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: 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

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

Mulhouse Music Festival: August 21 -25

PROGRAMME FESTIVAL MÉTÉO 2018
LE PROGRAMME COMPLET EST EN LIGNE || FULL PROGRAM IS ONLINE

MARDI 21 AOÛT 2018
* PÜK (Vincent Posty, Cécile Thévenot, Benoit Kilian)
* KEITH TIPPETT SOLO
* DAVID MURRAY “INFINITY 4TET” feat. SAUL WILLIAMS (David Murray, Saul Williams, Jaribu Shahid, Orrin Evans, Nasheet Waits)

MERCREDI 22 AOÛT 2018
* PETER EVANS SOLO
* STREIFENJUNKO (Eivind Lønning, Espen Reinertsen)
* JEAN-PHILIPPE GROSS & AXEL DÖRNER
* MICHIYO YAGI SOLO
* AHMED (Pat Thomas, Joel Grip, Seymour Wright, Antonin Gerbal)
* NIMMERSATT feat. JON ROSE (Daan Vandewalle, Chris Cutler, John Greaves, Jon Rose)

JEUDI 23 AOÛT 2018
* PASCAL NIGGENKEMPER SOLO
* SOFIA JERNBERG & METTE RASMUSSEN
* NICOLE MITCHELL SOLO
* SYSTÈME FRICHE II “LE CHANT DES PISTES” (Xavier Charles, Jacques Di Donato, Félicie Bazelaire, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Benjamin Duboc, Isabelle Duthoit, eRikm, Franz Hautzinger, Simon Henocq, Soizic Lebrat, Bruno Maurice, Roméro Monteiro, Nicolas Nageotte, Alfred Spirli, Thierry Waziniack)
* MICHIYO YAGI & TONY BUCK
* SENYAWA (Rully Shabara, Wukir Suryadi)

VENDREDI 24 AOÛT 2018
* JON ROSE SOLO
* WOLFGANG MITTERER “GRAND JEU 2” (for organ and electronics)
* SPLITTER ORCHESTER & JEAN-LUC GUIONNET “VOLLBILD” (Jean-Luc Guionnet, Liz Allbee, Boris Baltschun, Burkhard Beins, Anthea Caddy, Axel Dörner, Kai Fagaschinski, Robin Hayward, Steve Heather, Anat Cohavi, Mario de Vega, Chris Heenan, Magda Mayas, Mike Majkowski, Matthias Müller, Andrea Neumann, Morten J. Olsen, Simon J. Phillips, Julia Reidy, Ignaz Schick, Michael Thieke, Clayton Thomas, Sabine Vogel, Biliana Voutchkova, Marta Zapparoli)
* CHARLES HAYWARD & TONY BUCK
* A PRIDE OF LIONS (Daunik Lazro, Joe McPhee, Guillaume Séguron, Joshua Abrams, Chad Taylor)
* SONS OF KEMET (Shabaka Hutchings, Theon Cross, Eddie Hick, Tom Skinner)

SAMEDI 25 AOÛT 2018
* ROBIN HAYWARD & JEAN-LUC GUIONNET
* GROUPE D’IMPROVISATION DU CONSERVATOIRE DE MULHOUSE (Samuel Colard, Célestine Asselin, Gauthier Legris, Alexandre Cahen, Laure Fischer, Théo Zimmermann)
* SPLITTER ORCHESTER (Liz Allbee, Boris Baltschun, Burkhard Beins, Anthea Caddy, Axel Dörner, Kai Fagaschinski, Robin Hayward, Steve Heather, Anat Cohavi, Mario de Vega, Chris Heenan, Magda Mayas, Mike Majkowski, Matthias Müller, Andrea Neumann, Morten J. Olsen, Simon J. Phillips, Julia Reidy, Ignaz Schick, Michael Thieke, Clayton Thomas, Sabine Vogel, Biliana Voutchkova, Marta Zapparoli)
* PETER EVANS ENSEMBLE (Peter Evans, Mazz Swift, Tom Blancarte, Sam Pluta, Jim Black)
* THIS IS NOT THIS HEAT (Charles Hayward, Charles Bullen, Frank Byng, Daniel O’Sullivan, Alex Ward, James Sedwards)

Découvrez le programme complet : WWW.FESTIVAL-METEO.FR

Check the full program : WWW.FESTIVAL-METEO.FR

AMN Reviews: Variable Geometry Orchestra – Quasar [Creative Sources cs358CD]

R-8376695-1460407266-4318.jpegThe Variable Geometry Orchestra is a large electroacoustic ensemble with a fluid, international membership spanning three generations. For this release, recorded in November 2015 at St. George’s Church in Lisbon, Portugal, the group was made up of forty-six members. The thirty-one minute performance was conducted by VGO leader Ernesto Rodrigues.

Maneuvering a heterogeneous ensemble of this size in a way that maintains cohesion, a sense of movement and textural variety without undue clutter is a significant challenge. Rodrigues succeeds on these counts—helped in no small part by the accomplished improvisers he conducts—and the result is an integrated performance that nevertheless is constantly in flux.

The theory behind the ensemble’s process seems to be to improvise an overall architecture by arranging complexes of sounds moving in relation to each other. In practice this means modulating the dynamics and density of the background to allow different instruments or instrumental combinations to shift to the foreground. One may, for example, hear reeds skittering over the top of quiet chords underscored by a rich foundation of low strings; pizzicato double basses and guitars outlining the upper and lower boundaries of the ensemble’s aggregate compass; or brass exclamations over a simmering and thickening bed of soft-edged timbres. The collective sound is always engaging, as this version of the VGO benefits from a very rich palette of sound colors and a wide range running from double bass—no less than five of them—to flute.

http://www.creativesourcesrec.com

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Powertrio – Di lontan [Clean Feed CF356CD / Shhpuma SHH018CD]

61+4-B7y6hL._SS280Incongruously, Powertrio, the Portuguese new music/improvisational ensemble of harpist Eduardo Roan, pianist Joana Sá and classical guitarist Luis Martins, take the generic name of rock music’s heaviest configuration. Incongruously because the sound of the group is the antithesis of the loud, often heavy-handed sonic assault of a typical rock power trio. In fact Roan, Sá and Martins, who formed Powertrio in 2007, create often delicate, shimmeringly beautiful surfaces of sound that put to best use the family resemblances of plucked, struck and strummed strings.

From the first track, À flor do mal, the bright timbres of guitar and harp lend a characteristic tone that will color much of the release through various reworkings and filterings. O nervo e a outra dança moves into more contrastive territory, with a carillon-like chiming sound underscoring the piece and playing off the creaking and scraping sounds that arise within its framework. The mood is largely pensive, marked by suspended time and the sometimes surprising dramatic development of rising and falling dynamics. Di lontan fa specchio il mare, an arrangement of a work by Portuguese composer/pianist Constança Capedeville (1937-1992), holds interlocking melodic cells in a now overt, now covert state of tension. This austerely lovely piece is deliberately paced, with each note seemingly weighed and pondered before being allowed to sound. The closing Divertimento lightens the atmosphere with brief and rapid bursts of notes—resembling at times a fractured flamenco—that suggest a dance of halting steps growing bolder and more percussively assured.

http://cleanfeed-records.com/

Daniel Barbiero