Monday, 26 September 2016

Linda Perhacs - Parallelograms (1970)

The story of how this album came about never fails to fascinate me.  Dental hygienist to Hollywood royalty happens to mention to a patient (film composer Leonard Rosenman) that she writes songs; gives him a tape and is excitedly asked to record an album straight away; album vanishes without trace but becomes a cult classic, then records another album after a 44 year gap.  All the while keeping her day job.  I haven't heard the 2014 album, The Soul Of All Natural Things, yet, and I really should sometime; but for now here's the wondrous Parallelograms.

You might be able to guess what kind of album would result from a bucolic Laurel Canyon lifestyle in 1970, but in this case you'd only be part right.  Sure, there's sunny, hazy odes to dolphins, rivers and sandy toes, all of it gorgeous in its own right, but there's other forces at work here too.  Perhacs channeled her synaesthesia into the complex, multi-layered title track, penned late one night on the road by capturing it not in simple words but in geometric shapes.  The undercurrent of strangeness on this album in fact reveals itself within its first two minutes.  After establishing a pastoral scene straight out of the Ladies Of The Canyon playbook, Chimacum Rain twists into a hallucinatory soundscape full of effects-laden xylophone tones, and, to quote the liner notes, "amplified shower hose for horn effects".  Highly, highly recommended.

Quadrahedral, Tetrahedral

Friday, 23 September 2016

Keith Jarrett - At the Blue Note: Saturday, June 4th 1994, 1st Set

It's that time of year again for autumn leaves - to be specific, my favourite rendition of the Joseph Kosma chestnut, stretched to a thrilling 26 minutes by my favourite jazz piano trio.  After four minutes of Jarrett's solo meanderings, the Peacock/DeJohnette engine room revs up and locks in to an upbeat cruise through the melody, followed by plenty of soloing.  From the 13 minute mark onwards, we're into one of these stellar improvs that only this trio can pull off.

The Standards Trio spent a whole weekend's residency at the legendary Blue Note in June 1994, and every note they played was released the following year in a 6-CD box set.  This disc, the first set from Saturday night, was the only one to be released in its own right - presumably  because it's absolutely phenomenal from start to finish.  Everyone's at the top of their game, Jarrett's vocalisations are...tolerable, and the recording quality, as you'd expect, is peerless - perfect jazz club intimacy.  Other than Autumn Leaves, the other extended high-point of the set is You Don't Know What Love Is segueing into a Jarrett original called Muezzin.  Jack DeJohnette switches to hand percussion, and the results are pure magic.

The Days Of Wine And Roses

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Else Marie Pade - Et Glasperlespil (2001 compi of works 1958-1964)

Else Marie Pade was a Danish electronic/concrete composer whose music didn't become readily available until this compilation appeared in 2001.  Like Konrad Boehmer from last week, after working with Boulez, Stockhausen et al, she struck out on her own to produce the first Danish piece of electronic music Syv Cirkler (Seven Circles) (1958) and several other unique works.

Central to this disc is her half-hour suite based on Goethe's Faust, in which complementary frequencies float and pulse around to symbolise the relationships between the characters.  This eerie soundscape from 1962 reaches its apex of creepout with a sinister echoing voice reciting a Dies Irae text, representing the damnation part of the narrative.  The final work featured here, Græsstrået (The grass blade) (1964) is also particularly notable for being based around percussion, prepared piano, violin and concrete sounds in place of pure electronics.  I find this one the most engrossing, probably given its distinct variety from the tracks preceding it.

Oh, and before composing any of this, Pade spent World War II participating in the Danish Resistance, working on a clandestine newspaper, and eventually being imprisoned in the Frøslevlejren interment camp where she scratched compositions into the walls of her cell.  Now that's a full and fascinating life; she passed away aged 91 at the beginning of this year.

Et Glasperlespil

Monday, 19 September 2016

Faust - BBC Sessions+ (rel. 2001)

For a blog named after a Faust lyric, it's high time there was some Faust on these pages.  So here's something that doesn't get quite as much exposure as the core albums, but definitely deserves it.

This compilation is from 2001, and swept up a few of the remaining unreleased oddities from Faust's original incarnation, along with a couple that had already seen the light of day elsewhere - and the BBC session, first broadcast in March 1973, that gives the disc its name.

