AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Jeff Surak: naming the trees [Zeromoon]; Beau Finley: Processing [11] [Bandcamp]; TL0741: Refractory [HC3 Music HC3TL0CD6]

For a good number of years—good in both senses of the word—the Sonic Circuits organization, through its annual experimental music festival and monthly concert series, helped nurture the DC area’s experimental and electronic music communities. Sonic Circuits may have ceased operations in 2018, but the music underground here continues to maintain an active presence. Three new releases bring us up to date on the work of a troika of the scene’s veteran artists.

Jeff Surak was the curator behind Sonic Circuits; he’s also a sound artist with an eclectic and extensive catalogue of work. On naming the trees, release as both a digital download and a limited edition cassette, he pursues the not-terribly-gentle art of noise in two ten-minute-long slabs. In his live performances as well as on record, Surak tends to favor brutalist strata of raw sound, and there’s much of that to be had here. On left hanging he deftly layers the abrasive sounds of prepared autoharp and the clicks, scratches, and pops of prepared turntable against a background of electronic washes and bell-like drones; on the title track he crafts a tension-filled, dark ambient atmosphere out of throbbing synthesizer tones. Bracing, uneasy listening.

Contrasting with the predominantly harsh sounds of naming the trees is guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Beau Finley’s Processing [11]. Although some of his live performances have involved walls of densely abstract, electronic sounds, Finley’s specialty is euphonic, tonally centered ambient music with well-defined melodic content. Processing [11] is the eleventh installment of a year-long project in which he set out to create 365 minutes of music in twelve monthly sections, with each section having the same number of minutes as days in its month. Starting with the key of C in January, he moved through the circle of fifths at the rate of one key per month. Processing [11] brings him up to November, and if it’s November, it must be B flat. After a very brief prelude outlining the key, the music moves into a hymn-like passage whose chords float slowly over a rich bassline before dissolving into an upbeat, quasi-Baroque chord cycle complete with synthesized arpeggios and counterpoint. And that’s only on the first piece; the remaining four weave together drones, upper chord extensions, unconventional cadences, and off-center sequencing into a suite of music that is really quite beautiful and affecting.

Refractory is the new release from TL0741, the solo synthesizer project of Patrick Gillis. In addition to being a performing artist, Gillis was a key, if largely behind the scenes, part of the Sonic Circuits organization. Refractory follows 2014’s Circulation and is worth the five-year wait. The basic tracks were laid down at live performances in DC-area venues between 2014 and 2017 and subsequently altered, amended and added to in the studio. A colorist with a particularly keen ear for juxtaposition, Gillis draws from a rich palette of timbres recalling the vocabulary of classic electronic and tape music, which he twists and creatively distorts into something uniquely his own. Gillis’ is music that naturally lends itself to synesthesia–a soundtrack for a strangely appealing dream world full of flashing lights of unknown provenance and enigmatic metallic objects receding over the horizon.

Daniel Barbiero


Megasound Releases and Tours

Megasound is a new Italian label soon to launch. They have two recent releases, both highly recommend. A USA tour may follow this summer.

Neo is an italian Jazz-punk-blues trio and have released Water Resistance.

Tribraco is a jazz-rock quartet, with a first album “Cracking the Whip.” In August 2009 they had a tour in Sardinia, were they played with Roscoe Mitchell (The Trio) from Art Ensemble of Chicago, at the Sant’Anna Arresi Jazz Festival “Ai confini tra Sardegna e Jazz 009”.

With both of the bands we are organizing a tour all over the USA on summer 2010, 7.500 mi, more than 20 cities, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., New Orleans.

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Off the Grid at Sonic Circuits

From Sonic Circuits:

A Clamorous Exhibition of Acoustic and Battery Operated Brouhaha!

Featuring performances by:

Neil Feather
Mike Tamburo
Avocado Happy Hour
Layne Garrett
Ize B. Pickin

Saturday, August 29th

Doors at 6:30, Music at 7:00 SHARP
$8 gets you in the door!

All Ages Show

Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center
8320 Georgia Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Off the Grid is the first of hopefully many Sonic Circuits related events that will showcase various local talents creating unusual and exciting music with only acoustic and battery operated instruments. Participants aren’t allowed to use any equipment that requires being plugged into a wall socket but creativity and ingenuity are encouraged.

