AMN Reviews: René Lussier “Quintette” [Circum-Disc Microcidi012]

Prolific and eclectic guitarist René Lussier’s credits include more than sixty film soundtracks and more than thirty albums.  Lussier’s music, while drawing from a variety of contemporary experimental musical ideas, has a unique sense of melody that is colored by the frequent use of folk like “clogging” motor rhythms that are injected with the power and energy of rock. In addition to his work in experimental music and free improvisation Lussier  has performed and recorded with several groups including Conventum, Les 4 Guitaristes de l’Apocalypso-Bar, Fred Frith’s Keep the Dog and The Fred Frith Guitar Quartet.

Lussier’s latest album “Quintette” finds him in the company of drummers Robbie Kuster and Marton Maderspach, Julie Houle – tuba/euphonium and accordionist Luzio Altobelli.  Lussier assembled this group at the end of 2016 and they have been rehearsing and performing ever since. His concept for this group was to create music where the written and the improvised live together allowing each performer a lot of freedom while preserving the character of the original composition. Lussier’s arrangements continually shift roles across the instruments as the music’s modules are overlaid on one another. The result is ten pieces of tuneful, energetic and imaginative music that is simultaneously precise, frantic and wild. “Quintette” is an album that I believe should turn up on many “Best of 2018” lists. Highly recommended!

Chris DeChiara

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AMN Reviews: Daniel Barbiero, Ken Moore, Dave Vosh – “transparent points on four axes”[pyr260]

Transparent-Points-on-Four-Axes-cover-768x768“transparent points on four axes” is a studio collaboration by Daniel Barbiero on double bass, sylosynth app and microbrute synthesizer. (Yes, AMN Readers this is the same Daniel Barbiero that frequently posts reviews here on AMN.) Ken Moore on STEIM Crackle Box, minimoog, emax sampler and various percussion. Dave Vosh on analogue modular synthesizer. It is a very interesting album that is bound to be the best free download you will get all year. It has been released on pan y rosas discos. A netlabel out of Chicago that focuses on experimental, noise, improvisation and weirdo rock.  It has a catalog of 260 releases all of which are free downloads.

The eight pieces on “transparent points on four axes” each began as a single layer of either a composed or improvised track to form a ground layer from which each of the participants then added additional layers. The use of this ground layer provides an underlying sense of direction as each piece’s dialog develops and unfolds. The pieces have a great deal of sonic and textural variety and the album is very well recorded and mixed. There are pieces that are driven by exceptional bass playing with lyrical use of bowed harmonics and the extreme upper register of the bass. Other pieces seem to be driven by more sensitive and nuanced percussion. The analog synth work is really interesting because it can at times give the pieces that retro analog early electronic music vibe, however I think that it really works on this album because it completely avoids the repetitive sequencer driven drivel that is currently being produced by so many contemporary musicians using analog and modular synths.

“transparent points on four axes” is a really interesting listen of solid contemporary experimental  music and it is free. So grab it and enjoy it!  And maybe poke around the rest of the releases on pan y rosas discos and explore some new sounds.

Highly recommended!

Chris De Chiara

 

AMN Reviews: John Zorn at The Art Institute of Chicago

iconsquare1382315287-116932-zorn1On September 9, 2018 the Art Institute of Chicago presented performances of musical works by composer John Zorn. Zorn’s unique body of work draws on jazz, rock, punk, metal, classical, klezmer, sacred, mystical, experimental, film, cartoon and improvised music. Zorn is a musical alchemist able to transform this diverse material into something completely new. The program featured six hours of live performances plus documentary screenings. This concert provided listeners a rare opportunity to hear a variety of Zorn’s work expertly performed by many of the musicians that have been part of his universe for decades. John Zorn was also in attendance. He very briefly introduced each of the pieces and the musicians. He also performed in two of the day’s events. For the explorers of John Zorn’s musical universe this was a concert they will remember forever. For new comers and the curious, they were able to sample a very small part of the work of one of the planet’s most prolific and diverse contemporary composers.

The performances were situated in galleries that contained many of the museum’s most iconic art works. This provided an ambiance that allowed the pieces to be a “response” to the art works in the gallery.  The day began with the American Brass Quartet greeting visitors as they performed “Pulcinella” on the Grand Staircase of the Art Institute. It was a wonderful performance that echoed through the museum, announcing the beginning of the day’s events. This was followed by an absolutely sublime performance of the “Gnostic Preludes” by the Gnostic Trio – Bill Frisell(guitar), Kenny Wollesen(vibraphone) and Carol Emanuel(harp).  Hearing this music so beautifully played in a gallery containing some of the greatest art works of the Impressionist era was pure magic.

