AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: If, Bwana – The Joy of Photography [2014; Bandcamp]

a2962225004_2If, Bwana’s The Joy of Photography isn’t about literal photographic images, but it’s liable to provoke vivid mental images in the receptive listener. Originally issued as a three-cassette box set on Barcelona’s 8eminis label in 2014, it’s now been reissued as a download from Bandcamp.

If, Bwana’s brand of musique concrète is quickly recognizable in that it reveals its sources by keeping instruments identifiable, if enhanced or otherwise modified. As in much If, Bwana work, many of the source recordings selected for manipulation on The Joy of Photography feature acoustic instruments, the better to bring out their natural sonic qualities through unnatural means.

The tracks find Margolis manipulating time, drawing impossibly elongated lines out of wind instruments and voice. With musical movement thus rendered glacially slow, ordinarily overlooked nuances of pitch and timbre move to the foreground. The buzz of Steve Norton’s reeds becomes the focus in The Norton Variations, sounding at times like mechanical saws or a swarm of insects. In Brent Bari Sax Margolis’s sound stretching brings out microtonal variations in pitch as it extends over the course of saxophonist John Korchak’s breath, as it does with Alfrun Schmidt’s voice on Alf Runs and Runs. Solo Duet 3 for Violin and Viola—an overdubbed recording of Margolis on both instruments—is all about timbre, its scrapes and squeals an accurate report of changes of pressure on bow and strings. The same is true of Solo Duet 1 for Alto & Tenor Recorders, once again played by Margolis using extended techniques that seem to depict air and wood as sonic raw elements.

The Bandcamp release includes two bonus tracks originally issued in 2007’s Ghost of Reality 3” CDr. A bonus track of sorts is an extended version of It Is Bassoon, featuring Leslie Ross on the title instrument, proving that more of a good thing is, well, better.