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New on Aum Fidelity

A new release from the combination of Morris, Cancura, and Gray is available.

Joe Morris: bass
Petr Cancura: tenor and alto saxophone
Luther Gray: drums

Wildlife is the debut recording of a new group concept from Jazz Master nonpareil Joe Morris. Within this trio anything is possible. Joe Morris is here featured on bass. Petr Cancura, a remarkably gifted young musician (featured here on tenor and alto sax, and as recording engineer!), is a Czech Republic native who now resides in Brooklyn (by way of Ottawa, then Boston). Petr’s name was new to us at AUM Fidelity when Joe first spoke of his great musical gifts, which are on gorgeous display here. Drummer Luther Gray developed from kicking it in punk rock bands in Washington DC in the late 80s to being a jazz drummer of great finesse and technique in the modern day. He has been working with Joe Morris since 2002.

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Bill Horist, Jakob Riis, JP Jenkins in Portland

From Portland Eye and Ear Control:

Portland New Music Society presents:
Sunday, June 21st
@ Enterbeing (ne 16th and Alberta)
$5 donations

Bill Horist-(Seattle)-unique prepared guitar improvisation
Jakob Riis-(Denmark)-laptop and electronics.
JP Jenkins – (Portland)-guitar & electronics

Bill Horist
(b. 1971, Washington DC, US)
Since arriving in Seattle in the mid- nineties, Bill has established himself as a highly regarded performer, composer and improviser. He has appeared on over 50 releases and has performed hundreds of concert around the world. In addition to his solo endeavors and work with bands Master Musicians of Bukkake, the Paul Rucker Ensemble and Ghidra to name a few, he has collaborated with a wide range of artists including John Zorn, Secret Chiefs 3, Ruins, Bill Frisell, KK Null, Vidushi Sumitra Guha, Kinski and Aiko Shimada among many others.
Jakob Riis
(b.1964, Vejle, Denmark)
Composer, electronic musician, improviser. Active in the experimental fields of electronic music, soundart, improvisation and contemporary composition. Former trombonist, now focusing on electronic music, laptop pioneer on the danish experimental scene. Today Jakob Riis is primarily making electronic, noise and electroacoustic music, often making solo laptop prefomances, improvising within open structures. As a composer he has composed music for bigband, chamber ensembles as well as electronic and electro acoustic music, for ensembles like Copenhagen Art Ensemble, The Orchestra and The Ghettoblaster Ensemble. As an improviser he is playing with people like Axel Dörner, Jassem Hindi, Philipp Wachsmann, Peter Ole Jørgensen, Mats Gustafsson, Pål Nilssen-Love, Lotte Anker a.o. Studied trombone at the Rhythmic Conservatory (RMC) in Copenhagen, where he graduated in 1990. In 97-99 he studied composition with Bob Brookmeyer at RMC.

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The Un-Australian String Quartet featuring Jon Rose

From Experimental Melbourne, coming this Sunday to the Horse Bazaar.

On stage for the first (and perhaps last) time are The Un-Australian String Quartet. featuring:

Jon Rose – violin, tenor violin
Erkki Veltheim – violin, viola
James Rushford – viola
Anthea Caddy – violoncello

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Sonic Circuits Festival, September 22-27, 2009 in Washington, DC

This year’s Sonic Circuits Festival has a doozy of a lineup.

Andrew W.K.+Chris Grier+Ulrich Krieger
Elliot Sharp
Annea Lockwood & Tom Buckner
Marvin Aryes
Nine Strings + Pilesar
21st Century Ensemble
This Bag is not a Toy
Even Parker & Ned Rothenberg
David Daniell
Bicameral Mind
Janel & Anthony
Pekka Airaksinen
Luigi Archetti
ayyoko confidential
Jeff Carey
Tim Hecker
Gunter Hampel
Fckn Bstrds
Soft Pieces
Olivia Block+Tomas Korber
Never Work
Alexei Borisov & Anton Nikilla
Blue Sausage Infant
Dead Violets
Dr. Bibber
Second Land
Sean Peoples

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Upcoming Shows at Pyramid Atlantic

From DC’s Sonic Circuits:

Sunday April 19
Doors 630pm Music 7pm SHARP

8230 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring MD 20910
located three blocks south of the silver spring metro station (red line)
Free parking in gated lot out front

Chuck Bettis, Mikey IQ Jones, and Derek Morton are mad jugglers of oddly-shaped musical eggs. Processed banjo, shamanistic chants, and fried electronics set up against lattices of stuttered beatboxing and found-object percussion to confound and delight.