At noon it was off to the Dali room to hear members of the JACK quartet – Chris Otto(violin) and Jay Campbell(cello) with Michael Nicolas(cello) in a spectacular virtuosic performance of “Freud”, an intense spiky piece of sharp and sudden contrasts. This was followed by a stunning cello duo performance of “Ouroboros” another of Zorn’s intense virtuoso string works. Following this dramatic intensity was a performance of “Frammenti del Sappho” in the Sculpture Court by the voices of Rachel Calloway, Kirsten Sollek, Sarah Brailey, Eliza Bagg, and Elizabeth Bates. This is an incredibly delicate and beautiful work. The visual setting for this performance was wonderful and the performers were outstanding, but the acoustics didn’t work for me. This is an incredibly powerful piece that when performed in a space with acoustics similar to a church or temple would just wash over you and realign your molecular structure.

Next it was off to the Warhol room for a performance of a jazz inspired work, “Naked Lunch” with Sae Hashimoto(vibraphone), Shanir Blumenkranz(bass) and Ches Smith(drums). It was a very tight, high energy performance. Absolutely wonderful! I heard many people comment that it was their favorite performance of the day. Then it was off to the Joseph Cornell gallery for a solid performance by Erik Friedlander and Michael Nicolas of a series of “Bagatelles” for two cellos. By this point the audience had more than doubled.

At 2:00 John Zorn(saxophone) and Kenny Wollesen(drums) performed an improvisation in response to Jackson Pollock. At this point the size of the audience had greatly exceeded the capacity of the gallery and many listeners including myself had to hear the performance from one of the adjoining galleries. Despite being one room over the duo sounded fantastic and the crowd absolutely loved it. I have to say the crowd absolutely loved everything that was performed at this event.  Next it was off to the Picasso Gallery to hear Julian Lage and Gyan Riley perform selections from the “Midsummer Moons”. This music is similar in some ways to the music written for the Gnostic trio in that it’s a very beautiful melodic music.  Again, the crowd absolutely exceeded the capacity of the gallery. I along with many others had to listen from one of the adjoining galleries. It was another sublime performance!

At this point there were still four more performances and the documentary screening. Given the growing crowd I made the difficult choice to skip the documentary, the American Brass Quartet performance of “Blue Stratagem”, Michael Nicholas’s performance of “as Above, So Below”, and Chris Otto and Michael Nicholas’s performance of “Zeitgehöft”. This allowed me to get to the gallery where “Hockey”, one of Zorn’s game pieces was to be performed. John Zorn’s game pieces are a series of works for improvisers in which rules and strategies are interactively enacted upon by the improvisers during the performance of the piece. For this performance Zorn said that he chose the “wet” version of “Hockey”.  John Zorn, Kenny Wollesen and Sae Hashimoto performed the piece on little percussion instruments built and or modified by Kenny Wollesen. It was a spectacular performance that took place in a small dark gallery of contemporary Asian art works.

The final performance of the day was in the Kandinsky Room. The JACK Quartet performed “The Unseen”. At this point the biggest crowds had dispersed but the Kandinsky room and its semi-adjoining gallery were filled to hear the days final piece.  “The Unseen” is a delicate string quartet filled with shimmering harmonics that rise up from out of the silence, eventually disappearing. It was a great to end the day. The crowd really showed their appreciation for the JACK’s, John Zorn, all of the musicians that performed during this event and to the Art Institute of Chicago for programming such a rare and incredible musical event.

For me this was one of the best musical events I have ever attended.

Chris De Chiara

AngelicA 28 Festival Internazionale di Musica

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The Angelica Festival is celebrating its 28th year with AngelicA 28 Festival Internazionale di Musica in Bologna, Modena (Italy)

May 3>5 + 9 + 13 + 16>19 + 24>27 2018

 

The festival lineup currently includes:
John King GUITORGANUM,
Eric Chenaux SLOWLY PARADISE,
Skadedyr CULTUREN ,
David Behrman HEADY STRING WINDS,
Giorgio Nottoli IL SOFFIO-IL BATTITO-L’ELETTRICO POLICROMO,
Alvin Curran A BANDA LARGA sinfonia di strada,
SETOLADIMAIALE UNIT & Evan Parker
Dharma, HIS HUBRIS, SA ,
TRIO Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin & John Butcher,
Gavin Bryars Italian Ensemble & Ensemble Korymbos STRINGS, GUITARS & VOICES,
Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna,
Piccolo Coro Angelico,
LIBERARE LA VOCE,
Mike Patton FORGOTTEN SONGS (Mike Patton, Uri Caine),
Anthony Braxton & Jacqueline Kerrod, …

