AMN Reviews: Monocube – Substratum (2019; Cyclic Law / Malignant Records)

Substratum is a fitting title to this set of eight haunted ambient pieces from Ukranian act Monocube. Instrumentation consists of modular synth and plucked string instruments (mostly guitar, it seems), with a clear emphasis on the former.  But deep drones dominate the recording – bass-heavy echoings of lost chambers, unlit passages, and windswept ice-scapes. Tectonic shiftings accompany chant-like voicings. Dissonant static and found-object noises accentuate these dark layers.

The overall result is an album that cannot be ignored or played in the background. While undoubtedly atmospheric, Substratum demands the listener’s attention. The ambiance includes a sense of growing anxiety that ultimately filters into your consciousness.

As the drone genre goes, it can be hard to break new ground. Monocube does so by acknowledging the formula but choosing to build on rather than rely on it. Listen at high volume for the full wall-shaking effect. You may be unnerved but will not be disappointed.

AMN Reviews: FIMAV 2019 Days 1 and 2

By IRWIN BLOCK (irblock@hotmail.com)

Photo credit: Martin Morissette

VICTORIAVILLE, Que. – The 35th Festival International de Musique Actuelle kicked off the first eight of 21 concerts over four days with concerts that were as eclectic as they were stimulating, ranging from avant jazz to electro-acoustic, and much in between.

The opener Thursday night showcased the Canadian West-Coast tentet led by Vancouver cellist and composer Peggy Lee, featuring top talent from that city. They played from a suite called Echo Painting, a series of musical themes and ballads first performed at the Vancouver Jazz Festival. Some of the melodies reflect the vistas and glories of the vast Canadian landscapes. It was a tight ensemble effort, with beautiful moments, discreet improvisations, and strong contributions from trumpeter Brad Turner, organist Warne Horvitz, James Meger (electric bass), drummer Dylan Van Der Schyff, and John Paton (tenor sax) – an accessible welcome mat to festival goers.

The veteran New York-based sextet called Bang on a Can All-Stars filled the local coliseum with selections from its Field Recordings series, the music developed around films and assembled by some 30 composers. In a bow to Quebec’s folk traditions, it opened with Reeling, by American composer Julia Wolfe, which enabled the musicians to work around its traditional Irish sound and rhythms. Other notable pieces including Quebec guitarist René Lussier’s Nocturne, based on a recording of his partner sleeping, and developed by cellist Mariel Roberts. Other visuals, such as Michael Gordon’s Gene Takes a Drink, and Nicole Lizée’s Dancist, were vehicles for precise and accessible accompaniment and thoughtful development. The attention to detail and sense of whimsy were much appreciated.

In stark contrast, the electroacoustic duo called Political Ritual seemed to mirror turbulent times with its program combining visual art in black and white with dense layers of sound. It was a noisy hour with Maxime Corbeil-Perron using synthesizers, objects, and computer and Félix-Antoine Morin playing prepared cello, invented instruments, and oscillators to propel a sound that was dense and over time had a hypnotic effect. They played two half-hour pieces, closing with an arresting image of a tornado and the distant sound of a siren.

Friday’s early afternoon show changed the vibe with a program that was slow, tender, and reflective. Greek national Elena Kakaliagou, playing French Horn and singing, was partnered with Austrian Ingrid Schmoliner, playing prepared piano and singing. Several pieces were based on folk songs and traditions. With Kakaliagou’s commentary on displacement and resettlement, death and rebirth, the music and interplay were deeply evocative, a reminder that music can raise social consciousness on the state of the world.

The French duo that followed is called Madame Patate and Klimperei, which electric guitarist and founding member Christophe Pethanatz said is equivalent to strumming. They are all about small sounds, soft melodies, slow, meandering pieces, often played with toy instruments and melodicas. Émilie Siaut (Madame Patate) mainly played clarinet. There was something precious, almost too cute to engage this listener, but others found it fit the bill, a counter-point to the Noise and fuller canvass of other ensembles.

For early highlights, I was thrilled with Birds of a Feather, a suite composed by Montreal-based electric guitarist Rainer Wiens, based on several thousand recordings of bird sounds gathered by participating musicians. They are a who’s who of the city’s most active improvisers, and after only three rehearsals brought the multi-coloured aviary into the concert hall, so to speak, including the sound of wings flapping. Though the start was someone hesitant, the ensemble reached full-throttle, laying out a colourful, pleasing, and not unfamiliar soundscape, with ample opportunity for improvised development from such stalwarts as Lori Freedman on bass clarinet, flautist Jean Derome, and Frank Lozano on soprano sax, with tonal and rhythmic variety provided by vocalist Maya Kuroki and Navid Navab on computer, effects and electronica. Wiens and his crew succeeded in transforming natural sounds into avant art.

