AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Guillaume Gargaud – 17 Compositions [New Focus Recordings]

Guillaume Gargaud’s seventeen compositions for steel-string, acoustic guitar are short—none is longer than a minute and three-quarters—linked pieces of an elegant simplicity. The simplicity is more in the concept than in the sound, which can be subtly complex; each piece involves self-imposed constraints that in effect attempt to convert some of Gargaud’s improvisational gestures into etudes centered on certain pitches and pitch relationships. And this is where the complexity comes in. For despite Gargaud’s focus on a paring down of material, the often-recurring pitch relationships that make up that material and that Gargaud introduces, elaborates, and plays variations on, are harmonically sophisticated and shot through with a dissonant tension that belies the rather quiet mood in which they’re presented. While each brief piece can stand alone as a kind of tone poem complete in itself, listening to the entire sequence is like seeing an object from many different perspectives which, taken together, give a picture of the essence of the thing.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Samo Salamon & Hasse Poulsen: String Dancers [s/r]; Samo Salamon & François Houle: Unobservable Mysteries [Afterday Audio]

Like many artists during the past year of isolation, Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon managed to stay creative and maintain musical collaborations through a combination of ingenuity and technology. He took the initiative of contacting about three dozen guitarists throughout Europe to record a series of virtual duets, which he’s been releasing in three volumes; in addition, he recorded two full albums of duets with one other musician on each—String Dancers with guitarist Hasse Pousen, and Unobservable Mysteries with clarinetist François Houle.

String Dancers is an album of improvisations and compositions for acoustic guitars. Each guitarist sent the other his own compositions, to which the second overlaid a part. The album is a pleasure to listen to: the compositions are intricate and fully developed, not merely simple chord progressions to solo over, and the interplay between Salamon and Poulsen is tight and exciting, even though this appears to have been their first time working together. It’s a pairing that one hopes will continue, especially once it’s possible for them to share a stage.

Unobservable Mysteries represents another successful first-time collaboration for Salamon. For this twelve-track, fully improvised project, Salamon and Houle evenly split the taking the lead. For six of the tracks Salamon recorded improvisations on acoustic guitar and sent the recordings to Houle to complete with his own contributions; for the other six, the process was reversed. The combination of clarinet (and on one track, flute) and acoustic guitar opens up a soundworld of contrasts—of range and timbre, and especially of the fundamental opposition of the wind instrument’s legato lines and the plucked instrument’s staccato voice. This latter contrast comes out particularly well on improvisations where the two weave rapid lines around each other. Unobservable Mysteries ventures more into experimental territory than String Dancers (though the latter’s track Mind Fuel explores extended techniques), though on the more conventional tracks Salamon’s playing provides a complex, atmospheric setting for Houle’s melodies, which can be pastoral, plaintive, or more abstractly refracted from brief motifs.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Donald McPherson and Tetuzi Akiyama – The Kitchen Tapes Vol. 1 (2018; God in the Music)

If one could synthesize the murmurations of the common starling into sonic form, the resulting product would invariably sound similar to the twin guitar duo of late-Aotearoa / New Zealand artist Donald McPherson and Japanese improviser Tetuzi Akiyama. Consisting of three parts culled from a 2010 live performance in Christchuch, The Kitchen Tapes Vol. 1 features some enjoyable Akiyama and McPherson riffing, with the duo crafting sonic landscapes that evoke a gamut of emotions, from splendor to pathos.

The opening segment, Part One is the longest piece on the tape, clocking in at just over 19 minutes. The side features much of what you’d expect from the pair: the playing is both prodding and prodigious, yet the listener is spared the cloying blows of virtuosity and one-upsmanship. Instead, McPherson and Akiyama weave in and out of each other’s playing and remain content in their explorations of bucolic motifs that taper off as soon as a new thematic turn reveals itself. At times the guitars are cinematic and even orchestral (5:04); at other points, the pair’s playing is evocative of flamenco (11:58). In all, Part One possesses enough whimsy and a number of (very) high points that assuage any moments in the performance that may feel awkward or too tentative for some listeners. 