For more information visit: AngelicA

AMN Reviews: Ensemble Resonanz, Elliott Sharp, Gareth Davis – “Oceanus Procellarum” [Cavity Search CSR101]

OP_CoverElliott Sharp has been a key figure in New York City’s experimental music scene for more than thirty years. He is a musician of incredible range with significant works spanning free improvisation, blues, jazz, electronic, noise, chamber, and orchestral music. Sharp’s work has been inspired by his deep interest in science and mathematics. He has developed a unique musical syntax that is informed by fractal geometry, chaos theory, algorithmic and biological processes. On “Oceanus Procellarum” Elliott Sharp teams up with Gareth Davis and the Ensemble Resonanz.

The Ensemble Resonanz is an unusual chamber orchestra based in Saint Pauli, Hamburg. The ensemble is democratically organized and makes its home at the resonanzraum – a concert space built inside of an old bunker. The resonanzraum is both unique and informal with more of a club atmosphere than that of the traditional concert hall.  The Ensemble Resonanz regularly performs monthly programs at the resonanzraum that aim to bridge the musical past with the present.

Gareth Davis is a clarinetist that primarily performs on the bass and contrabass clarinets. Like Sharp, he is a musician of incredible range and interests. Davis’s work spans the worlds of contemporary classical, to free improvisation, to rock, noise and electronica. Davis has a wonderful sound and incredible technical command of the bass clarinet. He has premiered works by Jonathan Harvey, Bernhard Lang, Peter Ablinger and Toshio Hosokawa. Davis has performed and collaborated with JACK Quartet, monster cellist Frances Marie Uitti, Merzbow and Christian Marclay.

Elliott Sharp’s “Oceanus Procellarum” is a work filled with propulsive development that is rich in rhythmic and timbral complexity. “Oceanus Procellarum” was recorded live at its UK premiere during the 2016 Huddersfield Festival. This performance was beautifully recorded and has a sound that is much larger than the chamber ensemble of twelve strings plus the two soloists. “Oceanus Procellarum” which translates to Ocean of Storms is a thirty-eight minute through composed piece in five sections with each section consisting of multiple episodes.  Sharp constructed the piece to be a kind of intersection between two moving fronts somewhat like a concerto in that it pits the two soloists – Elliott Sharp on electro-acoustic guitar and Gareth Davis on bass clarinet against the strings of the Ensemble Resonanz. The piece creates a sound world where textures build, form and transform in a kind of attraction and repulsion as the two moving fronts move into and out from each other. The composition has a raw intensity with many dramatic shifts where events can suddenly move from very intense large sound bodies to moments of reflection only to suddenly be challenged by the arrival of another moving front.

Since improvisation is at the heart of Elliott Sharp’s work it is likely that some elements of improvisation or performer choice are part of this score and this enables the soloists – Sharp and Davis, who are outstanding, to create an atmosphere of spontaneity throughout the performance. The strings are called upon to use many extended techniques including “alternate bows” constructed from various metal springs and wooden sticks. Despite what must be a challenging score to perform, the Ensemble Resonanz really brings this music to life. The timbral range produced by the entire ensemble and soloists is stunning. They effortlessly move from chaotic clouds to throbbing masses of growing clusters to ethereal almost ambient reflections to sparkling and brassy counterpoint to intense primal rhythmic unisons and eventually they end in a bed of very soft bowed white noise.

“Oceanus Procellarum” is an exciting listen. Old hands will really enjoy it and newcomers will find it a great place to start as it is absolutely one of Elliott Sharp’s best chamber works.  Highly Recommended!

Chris De Chiara

AMN Reviews: Todd Dockstader – From the Archives [ Starkland ST226 ]

Dockstader_Booklet_ Printer Spreads.inddThe world was reintroduced to outsider electronic music composer Todd Dockstader in the 1990’s when Starkland reissued most of his work from the early 1960’s on two CD’s. The Starkland discs were met with widespread critical acclaim. Stunned by this newfound interest and acclaim for his work Dockstader returned to composing. In 2002 Recommended Records reissued additional work from the 1960’s on CD. Dockstader then teamed up with David Lee Meyers (AKA Arcane Device and Pulsewidth) releasing two CD’s on Recommended Records in 2004 and 2005. During 2005 -2006 Sub Rosa released a three CD set from Dockstader entitled “Aerial”. Many believed that this was to be his final work. Todd Dockstader passed away peacefully on February 27, 2015 surrounded by his friends and family while listening to his own music.

