AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Various Artists – CYCLES II (2022; Cyclic Law)

The Cyclic Law label, based in France, has been producing some of the most compelling dark, experimental, and electroacoustic ambient music for two decades. This label sampler, running almost two hours, is a collection of new and unreleased tracks from the label’s artists, celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Contributors include Ajna, Ascending Divers, Ashtoreth, Beckahesten, Curse All Kings, Desiderii Marginis, Funerary Call, Kammarheit, Leila Abdul-Rauf, Neraterræ & Dødsmaskin, New Risen Throne & Corona Barathri, Nordvargr, Øjerum, Shedir, Shrine, Sophia, Sutekh Hexen, Taphephobia, Visions, and Vortex. While all twenty tracks are varied and quite excellent, a few highlights are covered below.

Ajna’s Elemental Manifestation and Ascending Divers’ Charybdis Drain are both prime-grade darkness with ominous drones. The former features metallic cracking and hissing while the latter includes thunder-like rumbling and long-held synth chords.

Ashtoreth heads in another direction on Emic, with distorted chords, plucked notes, harmonics, and percussive lines from multitracked guitars. These are coupled with whispered vocalizations. The guitar-driven material continues on Beckahesten’s Heder, with grinding chords, martial drums, and chanted vocals.

Cerements Of The Moon from Funerary Call is one of the more experimental tracks, comprised of sculpted abstractions, electroacoustic noises, and haunting voices. Another vocal piece is a surprise – Leila Abdul-Rauf’s cover of Moving On its Own by Lee Rather is neither ambient nor electroacoustic but quite psychologically dark.

In contrast, the track from New Risen Throne (featuring Corona Barathri) is squarely experimental ambient, including shimmering tones combined with layers of forbidding vocals and chants. Shrine’s Dream Axis features a catch synth melody along with bursts of echoing noises and an oscillating pattern floating in the background.

Sutekh Hexen’s The Sky Below is a static-laden affair incorporating a subtle repeating melody buried within white noise and disassociated growls. Vortex finishes off the set with Cosmic Rim II, a piece with a pulsating bass line, sweeping waves, bells, and fortepiano dynamics.

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: patrick brennan | s0nic 0penings – tilting curvaceous [Clean Feed CF613CD]

Over the course of several decades now, New York City alto saxophonist/composer patrick brennan has been developing a system of structured improvisation centered on the generative possibilities inherent in the dynamic interaction of multiple, rhythm-focused melodic cells. One of the most important vehicles for his exploration in this area has been the ensemble s0nic 0penings, which he first put together in 1979 and which appears here as the quintet of brennan, on alto saxophone, along with longtime collaborators double bassist Hilliard Greene; trumpeter and fluegelhornist Brian Groder; pianist Rod Williams; and drummer Michael TA Thompson. Their performance of brennan’s composition tilting curvaceous brings the composer’s polyrhythmic motifs to life in an exciting, musically effective way.

Although tilting curvaceous was conceived of as a single piece, on this recording it has been segmented into fourteen parts. While this was done for more or less expedient reasons having to do with presenting the work in radio- and podcast-friendly excerpts, it has the advantage of putting the mechanism of the cells’ combinatorial chemistry into sharp relief. Not only do the shorter tracks allow individual cells to be easily grasped as discrete entities, but they also let us pick out the cells’ interactions and changing aggregations across subsets of the ensemble under well-delineated conditions. Adding to this is the fact that brennan’s orchestration, which frequently involves having piano and bass work together to lay out each piece’s structural skeleton, goes far to give his compositional structures their audible transparency.

We can hear how brennan’s combinatorial logic works from the very first piece. Bass and piano open by stating one cell in repeated unison; they are soon joined by trumpet and saxophone weaving a countermelody in and out and in between the notes of that initial motif. The horns break off into separate contrapuntal lines, rejoin and then diverge again. All the while, the drums play a free pulse before bringing the section to an end in a solo. The fourth section, a trio for bass, piano, and drums, has the bass sketching out a cell and its variations under a piano solo; throughout, piano and bass pass recognizable fragments of a motif and is variations between them. Section eleven divides the ensemble into bass and piano on one side and the two horns on the other, each side playing its cell against the off-beats of the other. Here as elsewhere in the set, Greene’s clear and unhurried statement of the cells as points of reference is the fulcrum on which the ensemble’s playing balances. The twelfth piece moves into freer territory, beginning with a solo from Greene before developing into a trio for brennan’s hard-blown soloing over bass and drums. The brief closing piece, a solo for brennan, presents tilting curvaceous’ animating concept in its most compellingly spare form.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Picks General

AMN Picks of the Week: Dewar, Hughes & Popple / Oikoumen / Sleep Research Facility & Llyn Y Cwn / Silent Universe / Fujii & Yoshihide

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Dewar / Hughes / Popple – Reflejos IV-VII (2023)
Oikoumen – Dystopia (2022)
Sleep Research Facility / Llyn Y Cwn – Sargo / Posidonia (2023)
Silent Universe – Immensity (2023)
Satoko Fujii / Otomo Yoshihide – Perpetual Motion (2023

Performances Reviews

Exclaim! Improv and Avant Garde News

Source: Exclaim!

