AMN Reviews: Robert Scott Thompson – Arcana (2014; Relaxed Machinery) / Repeated by Dreams (2014; Aucourant Records)

When one discusses electronic and ambient music, reference artists are typically Klaus Schulze, Brian Eno, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, and Alio Die among others. But every so often, we are reminded that this genre is a vast expanse, with much to explore.

Robert Scott Thompson is a formally-educated composer of ambient music who has been recording for over 25 years. His output is voluminous, and often incorporates aspects of electroacoustic and acousmatic music, modern classical, and electronica. Not being familiar with many of his works, I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with two of his more recent releases.

coverAt first blush, Arcana seems like it shares common territory with Roach and Schulze, featuring sweeping synths and pulsating waves of soft sound. But Thompson adds crumbling, distorted structures (shades of Natasha Barrett, perhaps) and clanking percussion into the mix. These more jarring aspects are not dominant nor a constant throughout, but instead add darkness and tension to his pieces.

While Arcana’s foreground music borders on simple ambience at times, subtle discordance and shimmering patterns of sounds result in an ominous, disturbing overall offering. As an example, the fifth track, Unwoven, features slowly-played chimes and tuned percussion, with a synth line and high-frequency, electroacoustics to round things out. Zero Point Field, on the other hand, is a 29-minute Roach-styled drone.  In a sense, Arcana is divided between a more acousmatic style on its first half, and a more traditional ambient approach on its second.

coverRepeated by Dreams is arguably the more avant-garde album of the two, featuring processed string instruments and effects, voices, and incidental percussion along with synth walls and textures. Themes slowly evolve and fade like haunted, sunlit landscapes of resonances. Novum Organum: Progressive Stages of Certainty, the 35-minute centerpiece of the album, is where Thompson takes the material on a left turn. On this track, the album transitions to a modern classical composition, not unlike the musique concrete that has traditionally been produced by France’s Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM).  However, the end of the track incorporates bouncy elements of electronica.  The remaining tracks combine ambiance and electroacoustics, using background drones with foreground effects.

Free Jazz Blog Reviews

Louis Sclavis

Louis Sclavis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Free Jazz:

Emil Strandberg – More Music For Trumpet, Guitar And Bass (Bandcamp, 2014) ****
Myra Melford – Snowy Egret (Enja, 2015) ****
Bande à Part – Caixa-Prego (Creative Sources, 2014) ****
Konstrukt ‎– Live at Tarcento Jazz (Holidays Records, 2015) ****
Konstrukt & William Parker ‎– Live at NHKM (Holidays Records, 2015) ***½
Louis Sclavis Quartet – Silk and Salt Melodies (ECM, 2014) ****
Leap of Faith – Regenerations (Evil Clown, 2015) ****
Natsuki Tamura & Alexander Frangenheim – Nax (Creative Sources, 2014) ****

The Bridge Collective Chicago and Milwaukee Performances

Joëlle Léandre at Cornelia street cafe Photo: ...

Joëlle Léandre

From The Bridge:

April 27 – May 10 2015

Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1]
Jean-Luc Cappozzo – trumpet, flugelhorn
Douglas R. Ewart – woodwinds, sound objects
Joëlle Léandre – double bass
Bernard Santacruz – double bass
Michael Zerang – drums, percussion

The Bridge #8
Ernest Khabeer Dawkins – saxophones
Antonin-tri Hoang – alto saxophone, clarinet
Mars Williams – saxophones, clarinet
Samuel Silvant – drums

The Bridge, transatlantic network for creative music, is proud to announce its upcoming exploratory tour in Chicago and Milwaukee from April 27th to May 10th, 2015. The Bridge will also inaugurate its record label The Bridge Sessions, in partnership with Rogue Art, with the release of recordings from the Sonic Communion tour. Planet Earth Folk Song, a full track from the upcoming album, is available for preview on our soundcloud page:

Public Events:

4/27 – The Arts Incubator
The Bridge #8 – 7pm, 2 sets, $10

4/28 – Relax Attack Jazz Series at The Whistler
The Bridge #8 + guests – 9:30pm & 10:45pm (w/ guests), no cover

4/29 – Constellation
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] & The Bridge #8 double bill & Sonic Communion CD release party! 9:30pm, $10

4/30 – Comfort Music Series at Comfort Station
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] + Lou Mallozzi (electronics) – 7pm, $10 suggested donation

4/30 – Doug Fogelson Studio
The Bridge #8 – 9pm, 2 sets, $10 suggested donation

5/1 TBC

5/2 – Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery
Joëlle Léandre solo – 2pm, no cover

5/2 – Logan Arts Center
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] performance & discussion – 7pm, no cover