“From the Archives” is a posthumous release of new work by electronic music composer Todd Dockstader. When Dockstader passed away in 2015 he left behind a computer full of new work totaling more than one hundred fifty hours. Daughter Tina Dockstader Kinard enlisted enthusiast Justin Brierly to go through the material and select fifty pieces to send to Thomas Steenland at Starkland. Steenland selected fifteen pieces for this outstanding new release.

The compositions on “From the Archive” were composed during 2005 – 2008. They demonstrate Dockstaders growing comfort with the computer and his original imaginative style firmly finding its way into the digital sphere. The pieces cover a wide range of sonic texture and are generally less ethereal and atmospheric then “Aerial” which was Dockstader’s last release during his lifetime. What set Dockstader’s compositions apart from many of his contemporaries is that his work is focused on highly imaginative constructions of organized sound as opposed to the use of sampled sound collage or synthetic extensions of the traditional composition world of “do re me” that continues to dominate electronic music. Dockstader’s compositions had a kind of cinematic drama in their construction and this continues to be the case with the pieces on this new volume – “From the Archive”. In this new work we are treated to a subterranean prelude of ringing filters in “Basement Passage”. The sounds of a choir of ghosts singing and wailing in whispered tones on “Whispered Smooth”. Contrasting cinematic edits between real and imagined sounds in “Todt 1”. “Anat Loop” is a subtle construction of glitch and loops. Then there is the noisy, rhythmic, almost industrial sonic assault of “Big Jig” and so much more.

Todd Dockstader’s “From the Archives” is one of the best releases of 2016. It provides us with an hour of new music from one of the masters of sound art. “From the Archives” will make long time Dockstader listeners extremely happy and will hopefully bring his incredible work to many new listeners. Thanks to the efforts of Tina Dockstader Kinard, Justin Brierley and Thomas Steenland we have the chance to hear this new work and to enjoy it for many years to come.

Highly recommended!

For more information – http://www.starkland.com/st226/index.htm

Chris De Chiara

AMN Reviews: Nate Wooley – Argonautica [ Firehouse 12 Records FH12-04-01-023 ]

 

Trumpeter, composer, and improviser Nate Wooley has performed regularly as a sideman with many of the leading musicians on the New York new music scene including icons such as Anthony Braxton and John Zorn. He has also collaborated with many of the brightest of his generation such as Chris Corsano, C. Spencer Yeh, Peter Evans, and Mary Halvorson. Embracing noise and drone aesthetics, Wooley’s unique approach to the trumpet is a combination of standard techniques, vocalization, extreme extended techniques and amplification. But Nate Wooley is not just another iconoclast; he is a curator, a writer, an editor and an explorer of all things sonic and musical. Check out his online quarterly journal Sound American  or his Database of Recorded American Music .

Argonautica is an ambitious work that takes its name from the ancient Greek epic poem which depicts the adventure of Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece. The piece is in three parts with an introduction and scored for three pairs of instruments – trumpets, pianos and drums. This allows for various duos and trios to work together or separately as they explore the material. Wooley conceived the piece as a tribute to his mentor Ron Miles whom performs on this recording. Argonuatica opens with a “solo” from the trumpets. Here Wooley and Miles demonstrate their individual approaches to the instrument with Miles’s lyrical cornet to Wooley’s rougher more extended trumpet voice. This seeming opposition remains with all of the pairs of instruments – the acoustic piano of Cory Smythe paired with the Fender-Rhodes and electronics of Jozef Dumoulin and the free jazz drumming of Devin Gray with the more spirited precision of Rudy Royston. The pairs move from contrast to opposition to complement as the material is explored. There are written or scored elements that are precisely performed, followed by more open sections used by the performers to develop the material as they navigate to the next scored element giving this forty three minute piece a very organic feel. There is a continuous build up from sparse to dense, from slower to faster as various duos and trios emerge until the piece ends in a shattering climax.

Wooley cites the oblique influence of things like ambient tape music, dodecaphony, jazz-rock and the minimalist rock of Terry Riley.  With Argonautica he raises the question “… is this what jazz-rock can be in the twenty-first century?” However, do not take this to mean that Argonautica is “fusion” or sounds like any of these influences. To quote Wooley: “It’s easy sometimes to confuse being inspired by something with adhering to its principles.”

Argonautica is a solid piece of contemporary creative music performed by exceptional musicians. It is beautifully recorded and mixed. In addition to the MP3 and CD versions there is also a high-resolution audio mix available (would love to hear that). If you are not already a Nate Wooley fan then this recording is very likely to make you one.

Highly Recommended!

For more information: http://firehouse12records.com

Chris De Chiara