements spring casually. There seems to be no deeper implication in what Moimême does, other than “constructing space in an organic manner” as per his very words. The problem is that, more than “organic”, this stuff sounds at times excessively frugal, lacking a real artistic sense. What in alternative hands might be recognizable as a generator of at least partially intriguing shades, here becomes the tool for a different kind of noise – sporadically pleasing, but in essence just noise. That said, some of the combinations are not so bad when left to resonate around without additional requests. Nevertheless, this is possibly one of the weakest albums of this group.

TOSHIMARU NAKAMURA / MARK TRAYLE – Stationary

No-input mixing board, laptop. What else? One of those cases in which I knew exactly what to anticipate, and that expectation was more or less fulfilled. Not that this automatically spells “masterpiece”, but the work is solid enough to keep the level of my appreciation quite high throughout. Profusion of pressure and dynamic shifts, infected frequencies alternated with harmonically challenging compartments, quavering purrs abruptly interrupted and replaced with frying pans full of venomous bubbling oils, ever-intelligible juxtapositions of components that generate a curious mixture of glacial impassiveness and sizzling rupture. Apparently not causing the growth of significant excrescences in this listener’s psyche, this CD is effective as a sheer account of a process whose results are not necessarily to be considered “music”. Well planned, diligently realized, structurally complex yet not overwhelming. The right adjective is perhaps “impartial”. Fans of this genre can proceed with the purchase without further considerations, bearing in mind that Stationary is not at the same altitudes of the very best in which the Japanese membrane-masseur has been involved. Birds around here seem to like it, though.

JACQUES FOSCHIA / MIKE GOYVAERTS / CHRISTOPH IRMER / GEORG WISSEL – Canaries On The Pole #2

Here’s another example of music that meshes very nicely with the rural serenity of a Sunday morning (one of my favourite moments for the ritual of listening, in case someone missed previous references). Canaries On The Pole was realized with clarinets, percussion, objects, toys, violin and “prepared” saxophones at Jazzzolder, Mechelen (Belgium) in 2007. To better highlight the concept of simultaneousness that defines this quartet’s approach, the longest track “In / Out” was enhanced by a microphone placed outside the studio, which captured alluring echoes of the nearby urban environment – including a gorgeous bell tower – while the musicians were improvising. There’s a sense of closeness around the notes, the idea of sharing something extremely profound, which brings several episodes of intense suspension where the players utilize rarefaction and conscious postponement of events to further increase the selflessness factor. Yet we also meet sections where a major determination is perceivable, the instruments in turn coming at the forefront of vivacious interactions never running towards inconsistent behaviour or narcissistic attitude; this collective vibe of ridged awareness remains a constant presence, either in movement or in stasis. It’s exactly this uncharacteristic unevenness that gifts the CD with an aura of inexplicable attractiveness, like observing a hybrid creature of uncertain origin slowly turn into a ravishing vision. Outstanding stuff all the way.

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