Despite the description, Faust never recorded in the BBC studio, finding it incompatible with their gear - instead, a 22 minute tape of new material was sent over.  First up was eight minutes of laid back groove entitled The Lurcher - towards its end,  as Rudolf Sosna's guitar comes to the fore, you can hear where Jennifer from Faust IV was going to come from.  Suddenly, the recording smashes into a much more primal, molten-hot miasma of sound.  The aforementioned album's legendary opening track rumbles on in an even more thrilling rough mix - such a high point of the krautrock canon that they named it after that cringey-to-this-day genre descriptor (invented by the British music press) in mock-homage.  The session ends with Do So - a brief, more electronics-heavy version of Stretch Out Time that would appear on The Faust Tapes.

As I see, you are the one to be me

Friday, 16 September 2016

Seattle Symphony Orchestra - Transformations for Strings (1993)

Going into the weekend on a classical note again.  Wanted to post this album for its recording of Metamorphosen by Richard Strauss.  A 'study for 23 solo strings', written at the end of the Second World War,  and towards the end of Strauss' life, Metamorphosen (Transformations) is a beautiful, sombre 32 minute dirge for war-torn Europe.  It's this piece that was responsible for me finding out about Henryk Gorecki and Arvo Pärt, and you can definitely hear the influence at times.

If you find yourself here in Edinburgh at any point, do drop in on McAlister Matheson Music.  This independent classical store has been in business since the 90s, and it's where I picked up Transformations For Strings, on spying the inclusion of my favourite Richard Strauss work.  Aside from the great version of Metamorphosen, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra kick off this programme with Anton Webern's Langsamer Satz, a string quartet that perfectly complements the Strauss work.  There's also a fine rendition of Swiss composer Arthur Honegger's 2nd Symphony, which I really should listen to more.

Transformations for Strings

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Kluster - 1970-1971 (this comp. rel. 2008)

Before there was Cluster, the legendary home-base of Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, there was Kluster - a trio completed by the great Conrad Schnitzler.  Formed in 1969 around the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in Berlin, everything Kluster released in their short lifespan is in this one handy package, and remains some of the most heady, extreme material in the entire krautrock canon.

Unlike the genre's other Year Zero masterworks like Phallus Dei and Monster Movie, or even the Schnitlzer-infused Electronic Meditation, the Kluster sound owed nothing at all to rock music.  Instead, their legacy is these six supermassive black-holes of the freest free improvisation, bearing closer similarities to what AMM were doing on the other side of the English Channel, and also an utterly uncanny prefiguring of the early industrial music of the mid 70s.

In the studio (or rather, in the church where they found themselves recording), Kluster were faced with a bizarre, but very much of the time, compromise: that they allowed the usually religiously-inclined record label to overdub recitations of a couple of lengthy religious texts.  Schnitzler once said that you'll get more enjoyment from both of the vocal pieces if you can't understand the preposterous texts, in which case the stentorian female voice (on the first album Klopfzeichen) and male voice (on the second, Zwei Osterei) are intersting enough soundwise, if a little intrusive at times.

The voice-free second sides are more interesting overall, with plenty of screeching flute, scraping cello shards of guitar/piano to the fore.  The effects-laden sound can also be more clearly heard pointing the way to the first Cluster album sans Schnitzler.  Before he set off on his own however, there was the final Kluster recording.  Taped live, Eruption is an echo/delay masterpiece, stretching out for longer and unencumbered by previous compromises.  The sound is more lo-fi, but if anything this pushes it even closer to the live sound of Throbbing Gristle circa 1976.

Disc 1 (Klopfzeichen)
Disc 2 (Zwei-Osterei)
Disc 3 (Eruption)

Monday, 12 September 2016

Joe Satriani - Flying In A Blue Dream (1989)

A slight guilty pleasure today, but one that never, ever fails to put a big dumb grin on my face.  Must confess I haven't bought a new Satch album in six years, as they've started to feel bit interchangeable (perhaps bigger fans can correct me on that, and let me know if the last two are worth picking up), but back in 1989 Satriani was still young, vital, and breaking his own boundaries on this, his third full-length album.

Flying In A Blue Dream is actually a significant 'first' in Satriani's career - he's periodically stepped up to the microphone ever since, but this the first time he'd attempted songs with vocals after two completely instumental albums.  And in the nicest, most sincere way possible, the vocal tracks are hilarious.  Can't Slow Down, Big Bad Moon and Ride are classic 80s hair-rawk, I Believe a rousing power ballad; Strange is more enjoyable than the Red Hot Chili Peppers' entire discography, and The Phone Call is a great novelty rock n roll groove.

There's stil plenty of room for Satch's instrumental virtuosity on this 64-minute album though, with my favourite being the double-tapping masterpiece Day At The Beach - the original and best version, notwithstanding a thousand YouTube covers (many of which are pretty good!).

My brain's about to crumble, spill out on the floor