Chuck Bettis and Derek Morton met each other in Washington DC, crossing paths as part of that citys burgeoning experimental music community. Upon relocating to New York City, the two began collaborating as a duo before IQ Jones joined them in early 2007. IQs alarm clocks, duck calls, and array of unlikely sound devices provide a lively counterpoint to Bettis machine noise and Mortons chaotic circuits.

In the 90s, Chuck Bettis shook up Washington DC with no-wavers the Metamatics, his solo electronics moniker Trance and the Arcade, and the genre-traversing collective All Scars before relocating to NYC in 2002. He has since collaborated with revered downtown improvisers John Zorn, Fred Frith, and Ikue Mori (amongst others), and has recorded with such groups as Nautical Almanac, Yellow Swans, and Measles Mumps Rubella.

NYC-based vocalist/percussionist/one-man bomb squad Mikey IQ Jones has presented frankensteined collusions of performance art theatrics, mutant soul harmonies, beatbox & extended vocal technique, kitchen-sink live sampling aesthetics, and onomatopoeic wordplay in solo performances since 2003. His otherworldly rhythms, created exclusively with the sounds of IQs voice and a small handful of household objects, have captivated crowds and crossed genre-lines, resulting in performances from CBGBs and the downtown improv school to uptown hip-hop block parties and choreography collaboration.

Derek Morton has generated and manipulated sound since the early 1990s. From his days as a rock guitarist and record label owner to more recent forays into performance curating and gallery installation, he has relentlessly investigated the possibilities of audio in all contexts. He is equally interested in live improvisation, studio research, exploratory composition, and electronic reconfiguration. Mortons sound experiments have attacked everything from cutting-edge technologies like surround-sound to reinvented tools like handheld video game consoles and controllers. His work with violinist John Coursey in the duo Mikroknytes has resulted in numerous performances around the U.S. as well as four full-length CDs.

U.S. Girls
If the alluring moniker used by Megan Remy conjures images of volleyball teams or cheerleading squads, forget it. Not that there’s any doubt that Remy–sorry, U.S. Girls–couldn’t rise and conquer either challenge.
Like fellow DIY ingenues Sally Strobelight and Inca Ore, U.S. Girls’ approach is deceptively ethereal and delightfully haunting; lithe, lysergic gamma rays of keyboard murk beamed over percussive bonk sort of resemble Diamanda Galas reinterpreting Suicide’s Red Star. And dig that cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Prove It All Night,” done in such an effortless, barbital lush you’d swear the air was filled with mescaline. Guess what? It’s not.

A kind of warped antidote to most of the over-earnest indie rock that tends to dominate the airwaves, Pilesar is disposable, playful, intermittently brilliant nonsense, conjured on a four-track using a bunch of cheap instruments. He kicks your butt and you enjoy it in the process.

Corpus Callosum
Corpus Callosum is Doug S. (amplified cello & effects) and Scott N. (arp analogy synthesizer, roland 808-ex, and effects/loops). Together we focus on a mix of melodic and atonal drones. The music is inspired by musicians who have explored the impact of frequencies on the conscious and unconscious mind as well as feelings of despair triggered by empathy for those who suffer day in and day out often as a result of third world exploitation.

April 22
A very Special Evening with Professor Eugene Chadborne
8pm $8

April 23
MEM1, Area C, Fast Forty
8pm $7

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100 Tape Loops in Rock Creek Park

News of this DC event comes from Black Plastic Bag:

This Sunday (4/5) in Rock Creek Park, D.C., there is a very interesting event going on.