Toronto’s Masahiro Takahashi Announces ‘Humid Sun,’ Shares ‘Cloud Boat’

Tim Hecker Announces ‘No Highs’ Album, Featuring Colin Stetson

Toronto’s Women from Space Festival Announces First Wave of Acts for 2023

Kali Malone’s ‘Does Spring Hide Its Joy’ Is a Beacon of Possibility

Alexandra Stréliski Details New Album ‘Néo-Romance’

Label Profile

21st Century Skronk: A Guide to the Second Life of ESP-Disk’

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

Stollman shuttered ESP in 1975 when it finally became financially untenable even for his shoestring budget. But he renewed his passion project in 2005 after retiring from his job as an Assistant Attorney General for New York State. “As he pointed out,” Holtje says, “it sounds really impressive except there are literally hundreds of [Assistant Attorneys General].”

Since ESP’s revival, the label has pushed Stollman’s original agenda forward, filling the void with new, uncompromising artists. “I like to think that some of the people on the label now will be thought of in much the same way 30, 40 years down the road that we now think of, say, [avant-jazz heroes] Milford Graves or Henry Grimes or Ronnie Boykins,” says Holtje.


Upcoming Dirk Serries Performances 

Source: A New Wave Of Jazz.

10.02.23 – Koffie & Ambacht (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

11.02.23 – Lokerse Jazzclub (Lokeren, Belgium)

19.02.23 – Worm (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

24.03.23 – PlusEtage (Baarle-Nassau, The Netherlands)

10.06.23 – PlusEtage (Baarle-Nassau, The Netherlands)

with Cath Roberts, Charlotte Keeffe, Tom Jackson, Andrew Lisle, Dirk Serries, Benedict Taylor, Daniel Thompson, Tom Ward and Colin Webster
23.07.23 – Cafe Oto (London, UK)


The Free Jazz Collective Reviews

Source: The Free Jazz Collective.

Dave Sewelson, William Parker, Steve Hirsh – The Gate (Mahakala 2023)

Village of the Sun – First Light (Gearbox, 2023)

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp – Tryptich I – III (SMP, 2023)

Xenofox – The Garden Was Empty (audio semantics, 2023)

Ulrike Brand & Olaf Rupp – Myotis Myotis (Creative Sources, 2022)

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Satoko Fujii & Otomo Yoshihide – Perpetual Motion (2023; Ayler Records)

Perpetual Motion begins with a quiet passage of Satoko Fujii seemingly playing the inside of her piano along with guitarist Otomo Yoshihide providing controlled feedback, scrapes, and abstract chording. This slowly builds in intensity with pointed soloing from Yoshihide and staccato pounding from Fujii.

This album, recorded live in Tokyo during January 2022, is the first pairing of these two veterans of experimental music. It is easy to become overwhelmed by Fujii’s prolific output (now more than 100 albums), with the vast majority being quite good. But occasionally she contributes to an effort that is different from her usual avant-jazz fare, and this is one of those excursions. Otomo Yoshihide has a similarly lengthy discography, though his output is quite varied. Best known for work with Ground Zero, he has also composed contemporary classical as well as for television and film.

Perpetual Motion lands squarely in the free improvisational camp with both musicians employing extended techniques to extract unconventional sounds from their instruments. They are not in a rush to get anywhere in particular, and their joint explorations leave plenty of space in between more assertive passages. Fujii’s percussiveness coupled with Yoshihide’s bending of distorted notes is as strangely compelling as it is just…strange. Another aspect is how Fujii adopts classical stylings over which Yoshihide provides jagged and abrupt riffs and speed picking.

All is not quiet nor peaceful on this musical front. Yoshihide is apt to head off in angular directions, twisting his strings into unusual chords and outright noise while Fujii layers this with sweeping clusters of notes. The dynamism at play on this album is exquisite and exhibits a “both sides of the coin” nature – aggressive and pastoral, loud and soft, familiar and puzzling.

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Joseba Agirrezabalaga & Mikel Vega – Lepok [Urpa I Musell]

Lepok brings together the two Basque electric guitarists Joseba Agirrezabalaga and Mikel Vega, who recorded these improvisation in June 2021 in Arrasate. It’s a very live-sounding recording that puts the listener right in the middle of the two musicians—so close, in fact, that one can hear the buzz of the amplifiers in the background.

The two guitars are evenly matched in terms of their overall sound—clearly etched tones shimmeringly overlaid with reverb– which gives the music a textural depth derived from accumulating mass rather than from sharply contrasting timbres. The opening track, the clangorous Birjaiotza, pushes this principle to its limit with its harsh, metallic blocks of sound. The title track, which drifts into territory outlined in hum and sparse notes, explores the other, more open possibility presented by textural construction. The playing overall is mostly abstract and somewhat tentative, a reflection perhaps of the fact that the session represents the first time Agirrezabalaga and Vega played together. Nevertheless, the closing track, Mamu kitarjolea, is sure-footed in its deployment of a chord-progression-and-solo structure that coalesces into broad, hammered gestures and squealing distortion.

Daniel Barbiero


Another Place Show, February 6, 2023

Source: 90.9fm WDCB.

Chicago journalist and jazz aficionado Andy Pierce hosts “Another Place” Sundays at midnight. The show explores creative music, jazz and the avant-garde, and delves into the longer, more complex compositions and improvisations in jazz.