AMN Reviews: Irene Kepl – Get Weaving! [Zeromoon zero173]


The open form composition—the composition that leaves significant aspects of its realization to the discretion of the performers—combines the immediacy and in-the-moment awareness of improvisation with the thought-out architecture associated with more conventional, premeditated writing. Get Weaving!, a work by Austrian violinist/composer Irene Kepl, is just such a composition, here performed by a quintet comprising the composer on violin, Ingrid Schmoliner on prepared piano, Petr Vrba on trumpet and speakers, Miroslav Toth on alto saxophone, and Heinz-Peter Linshalm on bass clarinet.

Kepl’s score addresses a limited but well-chosen set of parameters–instrumental groupings, foreground-background relationships, durations and timbral effects—and engages them in dynamic ways. Her compositional choices, along with her skill in conducting the ensemble through its 43-minute-long performance, produce a rewarding, profoundly textural experience consisting in a constantly changing panorama of densities and voicings, with a particular emphasis on contrasts of pure and aggregate colors.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Two From Orenda Records

Orenda Records is a young label that is out-performing its age. With notable releases from Daniel Rosenboom, Burning Ghosts, Falsetto Teeth, Nathan Hubbard, Gavin Templeton, Jon Armstrong, Jonathan Rowden, the Weston / Saxon Groove Assembly, and many others, Orenda is establishing itself as a go-to resource for a younger group of musicians from the west coast that fall on various points of the rock / jazz / free improv / modern composition continuum. Below, we discuss two of the label’s most recent offerings.


Sound Etiquette – Sound Etiquette (2016; Orenda Records)

This trio’s most obvious influence seems to be early 70’s Miles Davis. With a signature electronic sound that harkens back to the analog nature of that era, Sound Etiquette powers through eight gritty improvisations. Recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, each of the musicians (Nick Obando on sax, Eli Wallace on keyboards, and Aaron Levin on drums) has plenty of room to stretch out and make their own statements.

But the album is best viewed as a group effort, and one with a great deal of affinity. Wallace provides not only leads but thick low-register chording, and echoing effects. Obando solos freely on top, making use of extended techniques, while Levin provides a grounding for the other two in between his own more explosive efforts. Given the album’s rawness, the overall feel can approach Sun Ra territory from time to time, but also a meandering modern jazz. The release date is December 9.


Alexander Noice – Music Made With Voices (2016; Orenda Records)

Guitarist Noice steps away from his instrument of choice to electronically compose eight tracks for human voice. The catch here is that each track is based on manipulations of a single note sung by eight different people. These notes are processed, cut, and pitch-shifted, and these results are mixed with one another in various patterns. The repetitions therein form the “songs,” recordings that are likely unrecognizable from the source material. Each paints an highly-abstract portrait of the singer as Noice puts together sequenced runs, undulating tones, and staccato motifs into complex rhythms and themes. Comparisons? Maybe Paul Lansky‘s Idle Chatter series. But Noice is less academic and more assertive. One of the more unique and enjoyable pieces of weird music that I’ve heard this year.

AMN Reviews: Cecilia López / Amanda Irarrazabal / Cecilia Quinteros: La Corporación [Pan y Rosas pyr201]

la-corporacion1-768x768The collaboration of acoustic strings with synthesizer can be a challenging. Both strings and electronics are capable of great timbral range, but of qualitatively different sorts. Combining them in real-time performance opens up many different possibilities, and therefore requires some judgment on the part of the collaborators. One such possibility is to set out a contrastive juxtaposition in which each contributor retains its characteristic voice. That is the possibility realized by synthesizer player Cecilia López in her collaboration with double bassist Amanda Irarrazabal and cellist Cecilia Quinteros in a set of pieces recorded live in Buenos Aires this past July.

Over the course of six tracks and 31 minutes, López, Irarrazabal and Quinteros work a creative parataxis in which strings and synthesizer occupy distinctive spheres. Both string players explore expanded sound palettes, but no matter how extended the techniques drawn on, the rasp or creak of bowhair on string, the snap of metal against fingers or wood and the physical thump and projection of pizzicato passages all serve to announce the quintessentially acoustic presence of double bass and cello. The sonic balance of these pieces tends to tilt toward the strings, but those moments when the synthesizer comes through are notable for introducing characteristically electronic colors into an otherwise predominantly acoustic weave of sound.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Jack ‘O The Clock – Repetitions of the Old City – I (2016; Bandcamp)


San Francisco Bay Area experimental rock / prog / folk outfit Jack ‘O The Clock returns for their first album of new, original material since 2013’s outstanding All My Friends. Those familiar with that album will find plenty to like here as well. As the title would suggest, Repetitions of the Old City – I is indeed the first part of two albums. Leader Damon Waitkus describes the band as having recorded “the basic tracks to an hour and a half of music two years ago” and that it is “not a double album per se, just two parts of one body of work.”

The band remains a five piece, with Waitkus on vocals, guitars, hammer dulcimers, among several other instruments, Emily Packard on violins, Kate McLoughlin on bassoon, vocals, and flute, Jason Hoopes on basses, vocals, and zither, and Jordan Glenn drums, percussion, marimba, vibraphone. Guest musicians include Fred Frith of Henry Cow and Art Bears fame. His inclusion is appropriate given that Jack ‘O The Clock has often been compared to these Rock In Opposition pioneers.