Organized by D.C. musician Layne Garrett (who will also be appearing at the Avant Fairfax Festival, 4/25), there will be a gathering of (hopefully) 100 people with boomboxes set up in various locations in/at a particular section of Rock Creek Park.

Each person will have a 30 sec tape loop playing something that they recorded. At 4 PM, all the tape players will be activated and will hopefully result in an interesting sound collage.

In some ways, this in similar in spirit to certain aspects of Karheinz Srockhausen’s work.

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Sonic Circuits April 4 Free-Improv Show

From DC’s Sonic Circuits:

Saturday April 4, 2009
doors: 8:00pm
music: 8:30pm SHARP

8230 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring MD 20910
located three blocks south of the silver spring metro station (red line)
Free parking in gated lot out front

Michael Thomas Jackson has been creating and recording music since 1985. He has been involved in fully notated composition, free improvisation, avant rock, concrete and electronic music, performance art and everything in between. He has worked with tape, found objects, analogue synthesizers, prepared guitars, various percussion, all manner of sound processing, electronic feedback systems, turntables, voice and extended techniques on the clarinet. Michael has played as, in, or with many fine projects and people including Eugene Chadbourne, Rompecabeza, Spool Ensemble, Viktimized Karcass, Alien Planetscapes, Choptsicks, Cobra Clutch, Cephalic Index, The George Steeltoe Ensemble, Brian Osborne, Chris Phinney, Martin Klapper, Rafael Flores, Isolation, Flutter, Jerry’s Finger, Truncheonette, Projexorcism, Skoweyajeed, Katsu Itakura, Carl Howard, Bruce Eisenbeil, Quien Es, Thomas Dimuzio, Dave Fox, David Prescott, Pat Lawrence, Ian Davis, Scotty Irving, New Loft, Zan Hoffman, Hal McGee and O.N.E. Michael is currently active performing, recording and releasing music through the Primecuts Recordings imprint, raising a daughter and being poor.

Layne Garrett, is a member of The Cutest Puppy in the World, proprietor of The Lighthouse, and master improviser, guitar picker, and musical carpenter.

Vector Trio is a project designed to explore freedom and possibility in three voices, contextualized by cultural disharmony. Vector Trio began life in 1996 as Vector, an improvisational avant-garde funk septet. In 2002 Vector became Vector Trio. The musicians began making use of electronics, including looping devices and effects processors, to expand the possibilities of the trio. Their work to date is showcased in their all-original CDs–Plot Twist (2004), Live in DC (2005), Paths Unknown (2006), and Nomina (2009). By 2009 Vector Trio’s sound had mutated into a noisy dark electronic mélange of loops, corroded trumpet lines, bowed cello cacophony and a dense mix of percussive mayhem.

scott forrey – trumpet, loops, electronics, metal things
gary rouzer – NS bass cello, loops, electronics, found objects
marshall hughey – drums, handsonic, landscape percussion

Recognized as a incredibly creative and innovative guitarists and improviser, Michelle Webb is a electrifying and original guitarist. A restless collaborator who constantly seeks the most diverse and personally challenging contexts for her music, Webb not only produces and contributes to a large number of recorded projects, she performs frequently throughout the USA with several regular groupings as well as solo guitar concerts and concerts of freely improvised music with a host of diverse instrumentalists. Michelle Webb has helped unfetter the guitar from the conventions of genre-bound techniques, but her instrumental virtuosity is always deployed in the service of deep and immediate personal expression. Likewise, she has developed a highly individual style from an uncommonly varied range of influences that include traditional blues, East Asian, Classical North Indian and Turkish music, free jazz, free improvisation, American steel-string guitar, rock, jazz fusion and 20th century classical. Webb has built an ever-mounting reputation as a very talented musician and composer. Solo CD releases under Michelle Webb’s name include: Dotsavant,(2000) Screams from the Ceiling,(2000) Prepaired Guitar Works (1997), Michelle Webb Live (2005) and Figures at the base of a Crucifixion (2006). She composed music for the film Hospice and screen play Vincent directed by Ken Forestal and Silent Movie directed by Michael Torrez.

Janel & Anthony & Violet trio return once again to coax spontaneous music out of their instruments of cello, guitar, junk, and loads of effects pedals.

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