AMN Reviews: Bent Knee – Say So (2016; Cuneiform Records)

Every once in a while, the ostensibly prog-rock / avant-jazz Cuneiform Records label comes out with something totally different. In 2013 it was Chrome Hoof, and three years later we have Bent Knee.  This Boston-based six-piece art-rock band seamlessly blends genres across the spectrum – from pop to hard rock, to something resembling free-improv. Layered over the music are lyrics that describe a twisted, dark Americana.

Vocalist / keyboardist Courtney Swain has a strong presence throughout. While her inflections are reminiscent of Alanis Morrissette from time to time, she moves in her own direction. And she can sing – in a way that makes me think that if she were a contestant on one of those reality television singing contests, she would easily mop up the competition. Joining her on backing vocals is Jessica Kion, who also plays bass. Rounding out the group are Ben Levin on guitars, Chris Baum on violin, and Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth on drums. Session musicians contribute woodwinds and brass, which gives the compositions a thick, orchestral presence.

One of the more notable aspects of Say So goes beyond just the writing and playing – the production is modern and superb. Crisp and clear, you can easily pick out each instrumental voice, even as the dynamics vary up and down. The unique irony, though, is that the guitar, keyboards, and violin are often blended in a way that makes it hard to identify which is contributing to what. Vince Welch is credited with production and sound design, and appears to be a full-fledged band member.

Each of the tracks are moody in their own way, often beginning slowly and building to crescendo before returning to someplace near where they began. Favorites? Leak Water, with its strident guitar intro, detailed overlapping rhythms, orchestral keyboard and violin breaks, and slowly ascending vocals. Hands Up is another one, intelligently describing a longing for a (likely doomed) modern suburban life over infectious melodies and broken rhythms.

While catchy and appealing, if you listen carefully, this is not necessarily joyful music. But it explores uncomfortable emotional situations in a compelling fashion, and thus draws you in. Highly recommended, even if your usual cup of tea is further off the beaten track. There is a lot to like here.

The Bristol Hum Festival

Source: The Bristol Hum takes place next week in…wait for it…Bristol, UK. The lineup includes:

Captain Pap Artist
Dead Space Chamber Music
Ghost Mind
Hannah Marshall
Matthew Grigg and Mark Langford
Oliver Owen
Pearly Gates & Duswunder
Random Pony
Rebecca Sneddon and Matthew Grigg
Run Logan Run
Tina Hitchens and Ben Trinkle
Yvonna Magda

Tyshawn Sorey Reviewed and Profiled

Source: Chicago Reader.

Percussionist Tyshawn Sorey has never concerned himself much with doing what a “jazz” drummer is supposed to do. Though his talent in that area is beyond doubt, it’s only a part of his full diapason. He’s a world-class composer who’s dramatically focused his vision in recent years. He’s a powerhouse player, yet on his brilliant 2014 trio album, Alloy (Pi), he’s a faint presence on the music’s surface, playing with exquisite subtlety and allowing remarkable pianist Cory Smythe to dominate the performances of Sorey’s compositions—which owe more to Morton Feldman than to Mark Feldman.

New Releases From Aguirre Records

Source: Aguirre.

James Ferraro – Rerex 3xLP

James Ferraro is an experimental musician, composer and virtual atmospherist born in Bronx, NY. Ferraro has released material under a wide array of aliases, and was a member of the Californian two-piece avant-garde project The Skaters. His album Far Side Virtual was chosen as Album of the Year by the UK’s Wire Magazine in 2011.

Ferraro has been producing small runs of releases on cassette, CD-R, and VHS with a wide variety of styles all representing different dreams of a demonic mind tower spanning from freak flesh bodybuilder atmospheres to ambient modern world/psych. First on New Age Tapes and later on MuscleWork Inc., self run cassette / CD-R labels primarily used for releasing small runs of his solo work.

Ian William Craig – Meaning Turns To Whispers LP

Ian is a trained opera singer and painter out of Vancouver, Canada. Over the last few years he has proved to be one of the most original artists active in the ambient / experimental genre. His debut “A Turn Of Breath” (2014) and the follow-up album “Cradle For The Wanting” (2015) received high acclaim across the globe.