Part Two opens the second side and is most likely to elicit the John Fahey comparisons. While understandable to a degree, they ultimately miss the point and serve only as inchoate shorthand for those unwilling to settle in and listen to the unique artistic voices, nuance, and timbres that belong to Akiyama and McPherson, both individually and as combined as a unit. At times, a bit tedious; however, the duo never sound lost and retain their ability to engross the listener throughout. The closer, Part Three, is both the shortest cut on the album and its strongest piece by a mile. Reminiscent of Indian raga, Nick Drake, and even Neu!, the piece is vibrant and captivating and like the best of dreams, ends far too soon…

While the sparsity and relatively restrained dynamics on The Kitchen Tapes Vol. 1 may make it a bit more demanding than the pair’s 2006 Vinegar & Rum, this listener would argue the peaks surpass and outweigh any troughs from the moment you hit play on the deck. What’s more, not only does this release help mark the arrival of new End of the Alphabet / Astral Spirits collaborative spin off-imprint, God in the Music, it marks almost one year since McPherson’s death. What better way to remember the guitarist than to enjoy his collaborative work with his friend and kindred spirit Tetuzi Akiyama. 

– J. Sebastien Ericsson Saheb

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Anla Courtis & Tetuzi Akiyama – Naranja Songs [Public Eyesore pe127]

This set of four improvised acoustic guitar duets, recorded in 2008 in Buenos Aires, brings together Argentina’s Anla (Alan) Courtis and Japan’s Tetuzi Akiyama. Known for their versatility and diversity of approaches to improvisation—Akiyama is often associated with the constrained gesturalism of onkyo, although he also works in the noisier fields of blues-based rock and industrial sound, while Courtis has among many other things played heavy psychedelia with the band Reynols—both guitarists here work with the more-or-less conventional sounds available to the unadorned acoustic steel-string guitar.

Even given the relatively Spartan instrumentation, Courtis and Akiyama manage to explore a rich variety of sonic and harmonic material. The recording opens introspectively, its initial dissonances played out along well-spaced, lingering tones and chords slowly unraveling in a wash of minor seconds. As the set progresses the music shifts in tone and texture, with pulsing drones and scraped strings giving way to a kind of industrial pastorale embodied in arpeggios implying an alternation of minor and major thirds. Courtis and Akiyama bring things to an end with tentatively plucked chromatic patterns in broken phrases, and a tamboura-like buzz.


All About Jazz Reviews

From All About Jazz:

30-Jun-09 Jerry Granelli V16
Vancouver ’08 (Songlines Recordings)
Reviewed by Matt Marshall

29-Jun-09 Masada Quintet Featuring Joe Lovano
Stolas: Book of Angels, Volume 12 (Tzadik)
Reviewed by Troy Collins

28-Jun-09 Andy Milne and Benoit Delbecq
Where is Pannonica? (Songlines Recordings)
Reviewed by Matt Marshall

28-Jun-09 Gerry Hemingway Quintet
Demon Chaser (Hatology)
Reviewed by Troy Collins

28-Jun-09 Tom Abbs & Frequency Response
Lost + Found (ESP Disk)
Reviewed by Glenn Astarita

28-Jun-09 Myra Melford
Myra Melford: Under The Water (Piano Solo and Duo), Continuation & My Fingers Will Be Your Tears
Reviewed by Kurt Gottschalk

28-Jun-09 Paul Motian
Paul Motian: Zen Brushstrokes
Reviewed by Tom Greenland

28-Jun-09 Nels Cline
Nels Cline: Acoustic Guitar Trio & Gauci/Cline/Filiano/Pride
Reviewed by Clifford Allen

26-Jun-09 Lucky 7’s
Pluto Junkyard (Clean Feed Records)
Reviewed by Troy Collins

26-Jun-09 Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
The Moment’s Energy (ECM Records)
Reviewed by John Kelman

26-Jun-09 Ami Yoshida / Toshimaru Nakamura
Soba to Bara (Erstwhile Records)
Reviewed by John Eyles

26-Jun-09 Scientific Map
Power to the Babies (Imaginary Chicago Records)
Reviewed by Matthew Warnock

25-Jun-09 Carl Maguire’s Floriculture
Sided Silver Solid (Firehouse 12 Records)
Reviewed by Nic Jones

25-Jun-09 Peter Evans
Nature/Culture (Psi)
Reviewed by John Eyles

24-Jun-09 Fred Anderson
Staying in the Game (Engine Studios)
Reviewed by Henry Smith

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AMN Picks General

AMN Picks of the Week

Iannis Xenakis
Image via Wikipedia

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. Don’t take the categories too seriously.