5/3 – MCA Chicago
The musicians Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] will participate in Renée Baker’s Sunyata: Towards Absolute Emptiness – 7:30pm, $28/22/10

5/4 – The Black Cinema House at Rebuild Foundation
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] + guests live soundtrack of home movies and found footage – 7pm, no cover

5/4 – Beat Kitchen
Antonin-Tri Hoang and Samuel Silvant will participate in Extraordinary Popular Delusion’s Monday night set – 9pm, no cover

5/5 – Relax Attack Jazz Series at The Whistler
The Bridge #8 + guests – 9:30pm & 10:45pm (w/ guests), no cover

5/6 – Strobe Recording Studio
The Bridge #8 recorded public performance – 8:30pm, 2 sets, $15 suggested donation

5/7 – Elastic Arts Foundation
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] + guests – 9pm, 2 sets, $10

5/8 – Outer Ear Series at Experimental Sound Studio
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] – 8pm, $10

5/9 – Diasporal Rhythms
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] acoustic apartment performance – 12pm, no cover

5/9 – Participatory Music Coalition at Transition East
The French musicians will collaborate with the Participatory Music Coalition

5/10 – Alternating Currents Live at Woodland Pattern, Milwaukee
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] – 7pm, $8

AMN Reviews: Aidan Baker – Already Drowning (Gizeh Records)

a3154857344_2Aidan Baker´s Already Drowning is “a song-cycle inspired by various myths & folktales about female water spirits” and the fiction of a handful of writers, including Angela Carter, A. S. Byatt and Hubert Aquin. It presents the Aidan Baker project – experimental guitar, ambient drone, doom jazz on a good hundred solo albums plus all his collaborative and group work (most significantly as Nadja with his wife, Leah Buckareff), some poetry – in a new light: as an atmospheric contribution to the Great American Songbook with an arch sensibility and orchestral sweep. Though it sounds far-fetched, it bears a certain family resemblance to Frank Sinatra´s cult classic album Watertown, about an abandoned husband´s big time, small town heartbreak.

Like Watertown, Already Drowning is great melodrama, cinema disguised as an album of music. Despite its ostensible conjuring of stasis, drone, especially in Baker´s hands, can cast between still gloom and tempestuousness, delicate nuance and overwrought emotion. Playing guitar, bass, flute, trombone, piano, drums and unspooling field recordings (and joined by a handful of guest instrumentalists), Baker incorporates drone but also goes beyond it, and foregoes the lone male voice in favour of a different female vocalist on each track. Each adds not only her interpretive gift but in some instances, her own translation of Baker´s lyrics.

Opening at a gritty train station (just like Watertown), Clara Engel delivers the title track to a spare accompaniment that contrasts with the richly orchestrated strings of “30 Days / 30 Nights”, sung by Jessica Bailiff. “Mélusine” – a Medieval mermaid, perhaps not unlike the one in stone being ravished on the cover – is a duet sung almost to abstraction by Valérie Niederoest and Maude Oswald of Swiss indie band Toboggan, while “Mein Zwilling, Mein Verlorener” is articulated in crystal clear German by Joanna Kupnicka to an acoustic, folksy accompaniment.

On “Tout Juste Sous La surface, Je Guette”, the inimitable Geneviève Castrée (aka Ô Paon) and Baker turn her wintry submersion into a grim Icelandic saga. On the eleven-minute “Ice”, a truly mesmerizing piece, Liz Hysen (Picastro) whispers as Baker ebbs and flows. The honour of closing goes to arguably the most-well known of the assembled vocalists, Carla Bozulich (of Evangelista, The Geraldine Fibbers). “Lorelai / Common Tongue” arcs all the way back to the beginning, and the mood has absolutely cratered; lover gone (again, inevitably), train station now a death trap, Salvation Army brass band drunk and a swirl of demons trying to drown her story out.

Under Baker´s direction, a complex web of emotions is solid as latticed steel and victims become heroines.

Stephen Fruitman

March Complete Communion Reviews

English: Otomo Yoshihide

Otomo Yoshihide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lots of free jazz reviews from The Quietus:

Spring’s Complete Communion brings you avant-garde Ellingtonia from Matthew Shipp, fiery free jazz and top notch Sinatra puns from Death Shanties, pianistic brilliance from Alexander Hawkins, and a bass masterclass from Barry Guy. We also discuss a splendid piece of free improv hum and clang from Roger Turner and Otomo Yoshihide, the latest from Seb Rochford‘s jazz-groove-electronica outfit Polar Bear, and the debut LP from Sunn O))) and Sun Ra fans Free Nelson ManDoomJazz.