AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Alex Reviriego – Els gats gordos també tenen problemes [Discordian Records DRO76]

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a3928389255_16Barcelona’s Alex Reviriego is a powerful young double bassist with an impressive command of advanced technique and an exploratory attitude toward the timbral possibilities inherent in his instrument. His solo release, Els gats gordos també tenen problemes, draws on these techniques as well as on a complement of preparations to produce a sound that–first impressions to the contrary—relies on no overdubs or electronic enhancements of the bass’s natural voice.

The sonic complexity Reviriego is able to summon is evidenced from the very first track. Setting up a contrast between brighter and more muted colors, Reviriego plucks dark arpeggios from prepared strings while simultaneously playing a harsh, scraping arco. This solo polyphony is a hallmark of his playing, which often has him plucking or hammering the strings with his left hand while drawing the bow with his right. Even in the absence of preparations Reviriego’s technical range facilitates access to an expanded palette of tone colors and textures bracketed, as on the track TCCPFP, between a dark, often rough arco in the lower register on the one side and stridently shimmering harmonics on the other. Some of the tracks explore a more limited technical or sonic field: Medusas errants, for example, is like an etude in pressure bowing on prepared strings. But all is not a matter of aggressive attack and extended technique here; Reviriergo also shows a gentler side on Canço Pop, whose pensive melodicism is carried on a simple and straightforward pizzicato.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Olivia Block – Aberration of Light (2015; NNA Tapes)

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unnamedChicago’s Olivia Block is an overlooked electroacoustic composer, who has been active for a number of years combining avant-garde classical music with noise in a creative fashion. This cassette-only, single-track release is an updated version of a 2011 four-speaker soundtrack she contributed to a cinematic work.

Ms. Block uses electronics and mechanical sound recordings, as well as clarinet and bass clarinet from Chicagoans James Falzone and Jason Stein. But this recording explores silence, providing undulating interludes of barely-audible oscillations. From these quiet periods, Aberration of Light builds into crescendos of dense structures reminiscent of both oncoming thunderstorms, as well as otherworldly sounds from outer space. But for the most part, this release demands close attention with its subtle textures, perhaps designed to blend into the now-pervasive background hum of electronics. Nonetheless, toward the end of the piece, Ms. Block unleashes a hellscape of cracking, rolling electroacoustic sounds which would not be out of place on a Xenakis recording.

If a musical piece is a journey, this one smoothly traverses several disparate geographical regions – not all of of which are hospitable to life. Be that as it may, there are many layers to peel back – Aberration of Light is a topography well-worth exploring.

AMN Reviews: Ralf Meinz, Karolina Ossowska & Mikołaj Pałosz Play Giuseppe Tartini, La sonata il sol minore al terzo suono (Populista)

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R-7142925-1434671347-9763.jpegIn 1754, composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini published Trattato di musica secondo la vera scienza dell’armonia, in which he provided mathematical evidence of the pitch of a third tone as either the sum or the difference between two other, articulated tones. Rather than one occluding the other, the alchemical hum brings forth a third sound, a third idea. More than two hundred and fifty years later, this Polish trio searches for the third tone in Tartini´s own music by repeating a few, selected bars of his La sonata il sol minore al terzo suono over and over again, a slow-mo approach which serves to both reveal both unimagined depth and breadth and in the process create a new work altogether.

The stormy blue of Mikołaj Pałosz´ cello is striated by the noctilucence of Karolina Ossowska´s violin, with Ralf Meinz recording and capturing every quivering nuance. Despite only breaking off fragments of Tartini´s sonata, they not only reproduce his findings in a modern laboratory, they discover a new world bursting with passion within the work of a master baroque violinist, thoroughly delightful to contemporary ears.,populista/85,Meinz_Ossowska_&_Pałosz_play_Giuseppe_Tartini_La_sonata_il_sol_minore_al_terzo_suono,en.html

Stephen Fruitman

AMN Reviews: Ulrich Krieger – Winters in the Abyss [Pogus 21079-2]

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cd_079Few hypotheticals are more intriguing—or tempting—than those that posit the reversal of some fundamental structure of the world. In the musical world one such fundamental structure is the overtone series; with Winters in the Abyss, composer Ulrich Krieger literally turns it upside down.

Krieger is a German composer and saxophonist probably best known for having arranged Lou Reed’s notorious Metal Machine Music for orchestra. He often integrates electronic processing into his live performances and compositions, as he does here through the use of close miking and amplification.

Winters in the Abyss, which is part of a larger work called the Deep Sea Cycle, is based on the so-called undertone series. As its name implies, the undertone series—an artificial construction, unlike the naturally-occurring overtone series—is an inversion of the overtone series. In a mirror image of the overtone series, its sequence of pitches is densely packed in the lower register and becomes more spread out the higher up it runs. With its higher density at the bottom and lower densities at the top, the series’ structure parallels the structure of the ocean, its dark, high pressure lower depths giving way in stages to a brighter, lower pressure surface.