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut – 9 Months from Earth (2009, free jazz)
Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut – The World is Unsurvivable (2009, free jazz)
Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut – Everything is Happening at Once (2009, free jazz)
Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut – The American Refugee (2009, free jazz)
James Blackshaw – The Glass Bead Game (2009, acoustic guitar)
Whit Dickey Trio – Transonic (1998, free jazz)
Carl Maguire – Sided Silver Solid (2009, avant-jazz)
Nicholas Bernier / Simon Trottier (2009, experimental)
Iannis Xenakis – Complete String Quartets (2009, modern classical)
Iannis Xenakis – Complete Percussion Works (2007, modern classical)
John Hebert – Byzantine Monkey (2009, creative jazz)

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Musique Machine Reviews

From Musique Machine:

La Ira de Dios – Cosmos Kaos Destruction
La Ira de Dios are a Peruvian band with a penchant for some of the heaviest, most punked out space rock to come down the pike in recent memory. The band is known for their extended jams, but Cosmos Kaos Destruction changes direction, opting for a shorter, more concise tunes. I could lazily refer to their music as “stoner rock” because of some similarities to forebears from Hawkwind to early Monster Magnet, but that wouldn’t be giving the band their just due.

Brad Barr – The Fall Apartment: Instrumental Guitar
Brad Barr is best known as the guitarist and vocalist for the the Slip, who began as a jam band, and later transformed into an indie rock band. The Fall Apartment: Instrumental Guitar presents a different side of Barr to folks accustomed to his electric guitar riffing. The fact that this is on the highly esteemed Tompkins Square label gives you a hint that this is an acoustic guitar album, since that is what they deal in pretty much exclusively. And considering the breadth of different musicians on the label, there’s a consistence quality-wise which sits well above the bar.

Novi-Sad – Jailbirds
Jailbirds is the third album by Greek bourn sound artist and mood setter Thanasis Kaproulias & it that finds him offering up two lengthy- but utterly engrossing tracks that mix together field recordings, drone matter and emotional charged noise texturing.

Kylie Minoise – Live In Japan
Live in Japan finds a mixture of tracks that take in Kylie Minoise heady and creative live noise attack and quirky Japanese TV / field recordings cut-ups giving one the feeling of a noise tour travelogue really.

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Releases Reviews

DMG Newsletter March 27th, 2009

Der Saxophonist Joe McPhee beim Konzert mit de...
Image via Wikipedia

From DMG:

Henry Kaiser/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter go up in FLAMES Cline/Poole/McCauley Acoustic Guitar Trio Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone Corey Wilkes’ Abstrakt Pulse Charles Tolliver Big Band Zu Rob Mazurek Qnt Hanuman Sextet

Brotzmann/Hano Joe Mcphee 2CD set Secret Chiefs 3 DVD Kazutoki Umezu Tom Hamilton/Bruce Eisenbeil Gratkowski’s Zeitkratzer 3CD Box Charlie Kohlhase Garth Knox Arthur Russell’s Sleeping Bag sides

Our 2nd Free Instore show

Sunday, March 29th at 7pm:

Frank on alto sax & clarinets and Thomas on trumpet
Two European Horn Giants in a rare, intimate, duo setting

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Coming from Long Song Records

Nels Cline of WILCO with Norton Wisdom
Image by Kurt Christensen via Flickr

From Long Song Records:

Acoustic Guitar Trio – Vignes

VIGNES, unreleased live album by the Acoustic Guitar Trio, coming soon. The Acoustic Guitar Trio was a beautiful improvising trio. They were guitar masters Nels Cline, Jim McAuley and the late Rod Poole. Rod Poole, an unsung and sadly quite unknown guitar player suddenly died last year under tragic circumstances. Nels Cline said about Rod: “He was a true artist, probably a genius. He had an amazing capacity as both music fan and autodidact musician visionary”.

Nels and Jim Mc Auley want this live album to be a tribute to Rod and the fantastic music they played together. Jim McAuley says of “Vignes”: “surging drones, sparkling arpeggios and noisy prepared guitars. I feel it’s our best work”. The only recorded work by the AG3 so far is the self-titled and critically acclaimed cd released by the English label Incus in 2002.

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Bagatellen Reviews

Barre Phillips, 2008, moers festival
Image via Wikipedia

From Bagatellen:

phroq [x 2]

In his recent review of a Daniel Jones / David Papapostolou disc for Signal To Noise, Brian Marley refers to EAI as a “fading genre of improvised music.” It’s a curious quote, and for reasons that go beyond breakdowns of the troublesome necessity to assign labels. Statements such as this are faithful cause for […]

Joe Morris/Barre Phillips – Elm City Duets 2006 (Clean Feed)

This one is an incredible meeting between Joe Morris — here exclusively on acoustic guitar — and one of his musical heroes, contrabassist Barre Phillips. It had been a while since I’d heard anything from either musician, and this record is quite simply a beaut. It’s the kind of thing that actually restores my faith […]

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