Promising a recital rather than “a show,” 84-year-old acoustic bassist Barre Phillips called on a lengthy and productive career to enthrall an admiring audience with more than an hour of improv. The music was varied, yet measured, innovative, yet never too far out, thoughtful, but always flowing – in short, a reflection of an American who left the U.S. to settle in Europe because the audiences were open and gigs available. Alternating bowing and plucking, sometimes tapping with the bow on the strings, or playing with wood on wood, the musician’s creative energy and attention to the overall sound produced a gem of a concert. There was a freshness to it, with a variety of techniques and nary a cliché, and a much-appreciated encore after a full-hour of playing.

Phillips’ tour-de-force was followed by radical shift in tone and texture with the pairing of the expressive and powerful German free-jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, the explosive Japanese guitarist and singer Keiji Haino, and American Heather Leigh on pedal steel guitar. Though an unusual mix, the program developed nicely, the dominant musical force being Brötzmann’s rich and meaty voice on tenor sax. Haino contributed contrasting sounds on electronica, and Leigh’s guitar was heard, though usually overwhelmed. The problem with the show developed toward the end – it lasted close to 100 minutes – when Brötzmann and Haino seemed unable to conclude, trading off to each other, neither willing to put a wrap on an otherwise deeply visceral excursion.

The past-midnight performance by Tomaga, featured the rhythm section from the rock group The Oscillation: percussionist Valentina Magaletti and electric bassist Tom Relleen. Those of us who stayed on as the clock neared 1 a.m. enjoyed Magaletti’s varied polyrhythms and deft punctuation and the bright and breezy flow of Relleen’s bass, enhanced by bells and effects – a friendly and accessible musical night-cap.

Chicago Scene: May 18-25, 2019

This is a weekly overview of live avant performances in the Chicago area. Contact us if you’d like your shows listed.

Saturday, May 18th 2019

8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($15-$12)
Tatsu Aoki’s The MIYUMI Project, with Mwata Bowden, Coco Elysses, Edward Wilkerson Jr, Avreeayl Ra, Jamie Kempkers, Kioto Aoki, special guests Tsukasa Taiko

Sunday, May 19th 2019

8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($15)
Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir — music by Hafliði Hallgrímsson, Halldór Smárason, Þuríður Jónsdóttir, Páll Ragnar Pálsson

9:00PM at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W Belmont ($10 suggested donation) (wheelchair-accessible)
Jason Roebke
Natural Language : Dustin Laurenzi, Jeff Swanson, Mike Harmon, Charles Rumback

Monday, May 20th 2019

7:30PM at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N Ravenswood, 773.769.1069 (wheelchair-accessible)
Swiss Saxophone with Jason Roebke, Jim Bake ($10-$8)r

9:00PM at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 773.281.4444
Extraordinary Popular Delusions : Jim Baker, Ed Wilkerson Jr, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt

Wednesday, May 22nd 2019

8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($20-$10)
Electronic Mutations
Fulcrum Point — music by Nicolas Collins, Ben Neill, Ted Hearne, Vijay Iyer

8:30PM at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western, 773.276.3600 ($10) (wheelchair-accessible)
Greg Ward’s Rogue Parade, with Dave Miller, Matt Gold, Matt Ulery, Quin Kirchner
Ben LaMar Gay’s Learn From Ghost, with Sam Pluta, Jason Stein

Thursday, May 23rd 2019

9:00PM at Elastic, 3429 W Diversey, #208, 773.772.3616 ($10)
“Russ Greimluber”, Jim Baker
Gerrit Hatcher Quintet with Ben LaMar Gay, Keefe Jackson, Katie Ernst, Julian Kirshner

Friday, May 24th 2019

8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($10)
In Motion Duo : Ayako Kato, a musician TBA
Buzz Duo : Jorrit Dijkstra, Jessica Roseman
Damon D Green, Peter Maunu

Saturday, May 25th 2019

9:00PM at Elastic, 3429 W Diversey, #208, 773.772.3616 ($25, or $40 festival pass)
Transference Fest 2019
Ikue Mori and friends
King Vision Ultra (Geng)
Bergsonist

For more information, such as directions, as well as upcoming performances, see:

http://now-is.org/, http://www.ratchetmusic.com, http://www.mcachicago.org, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_culturalcenterschedule.html, http://www.skylarkchicago.com, http://www.hideoutchicago.com, http://www.elasticrevolution.com, http://www.myopicbookstore.com/music.html, http://www.lampo.org, http://dalniente.com, http://iceorg.org/events/category/chicago, http://www.emptybottle.com/

Jazzword Reviews 

Source: Jazzword.

Raymond Boni/Jean Claude (JC) Jones
Visions of Sound

Windemo & Strid
The Mattön Sessions No.4

Mahobin
Live at the Big Apple in Kobe

Guillermo Gregorio/Rafal Mazur/Ramon Lopez
Wondering the Sounds

Joe McPhee/John Butcher
At The Hill of James Magee

Larry Ochs-Gerald Cleaver
Songs of the Wild Cave

Ulrich Mitzlaff
Sonic Miniatures about Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

GGRIL
Façons

Jason Kao Hwang Burning Bridge
Blood

Kirk Knuffke/Steven Herring
Witness

John Heward
Quintet