The composition, a five-movement work in which each movement represents a stratum of sea depth, is scored for the low brass of trombone (Matt Barbier), French horn (Zara Rivera) and contrabass trombone (Paul Rivera). The movements are sequenced in reverse order with Movement V, Sun Lit, leading off and Movement I, Pitch Black, coming at the end. Arranged this way, the piece depicts a plunge from the surface through the intermediate strata to the bottom.

All five movements are dominated by long-duration tones occurring singly, in pairs and on all three instruments. Given the low ranges of the instruments, the overall sound is relatively dark, even during the Sun Lit movement. Overlapping tones make for harmonies ranging from discordant to consonant; Midnight, the third movement, for example, features frequent major thirds and hints of a dominant 7 chord emerging from mix—a marked contrast to Sun Lit’s more jagged and unsettling tones a half-step or minor ninth apart. And as expected Pitch Black, the features tightly packed clusters of notes with very slow harmonic movement.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Joe Morris – Solos Bimhuis (2015; Relative Pitch Records)

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1432516242880-2070290275I’ve always felt one of the downsides of the CD medium is the amount of data they can hold.  Many performers feel the need to maximize the content…stuff that silver disc to the gills with as much binary crappola as technologically possible.  Never-mind the fact that 50% or more is useless filler, if they have the darts, they gotta throw em all at the dart board.

Luckily for the listener of Joe Morris’ Solos Bimhuis collection, the filler factor is pretty much absent.  What we have here is 7 long pieces, ranging from 6 minutes to a ginormous 26 minutes.  One man, one acoustic (sounding) guitar…and a whole lot of notes.  Listening though this huge set, I was constantly amazed at the frequency of ideas that must have been pouring out of JM’s head.  The fact that he seemed to be able to process these ideas faster than a Cray astounded me.  There was some serious number crunching happening.

Using a multitude of extended picking techniques…moods, atmospheres, hell, even fully fleshed out novels were seemingly created in an instant.  Some that he showed us early on were revisited, only twisted and turned inside out creating yet further ideas.  My experience to all this was one of surrender, letting go and finally full engulfment into the sonic maelstrom.  Spanish themes occasionally popped their heads up only to be quickly supplanted by what sounded like a vicious bowing technique of a first violinist.  The latter being done on a guitar made it that more stunning…and that barely scratches the surface of this grand design that Morris was building.

The whole proceeding was one giant instant gratification after the next.  I was exhausted after it was over…but like any good box of chocolates…you are going to return again and again.  The replay attribute on this release is high.  Grokking it all on one listen is futile.  I’m looking forward to riding this wave again.

Michael Eisenberg

AMN Reviews: Chris Russell – Blur (2015; Relaxed Machinery)

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I was expecting a static/floating/tuneless drone fest and I got that…and that’s cool but only if you are in the mood for it.  (Disclaimer:  I am, often.)  What was unexpected about this release…there is much more going on if you’re listening.

Blur seems to fit squarely in the (not too) dark ambient realm.  Space is definitely the place here, but Russell also takes some pretty interesting detours.  Melody and some field recordings also find a home on this sprawling 65 minute release.  Between the dark grey rumble and  smooth, thick chordal slabs of dark circuitry running free, the active listener will also experience the occasional tune.  I found myself actually NOT zoning out to this, instead I was caught up in some very beautiful melodic passages that added an unexpected god-ray of positive brightness to this release.

Of course, just like the natural order of all things, beauty does tend to fade, doesn’t it?  There are some very dark corners to explore and Russell is more than happy to take you there.  Gothic, dark images of crumbled signs of life, smudged out blots of blackness amongst dying things that were once vital, wisps of indeterminate forms moving quickly in and around your blindsight…are they there?  Of course not, that is until one of them quickly and quietly disturbs your personal space with it’s moist, rotted breath.

Were those melodies just chum to lead the listener to those corners? Were those gentle waves kissing a peaceful deserted beach on “Oceans” really that inviting, or where they the last remnants of a near dead lake lapping a ruined, jagged shore line?   Find out…listen to Blur.

Michael Eisenberg

AMN Reviews: Kave – Ominousium (2015; Cyclic Law)

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Kave-Ominousium100-400x365Kave is the dark ambient work of The Netherland’s Bram Gollin, who may have been influenced by Robert Rich. On this release, Gollin explores oppressive soundscapes with synthesized waves overlaying crackling undercurrents. The modus operandi herein seems to involve pairs of oscillating drones, each disturbed or jittered to some extent, combined with additional background layers and effects. It isn’t until the fifth track, The Tribes of Nyx, that found object percussion, crashes, and horn-like sounds are interspersed with Gollin’s more spacious approach. Ominousium ends strong, with the final track featuring ebbing and flowing swells of sound, evoking a fast-moving geological process. This is haunting music, no doubt – a soundtrack to a distressful dream – and comes highly recommended to those who prefer a nihilistic dissonance in their late-evening drink.