RIP Mika Vainio

Mika Vainio (Pan Sonic) photos by Randy Yau

Source: The Quietus.

Experimental electronic music producer Mika Vainio has died aged 53. Vainio produced a vast collection of solo material under his own name as well as other guises, including most famously Ø. His work explored various aspects of techno, industrial music, noise and other experimental corners of electronic music. Through his career, he collaborated with the likes of Charlemagne Palestine, Fennesz, Merbow, Franck Vigroux and many more.

A Guide to Iran’s Electronic Underground 

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

The existence of any kind of underground or electronic music scene in Iran is a relatively recent development, arguably part of a quiet and generally slow shift in the country’s post-revolution identity. Those changes came to a head with the election of reformist and relative centrist Hassan Rouhani as President in 2013, which opened up a doorway for Iranian relations with foreign countries, all but shut off after decades of international sanctions.

The Islamic Republic that emerged from the 1979 revolution quickly quashed the country’s burgeoning pop and rock music scene, in favor of state-approved folk and classical styles. Iranian pop and rock musicians stayed all but silent throughout the 1980s, but years later, after the arrival of globalized digital media and swappable MP3s, government repression isn’t enough to stop a new generation of musicians creating digital noise, heavy techno, and textured ambience.

How Bang On A Can Rejuvenated New York’s Improvisational Spirit 

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

New York in the 1970s was a crazed, creative zone. Composer-improvisers like George E. Lewis shared venues with writers of fully-notated classical works, like Steve Reich, and post-punk experimenters like Rhys Chatham. But by the late ‘80s, the underground had atomized; the all-welcoming, genre-agnostic community had splintered into a collection of discrete camps. Classical minimalists, turntablists, and post-punk pioneers were still putting in work, but they rarely occupied the same stages. When conservatory grads Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, and David Lang first arrived in that late ‘80s New York scene, they found the lack of cohesion crushing in its sadness. They wanted to bring that not-so-old New York collaborative spirit back.

AMN Picks of the Week: Phurpa / Jazznoize / Trouble Kaze / Yarn/Wire / Brandon Seabrook / La Breiche

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.

Phurpa – Gyer Ro (2017)
Jazznoize – Obra Sintética (2017)
Trouble Kaze – June (2017)
Yarn/Wire – Currents Vol. 0 (2017)
Brandon Seabrook – Die Trommel Fatale (2017)
La Breiche – Le Mal Des Ardents (2017)

AMN Reviews: Ross Feller – “X/Winds” [Innova 911]

726708691127-front-cover “X/Winds” is the debut disc of composer Ross Feller. The disc contains eight pieces composed by Feller over the last twenty years. Ross Feller is both an accomplished composer and educator. Feller’s compositions have been performed throughout the USA and Europe. As an educator he has taught at the University of Illinois, Oberlin, Georgia State and is currently at Kenyon College in Ohio. Feller is also an accomplished saxophonist and improviser, you can find a recording of him and Roscoe Mitchell improvising together on Feller’s web site. As a composer Feller’s music comes out of the more eclectic aspects of modernism, improvisation, electroacoustics and his interest in contemporary philosophy. Chances are you haven’t heard the music of Ross Feller but you should!

The disc opens with “Triple Threat”, for three soloists and an ensemble of nine. This is a work that deals with opposition and multiplicities, with a form inspired by the fractured lines found in Deleuze and Guattari’s book “A Thousand Plateaus”. The violin, trumpet and clarinet soloists are pitted against the ensemble, with the soloists and various ensemble combinations competing for the listener’s attention. Within the ensemble itself a “classical” percussionist is pitted against a “jazz/rock” trap set player heightening the intensity. It is a highly engaging piece and a wonderful introduction to the music of Ross Feller.

Feller’s use of electroacoustic sound is somewhat unusual in that the sounds are most often used to reinforce or to frame the instruments they accompany instead of being the focal point of a work or an equal member of the ensemble. Instead Feller’s use of electroacoustic sound is a very subtle but very effective enhancement or augmentation of the acoustic instrument or instruments in play. Despite this way of working with electroacoustic sound, all three of the pieces that make use of electroacoustic sounds are very different from one another. “Still Adrift” is for piano and electroacoustic sound. This recording is from a performance by pianist Adam Tendler at Roulette. In this piece the piano part is augmented by a subtle fixed electroacoustic part that focuses on the resonance of the acoustic piano. The effect of the acoustic piano with this electroacoustic sound builds a kind of dreamy virtual space that heightens the natural color of the live acoustic piano as it drifts. In “Sfumato” for violin, bass clarinet and electroacoustic sound, the electroacoustic accompaniment lightly frames the textural and timbral content of the violin and bass clarinet as they explore a variety of textural and timbral contrasts. “Retracing” for violin and electroacoustic sound was originally composed to accompany a dancer but works extremely well as a concert piece and is beautifully performed by Dorothy Martirano. In this work the electroacoustic sounds generally reinforce the harmonic content of the violin but also adds some depth and space to the overall sound field. It is a wonderful piece!

“X/Winds” also contains two very different works for solo instruments. “Bypassing the Ogre” is for solo trumpet and performed by Peter Evans. The piece has a loose, almost improvisatory feel. It makes extensive use of extended techniques and its overall language is reminiscent of sound languages from trumpet innovators such as the AACM’s (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) Lester Bowie and Wadda Leo Smith. On the other hand “Glossolalia” for solo cello is somewhat in the “modernist” vein. Feller comments in the liner notes that he found his inspiration for this piece in the utterances of “ecstatic tongues”. The work is filled with sharp angular gestures, glissandi and various bowing techniques all while navigating rapid changes in dynamics and rhythm. It is given a very dramatic and colorful performance from cellist Franklin Cox.

The album includes two additional ensemble works. “Disjecta” which is the longest piece on this album, is for percussion quintet. “Disjecta” is a striking piece, full of contrasting moods and colors. The five independent parts collaborate and compete, fuse and separate, as they explore pathways of independent rhythmic trajectories that build out from silence. In addition to the wonderful performance from the Oberlin Percussion Group, the recording really captures the spatial placement of the various percussion instruments. The final piece is the title track “X/Winds” which is a work for symphonic wind ensemble with piano and percussion and is performed by the Oberlin Conservatory Wind Ensemble. It is a stunning piece filled with contrasting textures and dynamics that build into frenzy and then dissipate into quiet airy sounds.

Ross Feller’s work freely explores challenging ideas, resulting in original and engaging twenty first century music. Highly recommended!

For more information: Innova/Feller

Chris De Chiara