Meaning Turns to Whispers is a combination of piano improvisations and FM feedback loops, recorded over various winters in the period 2009-2011 and edited down / manipulated / degraded to reveal some of their hidden spaces. The discreet piano layers mixed with waves of white noise keep on intriguing and make us longing for more.

Steve Reich Four Organs / Phase Patterns LP

In recent decades Steve Reich’s music has been presented internationally at major venues, performed by high-profile musicians including the Kronos Quartet, guitarist Pat Metheny, and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. But in 1970, when the music on this LP was recorded, Reich’s audiences gathered in museums and art galleries to hear his work interpreted by the composer himself and a group of friends.

Tarotplane – First LP

Tarotplane is the solo project of PJ Dorsey from Baltimore MD USA. Over the last few years he has been gradually crafting his debut album, appropriately called First. The end result is a tremendous album etched on the great krautrock & experimental psychedelic records from the 70s. Vintage electronic sounds are mixed with effected guitar parts. It might sound quite familiar at first, but once you enter the heart of the album it all gets spectacularly exhilarating. The true power of this album is how it swirls around and captivates you without any effort.

July in Portland

English: Bob Ostertag

Source: Portland’s Creative Music Guild.

The Outset Series
Showcasing Local Experimental Music
at Turn! Turn! Turn!
$5-15 sliding scale,
Every 1st & 3rd Wed.
Starts at 8PM sharp,
Ends at 10PM.

July 6th: Dan Phelps and Cerberus
July 20th: Tony Barba and Tricapitate

Dan Phelps
Dan Phelps is an artist/musician/producer living in Seattle, WA. His improvisation based work travels deep into the details of texture and timbre. His releases include Modular, a collaboration with Matt Chamberlain and Viktor Krauss, and his latest release, Arc, which is built on improvisations with drumming legend Jim Keltner. For his live performances he improvises walls of ambient sound and shifting textures, moving seamlessly from abstract sheets of celestial sound, roots guitar, and astringent noise.

Cerberus (Doug Theriault / Mike Gamble / Alex Callenberger)
PDX Guitar wizards Doug Theriault, Mike Gamble , and Alex Callenberger join forces to complete a three-headed greek guard dog of sound.

Tony Barba
Saxophonist Tony Barba has had a diverse career performing and living all over the globe. For the past ten years, Tony has been a regular member of the Youngblood Brass Band, which recently released their seventh studio album Pax Volumi. Younglood has been touring throughout Europe and the United States for the last two years in celebration of the release and expects to release a new EP this fall. Additionally, Tony has performed/recorded with such artists as Bon Iver, David Murray, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Josh Ritter, Pete Yorn, the Mountain Goats, Andrew Hill, the Violent Femmes and many more. Currently residing in Madison, Wisconsin, Tony leads his own bands in addition to being a sought after sideman across the midwest.

PDX saxophone legends Noah Bernstein, John Savage, and relative newbie Ralph Carney join to complete a triple-headed saxophone eagle, known in mythology as a Tricapitate.

Confluence Visiting Artist Series
Bob Ostertag

July 16th, 2016
Leaven Community Center // 5431 NE 20th Avenue
8:00pm // $5-$15 Sliding Scale // All-Ages

Composer, performer, historian, instrument builder, journalist, activist, kayak instructor, Bob Ostertag’s work cannot easily be summarized or pigeon-holed. He has published more than twenty CDs of music, two DVDs, and five books. His writings on contemporary politics have been published on every continent and in many languages. Electronic instruments of his own design are at the cutting edge of both music and video performance technology. He has performed at music, film, and multi-media festivals around the globe. His radically diverse collaborators include the Kronos Quartet, postmodernist John Zorn, heavy metal star Mike Patton, transgender cabaret start Justin Vivian Bond, British guitar innovator Fred Frith, Quebecois film maker Pierre Hébert, EDM star Rrose, and many others. He is rumored to have connections to the shadowy media guerrilla group The Yes Men. He is currently a professor at the University of California at Davis.