But the music is a departure – not for the group, but from any other context the listener might bring to the table. Through 10 years of recordings, Jack ‘O The Clock is now established as a category unto themselves. The music often takes the form of complex, contrapuntal pieces with beautiful interplay between the hammer dulcimer, bassoon, violin, and guitar. The intertwined themes build and meander, but maintain a solid grounding that never quite extends into the pure avant-garde. On top of this are Waitkus’s poignant vocals, adding to the melancholic atmosphere.

Listening to Jack ‘O The Clock invokes a twisted view of America post World War II – or perhaps projects that view to the rural blight of today. Lyrically, the group does not make a statement in particular. They offer no positions, polemics, nor solutions. Instead, their songs explore dark slices of life, unusual and disturbing happenings involving people both ordinary and strange. This unassuming and non-pretentious approach is a welcome contrast to today’s screaming-head social commentators.

One could try to categorize Jack ‘O The Clock as modern progressive rock. With the aftermentioned Henry Cow and Art Bears influences (and throw in some Gentle Giant for good measure), this would be an apt parallel. But whereas prog has turned into a sound of its own, Jack ‘O The Clock moves forward without overt regard for categorization or genre.

Another excellent release from this group.

Jack O’ The Clock Reviews:
AMN Reviews: Jack ‘O The Clock – Outsider Songs (2015; Bandcamp)
AMN Reviews: Jack ‘O The Clock – Night Loops (2014)
AMN Reviews: Jack ‘O The Clock – All My Friends

Interview with Damon Waitkus:
AMN Interviews: Damon Waitkus (Jack ‘O The Clock)

AMN Reviews: John Eckhardt – Forresta [Depth of Field Music]

tumblr_lxabqahvmm1r9wbh4o1_r1_1280With Forresta, German bassist John Eckhardt temporarily puts aside the double bass for an excursion into soundscapes generated by electric bass guitar and accompanying live electronics.

This new release represents a significant departure from Eckhardt’s Xylobiont, an excellent piece dedicated to exploring extended techniques and sound production for solo acoustic double bass. Where Xylobiont consists in an organic, directly tactile testing of the sonic limits of an unamplified instrument, Forresta turns instead to the sounds of an electric instrument once removed and enhanced through the creative use of loops and pedals.

Although rooted in the bass guitar, the tracks on Forresta more often than not obscure the instrument’s fingerprints. Lower frequencies predominate—sometimes as a throbbing presence, sometimes as a heavily reverberant rumble–but higher-pitched sounds, like the chords floating over the ground of Subflora, the release’s longest and most developed track, appear as well. Throughout Eckhardt’s concern is not just with sound but with architecture; the fitting together of figures and motifs with strategically-placed silences, bursts of abstract sound or rhythmic ligaments shows a facility for creating coherent forms out of disparate parts.

Not only does Forresta highlight Eckhardt’s musical sensibility, but its issuance as an edition of one hundred LPs, each individual unit of which has its own unique cover, allows Eckhardt to demonstrate his visual sensibility as a close-in photographer of forest flora.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio – Desire and Freedom (2016; Not Two)


Free jazz in this decade is an embarrassment of riches – more releases coming out than any single individual can listen to, and many of them quite sublime. But if one were to focus in on canonical free jazz of the modern era, Rodrigo Amado would be at the top of the queue. Just off a series of collaborations with Peter Evans among others, Amado’s Motion Trio returns for an effort featuring just themselves.

In addition to Amado on sax, Miguel Mira handles the cello, and Gabriel Ferrandini the drums. Desire and Freedom, consisting of three long tracks, has a refined live-in-the-studio feel. Amado is the driving force, pushing his compatriots with constantly evolving themes. While brash and loud, sounding unconventional notes from time to time, he is never harsh. Ferrandini is a wonderfully busy percussionist, playing the whole set with vigor as a lead instrument rather than as a rhythm endeavor. Mira similarly eschews convention, moving rapidly up and down his fretboard with ease as well as using the occasional bowing.

The album explores dualities – the yin and yang of idea and expression, and of liberty and responsibility (as two of the tracks are aptly titled). But a third set of poles is defined by this trio’s nod to the jazz tradition while forging a new path. The road they blaze is not one of irreverence for the past, but an intrepid exploration into what can be.

Desire and Freedom captures a sense of urgency, but also a gentleness and beauty. Amado, Mira, and Ferrandini can fill a room with more musical information most outfits of a larger size. Bravo.

More Rodrigo Amado reviews:
AMN Reviews: Three From Rodrigo Amado

AMN Reviews: TOC & The Compulsive Brass – Air Bump (2016; Circum-Disc)


TOC is Jérémie Ternoy on Fender Rhodes, Ivann Cruz on guitar, and Peter Orins on drums. They describe themselves as “free hypnotic pop punk, post-rock, jazz-core.” Here, they team with four brass players to form a septet that claims to be influenced by New Orleans jazz, but instead provide their own outside take on that genre.

Over four tracks, the group moves from slow drones with extended techniques, to pulsing uptempo explosions and wailing melodic motifs over driving rhythms. The horns sweep in and out making punctuated statements in interlocking patterns with the guitar. But for the most part, Air Bump is a set of loosely-organized improvisations. All of this leads to a blow-out at the end of the last track that puts an exclamation point on the recording.

Angular and free in every sense of the word, TOC & The Compulsive Brass provide a unique, unfamiliar, and welcome take on modern jazz. Highly recommended.