New on Important Records

A few new releases from Important Records:

Vice Versa, etc….

1970 was an important year in Eliane Radigue‘s musical life since it was the year just before she acquired her ARP 2500 synthesizer. Since 1967, she had been using the feedback as a material; feedback from two tape recorders reworked through intensive studio techniques: slowing down, alteration, superimposition, montage. (more)


Includes liner notes & archival photographs. On the suggestion of Robert Ashley, Douglas Dunn commissioned this piece from Eliane Radigue for choreography. Only the first part of Triptych was staged at the premiere at the Dancehall/Theatre of Nancy on February 27 1978. (more)

13 Japanese Birds Vol. 8

Merzbow Bird series volume 8 (more)

Conference Live

Conference Live was recorded on 24 track remote audio and pressed at RTI in order to achieve the highest possible quality. Die cut super heavy duty tip-on style jackets by Stoughton.
On this night Om performed their seminal album Conference of the Birds live in its entirety. Newly invoked energy resonates in the sound of the band. (more)

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Robert Ashley on blending opera and TV

…and weird music. From Times Online:

When he comes to the ICA in London for the UK premiere of his opera Foreign Experiences next month, he will be overseeing a stage production: “I have to perform the pieces on stage in order to get them performed at all,” he says. It will also be slimmed down from the original seven-voice version of 1994 to an opera for two voices — that of his son Sam Ashley and another member of what he terms his “band”, Jacqueline Humbert. To mark the occasion, the ICA will also screen Perfect Lives. It’s 25 years since its first TV success, yet Ashley is farther than ever from realising his dream of opera for television. But, even at 79, he’s patient. He’s even writing an opera-cum-novel called Quicksand. “I still believe it will happen,” he says.

Ashley was raised in unlikely avant-garde soil in the Midwest; his father was a postal worker, his mother laboured in a factory. As a boy he listened to jazz and popular music. While that might seem strange, given his tastes, he says he has no interest in the European opera tradition. He likens today’s opera houses to museums, forever visiting centuries past. He also believes that the English language struggles to rise above the full-bodied strains of traditional opera, so he draws on Minimalism to create more restrained sounds that allow his singers — and himself, as he generally performs in his own operas — to communicate their rather mesmerising incantations. Perfect Lives is typical: the sets are simple, a few props and TV screens, and performers sing lines directly to camera like TV announcers.

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Bagatellen Reviews

From Bagatellen:

Two from Low Impedance (Merzbow Veliotis/Grivas)

Nikos Veliotis & Anastasis Grivas – Vertical (loz 013)
Merzbow – Somei (loz 015)
By comparison to other indie labels dealing with open form music, Low Impedance is all about the map in its catalog, with no one release preceded or followed by anything that you’d call “similar”. I suppose the common denominator is a matter […]

“Blue” Gene Tyranny – The Somewhere Songs / The Invention Of Memory

A renowned partner in crime of Robert Ashley, Laurie Anderson, Iggy Pop, Carla Bley and then some, “Blue” Gene Tyranny is rarely highlighted as a composer. Perhaps this is due to the deceptively simple façade of a good portion of his music, which hides finesse and attention to detail behind a veil of apparent weightlessness, […]

Xabier Erkizia – Spam Detect (Hamaika)

It’s been far too long a wait for something new from Xabi Erkizia, a musician I intently followed some four to five years ago, around the time I’d been knocked sideways by his Antifrost disc, Entresol. What I’ve since found is that Erkizia is a busy, busy man, still heavily pursuing his own […]

Michael Jefry Stevens Trio – For Andrew

Though in the Sixties the flashier superimpositions and cells of pianist Cecil Taylor got a significant amount of press as the more significant future path of the instrument, there were certainly other approaches to rhythm, tonality and “swing” in free piano music at the time. The equilateral pull of piano, bass and […]

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Artist Profile

Plumbing the Exquisite Psychic Depths of Robert Ashley

Composer Ashley is profiled.

In the mid-’70s, Michigan-born composer Robert Ashley discovered a rare commodity in the art world: a niche. Lamenting that his homeland lacked the rich operatic tradition of Europe, he sought to invent a distinctly American art form, mixing dense sound environments and amorphous narration to create something he called “opera-for-television” (with the “television” part mostly referring to the works’ division into 30-minute “episodes”). He clearly wasn’t courting a mass-media audience, though: In early efforts like Music With Roots in the Aether and Perfect Lives, the black humor of the avant-garde is on full display, with chants about “geriatric love” and recipes for Pear Jello Salad flashing across the screen.

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